Jamie Cummings – Wynne Unit – Huntsville, Tx

Jamie Cummings
Jamie and his son July 7, 2013

This is Jamie and my grandson Jamie. This photo is two years old now, the last time I visited. Since this blog is for him, the picture used to be near the top. I realized it is on the bottom now in a slideshow. So I thought I’d give him a dedicated post so anyone new to the blog can see who I’m writing about.

He used to have some meat on his bones but you can see what prison food does to you. I hope I’m making a difference in his life so when he does get out he has the confidence to build a life for himself and his son. The only legacy we can ever leave behind is the effect we have on other people.

“We have to make ourselves heard. We have to speak out for what we believe in. When we, the people, boldly state our true convictions – never losing our optimism or sense of humor – the times will change. When it comes to speaking out for justice, there isn’t any need for restraint On the contrary, to be reserved or hesitant under such circumstances is wrong.”

Daily Guidance
SGI President – Daisaku Ikeda
Nichiren Buddhism

http://sgi-usa.org

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni Quick piano music complete list

Why Am I In Prison? Christianity vs Buddhism

Lotus flower. flower of Buddhism

“Jamie” by Sonni Quick copyright 2014
Sept 9,2013

Incarcerated since late 2005

I don’t understand much about Christians. I really don’t plan on digging too deep because the Bible repeats itself. Also because it talks about sin, yet it has a lot of sin it. It tells you it is ok to do things concerning your kids and your wife that are just plain wrong. Now a days people just pick the parts of it they want to believe in and forget the stuff they know is wrong. So why is part of it right and part of it wrong? Then they say that God says this or that when he didn’t. They try to figure out what God was really saying and it’s just  what they think it means. It’s screwed up.  So I feel this is something I will pass and not rack my brain on why this was allowed and that wasn’t. How so many people have been brain washed I just don’t understand. I’ve never understood. It’s not common sense.  They want you to believe stories actually happened that science says is impossible. They just want to say is a miracle. No, I can’t wrap my brain around that. I’ve tried but something always comes up. There are a lot of questions that could be asked but you won’t get an answer to all of your questions, of you’ll get the same answer but with different wording. Crazy. The Bible has too much sin in it for me to believe it. I don’t pay attention to what the Bible says is a sin.

When I got arrested there was no way I could blame anything on my cousin, the one who had the gun. I have my own mind so whatever was going on it is my fault. No ifs, ands, or buts.  A lot of people don’t want to be responsible for their own problems. They don’t want it to be their own fault. Especially in here. They want what happened to be someone else’s fault. Many people don’t care about the actions that brought them unhappiness. They don’t take responsibility. My cellie tells me it’s all part of “God’s Plan”. Like God planned for him to be here. He’s 50 and he’s been here since he was 22. I don’t know what is wrong with this nut. Maybe it’s the only way he can deal with it.

No one knows what happens after you die. I’m not afraid of dying. But it hurts me to think that I know that I don’t know my son yet and he don’t know me, either. It’s hard for me to understand when I speak to others about different religions. It’s because each religion is different but they have some of the same people in it but they all say they are bright and everyone else is wrong. The Chaplain in here doesn’t like you if you aren’t a Christian.

SGI World Tribune ,Nichiren Buddhist
Nichiren Buddhist weekly newspaper. This is what has helped him stay sane and have hope.

Mom,I got my first two issues of the SGI-USA newspaper, The World Tribune and an issue of the magazine, Living Buddhism.  Maybe they will help me with some of the questions I have about my life. Thank you. Everyone should treat people the way they want to be treated.

Christianity talks about that but I don’t see people really trying to live that way.  In this Buddhism you talk about it seems they take it more seriously. They tell you why you should treat people the way you wanted to be treated.  They don’t just tell you that you should do it. And no one thinks about when they are doing something.  They get caught up in trying to show off.  It’s always that this person or that person isn’t cool so let’s do something to them. They don’t think about what happens when they do that.  It’s  just like living for the moment and not caring about what happens next.

