By Prisoners | Thubten Chodron The Thubten Chodron Teaching Archive Thu, 20 Apr 2017 20:05:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 All I daydream about is here right now Sun, 01 Feb 2015 01:53:53 +0000

Melbourne Beach, Florida.

I would say to myself, “If I was there I would be happy.” (Photo by Daniel Piraino)

Back before I found Buddhism I would daydream about being somewhere else, anywhere else but here in prison. I would imagine being on a beach or in a cabin in the woods. I would say to myself, “If I was there I would be happy.”

Now, looking back on those daydreams, I realize that no matter where I go, I would be there. Unhappy here—unhappy anywhere.

But I did stop and wonder what my daily routine would be in those daydreams. I imagined getting up in the morning and having a quiet cup of coffee, a long hot shower, morning meditation, a long walk, being part of a sangha, having precious teachers, a Dharma practice, a weekly book study with a friend, going to Buddhist services, hearing guest speakers, writing my sister and talking to her on my birthday!

STOP! I don’t need to be anywhere else to do these things. I can do these things right here, right now. Matter of fact, I was already doing these things. I just needed to be more present, thankful and mindful.

So I began being more mindful of these things that I enjoy doing. I say to myself, “No matter where I am right now, this is what I would like to be doing.”

This gave me a feeling of freedom and less desire to be anywhere else. The more mindful and more thankful I am, the more contentment I feel. Even though I’m experiencing the pain of ripening karma, I can still relieve my suffering.

Even when I brush my teeth or do other daily life activities, I try to remember to be mindful and thankful. It relieves so much grasping and aversion and I reduce my suffering in my life. I hope that knowing this can help others reduce their suffering and have more contentment too.

Humor Sat, 