A lot of people are suffering in many ways.  Yes, I help others, but what about me? I’ve wasted more than seven years of my life.  To be truthful, I don’t know anything.  Yes, obstacles. I understand that they keep you down.  Things happen that try to keep you from being happy. How do we get away from that?  I guess I got a long way to go.  There is a lot I need to accept.  Starting with the fact that me and Jamie will never have a real bond.  I have to accept that, which is why I let him live his life.  He’s happy, so good.  Writing won’t do no good.  You and I both know this.  I have come to learn to accept everything.  As I said before, my life is a waste, always has been.  So tonight I’ve learned to accept it all from day one. Ill try chanting “nam myoho renge kyo”. Maybe it well help change things. I’ve learned a lot from you.  You’ve cared for me.  But I finally snapped and realized I’m not ready.  I’m not coming home no time soon.  I LOVE YOU.  Please give me some time to think.
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(Sonni’s note:  It has taken awhile for Jamie to understand his life has value. He still slumps into that space that makes him want to give up – thinking they will never let him go. It’s not uncommon for any of us to have days like that, but inside prison, they way you are treated is intended to break you. You are at their mercy, and mercy is something that has no meaning in prison.

It is hard for him to remember there is a reason why he is going through this and that reason will make him a better man and father. What he is learning because of this will change his direction. It is painful He can’t see it now but he will later. Nothing happens by accident. Everything that happens is the effect of a cause. This past year has seen him make many improvements and come to a better understanding of who he is.

During the first year after this letter was written he began studying the philosophy of life called Nichiren Buddhism. His attitude about his life improved and he has gained a sense of his self worth and a determination to succeed; a desire to have a good life and be a father to his son. He wanted to understand what propelled him the direction that led to prison. Buddhism puts responsibility for your life squarely on your own shoulders. No plan laid out for you by an entity who loves and punishes you. Only the effects of the causes you made yourself are what You are in the driver’s seat.

It does not mean life is smooth sailing and everything is a bed of roses. Try to change, and the obstacles increase andbtest your determination. But Jamie now is getting a better understanding of why things happen to him, and he is learning to make better decisions in his life. He is seeing how his emotions govern how he feels about his life, especially anger. Regardless, if he is in prison, he still has the right and the ability to be happy. But it is always two steps forward and one step back.)

“Getting Religion” in Prison

nichiren buddhism, lotus flower, cause and effect
Sonni’s note: This is one of the early posts, from February 18, 2014.

Hi mom, I hope all is well with you,

For the last couple years you has been telling me about Nichiren Buddhism. At first I didn’t know what to think. Some dudes in here get religion. Mostly it’s Christianity because. Some do and some don’t. There is support for Christianity in here and also for Muslims. Some years back I got introduced to Islamic teachings. I really tried to understand it. I wanted to make sense of my life. Why did I do the things I did? In here many men want to do better when they get out. There is usually a group that practices it. Maybe it does help them in here. I don’t know. I really tried to do the things they said, but it wasn’t enough and I drifted away. You’ve been studying Buddhism for a long time. Twenty five years. You didn’t say anything about it for a long time but then a couple years ago, when I was going through a really bad time, you started to write to me about it. It made a lot of sense. It made me think of things in a way I hadn’t thought before. You talked to me about happiness, about what it is and what it means. Even though I’m in this place I can still find a place in my head to be happy, sometimes. I know I can change the way I think and what I do, and when I do that it will have an effect on the space around me. It’s about the law of cause and effect. This is what it says. Trying to make it work isn’t so easy when things come flying at you, but if I don’t do something different then how can anything be different when I get out. I guess being in here is as good as anywhere to try to make it work. It’s not easy. You said there was a reason why we met. I guess this is it, or maybe part of it. I really do want to have a better life and do the right things. I want to be a good father to my son and teach him the right things when I get out

People say things like, “What goes around comes around”, and Christians say, “You reap what you sow”. It’s all the same thing. But it’s supposed to be everything you say and do. All the good and all the bad. So I look at what I do and think about what would happen if I did something different. Like when someone tries to jumps me. I would right away defend myself, and I still need to. If I didn’t then other dudes would think they could run over me. But if I could find a way to not fight then I could raise up my level. So what is the best thing to do? Not fighting is not easy mom. Sometimes you have no choice. I can hold my own in a fight. When you want to change something then something else always comes up to challenge that, to make you do the thing you don’t want to do. It’s the things that make you not be able to change. The things that keep you down. I’m trying to learn to chant. That’s nam myoho renge kyo. It’s hard. I fight with myself sometimes. (Sonni’s note: translation is – Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound and vibration.)

The time that Megan came to visit last Oct she taught me how to say it just like you asked her to. I try to do it at 5:00 AM when there isn’t as much noise. When everyone wakes up they can get pretty loud. I wish I had someone to chant with me. I need to hear it again. This thing called gongyo. That’s impossible. You’ll have to teach me later. That’s in a whole new language. You sent me this little book with all these oriental words and a way of spelling it using abc, but it is still spelling out words in another language. It is really strange.

I’ve been reading this book, The Wisdom of Modern Life, and I love it. It has guidances for every day of the year. This is the one that was on January 17th, “When you devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward along your chosen path with firm determination.”

This thing that Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? Do not say you will do it “someday”. Do not say that “someone” will do it. You are the one. Now is the time for youth to take full responsibility and courageously pave the way for the people’s triumph.”

There is so much I’ve learned that I never thought about before. I have been so depressed so much at times. I need a way to make that better. I know now that my life is the effect of all the causes I made in the past. It is no one’s fault but my own I an here in prison, in ad seg. I really wish i was done with this, but I have to be ready when I get out. I have to be strong, and sure of myself. I will still have a lot of life when this is over. I will get out of here. I have to make the causes now for the kind of life I want have and what kind of person I’m going to be when I get out. I know their are parts of me I need to change. It isn’t going to happen just because I wish for it. I need to start now. I can’t wait until later. It’s gonna be hard but I think if I try I’ll be able to do it. I need to see what is important and do it no matter what happens, no matter what or who gets in the way.

Now I feel I have a chance. I do have a life worth living.

(Sonni’s note: Change comes from within. Pray for the wisdom to know what to change. Chant to be happy and chant for the people in your life to be happy. Christianity and Buddhism say a lot of the same things. They both teach you to be a good human being if you apply the teachings to your life. This Buddhism is not what most people think it is. Most think of monks and depriving yourself or they think of the Dalai Lama or Zen or one of many other sects of Buddhism, but it isn’t that. There is just as many types of Buddhism as there are types of Christian sects. In Buddhism, God is not “out there” or deciding to fix things in your life. We believe the God nature – Buddhahood – is inside everyone. As we practice, chant, we are polishing the mirror of our life so we can see ourselves clearly. There is more than one way to find happiness and it starts with respecting each other’s faith, if that person is honestly trying to learn. In the few years of teaching Jamie I have seen a change – hope. Are there still good days and bad days? yes, we are human and we struggle through our lives to learn. Do a search on the http://sgi-usa.org, even if you are just curious. We should never stop wanting to learn if you are interested in finding out more.)

Inside the Forbidden outside – chapter “Fantasy Crime”

Inside the forbidden outside, fantasy crime, Jamie Cummings, prison injustice
Fantasy Crimes

It’s been nine years now, give or take a few months. Nine very long years. Nine years alone living with the fantasies of a few short months with a woman. Nine years with only myself to talk to most of time. In and out of solitary for years at a time. A revolving door of being let out knowing it would only be a matter of time before they found a way to lock me up again. Other men were always coming and going, in and out of lockup. They want to make sure you know they own you. They think they can even own your mind. he was locked up for a fantasy crime. They wanedt me to feel humiliated. They let me know I can’t win.

It was real obvious the guards enjoyed locking me up this time. It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last. It’s what they do to all the dudes in here. They had a real good time laughing at me. I knew that as sure as I knew anything. No way was I going to let it show that it bothered me. They knew I didn’t do anything they haven’t done themselves a thousand times. It wasn’t necessary to write up a case on me for that. What did I need to be disciplined for? I’m a man. I have needs just like everyone else. I’ve been without a woman for 9 years, and even then I only had a short time with Morgan for less than a year, when I got out of Juvy when I turned 21. It’s the only memories I have. She was a beautiful and loving woman and I fell hard for her, so when I think of a woman I think of her and the way I wanted our life to be. But life had other plans for us and it planned they we wouldn’t be together. But I still have my memories and that is the only thing I have to keep me company when I’m lonely.

People were made for having sex. Some guys, when they knew they’d be locked up for maybe the rest of their life, or at least for a very long time, they would do things they wouldn’t do on the outside. But when you didn’t have any other choice it can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do and take advantage of the only thing that was there. There were guys that were into that. Some guys didn’t want to but they were made to anyway. Not him, though. He’d never let himself be put in a place mentally where it would be okay to be with another man. Not a chance. He didn’t care how hard up he was. He had a gay cellie once and he let it be known he was willing. he set him straight right off. He better not wake up and catch him trying to do things.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t human. He’s a grown man who still had needs. Being in prison didn’t make that go away. Just because he was locked up in here didn’t mean he no longer had any desire for woman. So here he was, minding his own business, and not being able to have any, so all he was doing was thinking about it and touching himself, just the same way everybody else does. He wasn’t doing anything to anyone. He wasn’t putting it in anyone’s face.

Female guards are supposed to announce themselves when they come on a unit. Someone could be changing clothes. But she didn’t announce herself, that was the issue. She caught him with his hand on himself. Finding a tiny bit of pleasure. She lied about that and they both knew it. But it didn’t matter. Guards can say anything they want. Guards are always right and inmates are always wrong. That’s the way prison justice works, or rather, it’s the way prison injustice works. That’s why they get away with doing whatever they want to the inmates. Their superiors actually encourage it. Prison injustice is more like it.

There’s a whole lot else going on around here and everyone knows it. Sex in prison is so common. He wasn’t doing anything to anyone else so how come he gets put in lockup for it? That was an offense to be put in solitary for? He wasn’t allowed to even fantasize about sex? He couldn’t be a human being with all the same urges of any other human being without being put back into a 5X8 foot cell, deprived of everything? Take away his job. Take away going to commissary. Take away his time in the yard. Take away the few friends he had made. Take away the progress he made so he’ll have to start all over? Take away his hope? Turn him into a person who will end up right back in in here like so many of them do when they succeed in making him nuts? They even took away his books and left him with only his paper and a pen.

What was wrong with thinking about sex? He needed to at least fantasize he had sex with someone. A seventeen year sentence is a long time. This also will make it harder to make parole in Oct of 2016. Yeah, how do you answer the question when they say, “What have you done to improve your life? Oh, you got thrown in the hole again? How many times is it now? It seems like you can’t stay out of trouble. You have a problem with authority, Cummings. You’re not ready to get out.” That’s what they’ll say. It’s all a racket. They do this to keep you down.

He thought about Morgan. She was the only woman he had been with. He knew it was over between them, and he told her to move on. It was too long to wait and he wasn’t upset, but he had spent so many years loving her and that was the only memory he had of a woman. He was remembering her the way he wanted to remember her. What was there, a few memories of making love to a woman who for so long and he wanted to believe she loved him as much as he loved her. Hoping against hope that one day when he got out and she met him again face to face, she would still want him. . .

He knew, though, that this was not the real reason they locked him up this time. It was just an excuse. A guard with a grudge. The real reason was to dehumanize him. Make him feel as though he had no value. Taking away the most basic of human feelings and emotions and making it into something to be punished for. It was a way to make him worthless. He wasn’t really a man. There was no way to act like a man. They want to control even what few good times he had that were locked in his head. He wasn’t going to let them have that.

“They aren’t going to do this to me.” He spoke out loud to his reflection in the stainless mirror above the sink

“I’m not going to let them get to me again.” He repeated with even more determination.

“They can lock up my body, but they can’t lock up my mind.”

What he didn’t know is they weren’t done with him yet. They were just getting started . . .

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Counting Down my Prison Sentence

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It’s 2014. Eight years. Things are going to change for me. These walls won’t change, but what goes on in my head will change. If not, then my life is all a waste. I can’t let that happen. I never thought this would happen to me. I was excited when Megan told me she was going to have a baby. We bought a few baby things. I remember a little red pair of Nike shoes with the swoosh on the side. They were so tiny. I was so happy. I never got a chance to see him or have a chance to hold his little body in my arms. He will probably be my only child and because of what I did he and I have lost so much. But Megan is a good mother so my son is lucky to have someone who loves him.

I turned thirty one in January.  I was twenty two when I was locked up.  These years have been depressing.  It would be so easy to let it get to me and turn me into someone I don’t like.  How could anyone have hope in this place?

It’s rigged to keep you down. But the beginning of this year was been different.  I got birthday cards from some people I didn’t know.  They wished me happy birthday and encouraged me to keep fighting.  Not the fighting with fists kind of fighting, but the mental kind of fighting. Fighting with yourself to stay positive.  To have hope.  To remember that someday I will get out of here and have a life.

Do you know what it’s like to go through any kind of special day and have no one remember you?  That’s the way it has been every year until now.  But this year I got cards from five new friends and mom, Megan and Jamie.  It was really great.  All that mail.  I got cards from Steve, Victor, Marcia, Kathy and Carol. I never knew I had so many friends, and I know there are more out there. They are all members if the SGI-USA who are Nichiren Buddhists.  They didn’t judge me because I was in prison.  It made me happy, though, because I knew I wasn’t alone.  There are people out there who know I’m in here. People who cared enough to write to me.  Some of the inmates here don’t have anyone at all.  No one they can talk to.  No one who will help them get even the simple things they need like deodorant or soap.  I wouldn’t have anyone if it weren’t for mom.

Megan hardly ever writes and only once in a long, long while do I get a letter from family.  I gave up a long time ago expecting any letters.  Every once in a while I got a letter from my sister.  So I have a surprise for everyone.  I’m taking everyone off my visitors list.  What’s the point?  They won’t even know I took them off. This way I’ll stop looking for them to come and see me.  I won’t have to worry about that anymore.  Why have people on a visiting list if they don’t ever come and see you?  I really don’t mean that.  I’m feeling bad.  I wish my mama would come.  I know she is so busy working two jobs.  I think maybe it’s my fault because I gave her a hard time growing up.  I miss my family.

I did get a letter from Megan.  She um her card with perfume.  When they brought it to me I was sleeping.  I had a towel on the floor by the door and it got slid under it.  I woke up smelling something really, really good but I couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from.  Finally, a guy from the cell across told me they brought mail and slid it under the door.  Wow, it sure did smell good!  It woke me up!

(Sonni’s note: Jamie often went back and forth wanting to take everyone off his visitors list or wanting to stop writing them.  He was hurt.  He felt it was his fault that his family rarely wrote to him.  He thought that somehow he deserved it.  But maybe it was because they didn’t really know how to communicate.  Maybe they didn’t think he would amount to anything so why try.  I don’t know.  I didn’t understand the lack of interest, either.  No one helped him get the basic things a person needs for taking care of hygiene  issues.  My situation didn’t allow me to help as much as he needed, but I tried.  If we care about someone we don’t give up on them, and if you are hurting because you feel you have been forgotten, don’t give up on those people you love.  Become a person and them it’s possible to take a negative situation and use it as the stage to become a person they would want to be around.  Come out of prison a better person than when you went in.I tell how constantly how proud oh him I am because he’s weathered through this ok. He’ll be a stronger person and a good father because of it.

Matters of the Heart

 

matters-of-the-heart

(Sonni’s note: I received this letter four weeks before my liver transplant surgery in July 2012.  I was very sick.  I wasn’t capable of writing anymore letters because I couldn’t make a connection between my brain and my hand.  I was playing the waiting game.   I was at the point where I didn’t have a whole lot of time left.   I was told  later that I had come as close as possible to death without dying.   Jamie and I were in our own prisons. He was alone and yet his thoughts were for me. He was sitting in ad seg, solitary confinement, and I was confined to my bed.)

Hello mom, sorry this letter has taken so long to get to you. I pray that as this paper touches your hands it’s as soft as a dove and that you are in the best of health. I pray that this letter brings a smile to your face, and it takes a lot of pain and stress away. I know that things are hard on you right now. But hey, if there’s one thing I know about the women I love and care so much for, you, Megan and my mom, is that you the are strong women. I know the pain is hard to bare. I also know that you will pull through. So everything is going to be fine. It’s nice that several members of the SGI have come to visit you and keep you encouraged but I know you already have the courage.

I understand about bad choices. You aren’t the only one who’s made a bad choice in life. We’ve all made one or two or maybe even three! Look at me. I’ve made lots of mistakes. We all make them. It’s part of life. Some of us turn our life around and some don’t. I wish I could have turned mine around.

I read the World Tribune newspaper and the magazine, Living Buddhism, that you got me. I understand some of it and some I don’t. I try to do the chanting. I do my best and it helps me when I’m mad. So there, I pray for you and everyone I love the only way I’ve known how. I pray for me and Megan’s happiness. But the more I think about it, I know she’s tired.

 

MATTERS-OF-THE-HEART

I was going through my letters and ran across the first few that you wrote me. I’m not trying to make you feel bad or nothing. I just feel it’s the truth, but it just took a little time for me to understand. You stated that Megan would move on and find someone else. It hurt at that time and it really still hurts at just the thought. I have so much hurt inside sometimes I wonder if I should leave this place. Because as time passed I asked myself, why go home? Family showed they really don’t much care. The woman I love has hurt me as well. I know that by me getting locked up that I hurt her. But never would I have stopped my love for her. Never. If the shoe was on the other foot I would have never done anything like that. Why? Because when you find the love you know you have, you don’t. I have never found anyone to love me like Megan. I know she loved me more than most of my family. However, I see that when someone is not around, the love isn’t either. It’s lost. I have some deep scars, just like you mom.

I’m going to let you in on something I never understood. Why is it that you wanted to help me? 670px-Cope-With-Holiday-Stress-and-Depression-in-Prison-Step-05I never understood, although I am very thankful and always will be. We didn’t really get much of a chance to know each other in person except those couple times. However, we have learned a lot about each other over the years. I’m glad to have someone like you and Megan, even though she hardly writes, but I promise you, the day I’ve had enough, everyone will know.

My Window

thHLMII2F0

 

This was first published on March 31, 2014 when he was still in solitary confinement

I was told that I could maybe be moved up to G4 in a few months. I don’t know if I want to do that. I have a window. A nice big window. I look at the sky a lot. I like to stand and look at the sky. At night I can look up at the moon. It’s beautiful. It’s been a long time since I could just stand and see outside and see the sky. With this Buddhism I have been reading about, there is this guidance I read about the moon:

“As you make your way home tonight may you pause for a moment to gaze up at the night sky and let your heart communicate with the moon in wordless dialogue. Perhaps you might compose a poem and set it down in your journal tonight. How good to have such a poetic spirit!” ( Sonni’s note: This is a guidance I sent Jamie from Daisaku Ikeda, President of the SGI-USA Int’l, the lay organization for Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.  it is these guidances that have helped him keep his head straight and have hope for his future.)

But one thing that is not so good because the water coming out of my faucet is a muddy brown. Maybe it’s from rust? It’s the only thing I have to drink. It’s probably not even safe to drink. How can they get away with this? Why is there no one who says, you can’t do this? You can’t treat people like this.  It’s not right.

I think about my life a lot. I have a lot of time to think. I’m trying so hard to do my best to turn my life around. I need to do this for me and for the kids. I’m trying to come home, I really am. But with everything that has happened it really hurts me. I read what you sent me of this blog and it hurt me. I cried because reading it was like reliving my past and I didn’t like it at all.

Growing up, yes things were hard on me. It was because I didn’t have a father. No one ever knew how I felt about anything because I never tried to talk to anyone about it. You are the only person I have opened up to like this. I never asked my mom questions about my father. I just went on with my life.

I used to try and follow my older brother around, but we all know how that goes. Older brothers don’t want to be around their younger brothers. Again, I just went on about my life. Things fell apart as I did that. I hung around the wrong people, picked up a few bad habits and ran with it. I sold drugs here and there. But then I started stealing. I’m sure you’re wondering where my mom was while I was doing this. Well, I would wait while she went to work or sleep at night. I would even go to school and then leave after two periods. I got into a lot of trouble with my mom when she found out, because there were times I got caught stealing and skipping school. My mom never knew about the drugs. But she knew about a gun I had. She told me to get rid of it before I got in trouble. She was right about that. Look where I am now. Still hanging with the wrong people!

I used to leave the house when my mother was asleep. It would be about 10 PM. I was young, maybe 14 or 15 years old. It’s not my mom’s fault at all. I would leave to do what I wanted every change I could. I felt free. I hung around older dudes in the neighborhood. I felt cool. My mom always told us we had to be in the house before the street lights came on. We had to eat, clean up and bathe, and be in bed by 9:30. I didn’t like it because it was more fun staying out at night. Sometimes I would stay away from home for 2 or 3 days at a time. I knew I had it coming when I got home. So I would wait til my mom went to work to go home and get something to eat, take a bath, and then leave again. However, I would get tired and just wanted to lay down and sleep. So I would go home knowing that the belt was waiting for me.

Now, I would love to see and hear from her more often. Same with Megan and Jamie. All I can do is ask. I can’t make them do it. So I sit and wait and hope I get a visit. I get discouraged when all I do is sit and wait and nobody comes. I gave my mom a hard time growing up.  It’s a hard lesson to learn.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

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(Sonni’s note: This is one of the early posts, from February 18. Sometimes the things Jamie writes about will come in several letters. I go through them and find the pieces and put it together into one. Sometimes I’ll add a sentence so you’ll understand.   I’ll go back into a post and add something else he wrote about the same thing.  Sometimes I have to change the way it is written but I never try to write his spirit out of it.  When he gets the chance to read this when he gets out, he’ll be able to see how much his life has affected other people in a positive way.  Please leave a reply on a post or two if you like what you read. It only takes a minute and would mean so much. Also, come back and read again. Start at the beginning. Get to know him – and me, too.  Thanks)

For the last couple years mom has been telling me about Nichiren Buddhism. At first I didn’t know what to think. Some dudes in here get religion. Mostly it’s Christianity because there is support for that in here. Some years back I got introduced to Islamic teachings. I really tried to understand it. There is usually a group that practices it. Maybe it does help them in here. I don’t know. I gave it a good shot but it wasn’t enough and I drifted away. Mom has practiced Buddhism for a long time. Twenty five years. She didn’t say anything about it for a long time but a couple years ago, when I was going through a really bad time, she started to write to me about it. It made a lot of sense. It made me think of things in a way I hadn’t thought before. She talked to me about happiness, about what it is and what it means. Even though I’m in this place I can still find a place in my head to be happy, sometimes.  I know I can change the way I think and what I do, and when I do that it will have an effect on the space around me. It’s about the law of cause and effect.

People say things like, “What goes around comes around”, and Christians say, “You reap what you sow”. It’s all the same thing. But it’s supposed to be everything you say and do. All the good and all the bad. So I look at what I do and think about what would happen if I did something different. Like when someone tries to jumps me. I would defend myself. If I didn’t then other dudes would think they could run over me. But if I could find a way to not fight then I could raise up my level. So what is the best thing to do? Not fighting is not easy. When you want to change something then something else always comes up to challenge that, to make you do the thing you don’t want to do. Buddhism calls it obstacles. It’s the things that make you not be able to change. The things that keep you down. I’m trying to learn to chant. That’s nam myoho renge kyo. (Sonni’s note: translation is – Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound and vibration.  The translation is really much longer but it’ll do for now.)

The time that Megan came to visit last Oct she taught me how to say it. I try to do it at 5:00 AM when there isn’t as much noise. When everyone wakes up they can get pretty loud. I wish I had someone to chant with me. I need to hear it again. There is something else called gongyo. Mom sent me this little book with all these oriental words and a way of spelling it using abc, but it is still spelling out words in another language. She said it didn’t matter if I did it right or wrong as long as I tried as best I could.

I’ve been reading this book, The Wisdom of Modern Life, and I love it. It has guidances for every day of the year. This is the one that was on January 17th, “When you devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward along your chosen path with firm determination.”

This something that Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? Do not say you will do it “someday”. Do not say that “someone” will do it. You are the one. Now is the time for youth to take full responsibility and courageously pave the way for the people’s triumph.”

There is so much I’ve learned that I never thought about before. I have been so depressed so much at times. But I know now that my life is the effect of all the causes I made in the past. It is no one’s fault but my ownI an here. But I will still have a life when this is over. I will get out of here. I have to make the causes now for the kind of life I want have and what kind of person I’m going to be when I get out.  I can decide the parts of me I need to change. It isn’t going to happen just because I wish for it. I need to start now. I can’t wait until later.  It’s gonna be hard but I think if I try I’ll be able to do it. I need to see what is important and do it no matter what happens, no matter what gets in the way.

 (Sonni’s note: Chanting for these things is praying but it is not the same as those that pray to some entity that is out there somewhere. You don’t chant for something else to fix things in your life. That never works anyway. Change comes from within. Pray to have the wisdom to know what to change. Chant to be happy and chant for the people in your life to be happy. Christianity and Buddhism say a lot of the same things, but are far apart in the reasoning of how to get to the place you want to be. This Buddhism is not what most people think it is. Most think of monks and depriving yourself or they think of the Dalai Lama or Zen or one of many other sects of Buddhism, but it isn’t that. There is just as many types of Buddhism as there are types of Christian sects. I find that this makes sense to me. Here ends your lesson in Nichiren Buddhism. (smile) Do a search on the SGI-USA if you are interested in finding out more.)

Now I feel I have a chance. I do have a life worth living.

No One Knows What Happens When You Die

I don’t understand much about Christians. I really don’t plan on digging too deep because the Bible repeats itself. Also because it talks about sin, yet it has a lot of sin it. It tells you is ok to do things concerning your kids and your wife that are just plain wrong. Now a days people just pick the parts of it they want to believe in and forget the stuff they know is wrong. So why is part of it right and part of it wrong? Then they say that God says this or that when he didn’t. They try to figure out what God was really saying and it’s just  what they think it means. It’s screwed up.  So I feel this is something I will pass and not rack my brain on why this was allowed and that wasn’t. How so many people have been brain washed I just don’t understand. I’ve never understood. It’s not common sense.  They want you to believe stories actually happened that science says is impossible. They just want to say is a miracle. No, I can’t wrap my brain around that. I’ve tried but something always comes up. There are a lot of questions that could be asked but you won’t get an answer to all of your questions, of you’ll get the same answer but with different wording. Crazy. The Bible has too much sin in it for me to believe it. I don’t pay attention to what the Bible says is a sin.

When I got arrested there was no way I could blame anything on my cousin, the one who had the gun. I have my own mind so whatever was going on it is my fault. No ifs, ands, or buts.  A lot of people don’t want to be responsible for their own unhappiness. They don’t want it to be their own fault. Especially in here. They want what happened to be someone else’s fault. Many people don’t care about the actions that brought them unhappiness. They don’t take responsibility. My cellie tells me it’s all part of “God’s Plan”. Like God planned for him to be here. He’s 50 and he’s been here since he was 22. I don’t know what is wrong with this nut. Maybe it’s the only way he can deal with it.

No one knows what happens after you die. I’m not afraid of dying. But it hurts me to think that when I know that I don’t know my son yet and he don’t know me, either. It’s hard for me to understand when I speak to others about different religions.  It’s because each religion is different but they have some of the same people in their books.

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I got my first two issues of the SGI-USA newspaper, The World Tribune and an issue of Living Buddhism.  Maybe they will help me with some of the questions I have about my life. Thank you. Everyone should treat people the way they want to be treated.  Christianity talks about that but I don’t see people really trying to live that way.  In this Buddhism you talk about it seems they take it more seriously. They tell you why you should treat people the way you wanted to be treated.  They don’t just tell you that you should do it. And no one thinks about when they are doing something.  They get caught up in trying to show off.  It’s always that this person or that person isn’t cool so let’s do something to them. They don’t think about what happens when they do that.  It’s  just like living for the moment and not caring about the outcome.

A lot of people are suffering in many ways.  Yes, I help others, but what about me?  I’ve wasted seven years of my life.  To be truthful, I don’t know anything.  Yes, obstacles. I understand that they keep you down.  Things happen that try to keep you from being happy. How do we get away from that?  I guess I got a long way to go.  There is a lot I need to accept.  Starting with the fact that me and Jamie will never have a real bond.  I have to accept that, which is why I let him live his life.  He’s happy, so good.  Writing won’t do no good.  You and I both know this.  I have come to learn to accept everything.  As I said before, my life is a waste, always has been.  So tonight I’ve learned to accept it all from day one.  I’ve learned a lot from you.  You’ve cared for me.  But I finally snapped and realized I’m not ready.  I’m not coming home no time soon.  I LOVE YOU SON.  Please give me some time to think.

(Sonni’s note 9/9/14:  It has taken  awhile for him to understand that his life has value.  There is a reason why he is going through this and that reason will make him a better man and father.  Nothing happens by accident.  It is always the effect of a cause. This past year has seen him make many improvements and come to a better understanding of who he is. His life is important. During the year after this letter was written, as he has studied the philosophy of life called Nichiren Buddhism, his attitude about his life has improved and he has gained a sense of his self worth and has determination to succeed, a desire to have a good life and be a father to his son. That does not mean that the obstacles stop and everything is a bed of roses.  What it means is that he has a better understanding of why things happen to him and is learning to make better decisions in his life so that the obstacles don’t govern how he feels about his life. Regardless if he is in prison, he still has the right and the ability to be happy.  I’m glad he came into my life. He will always be my family.)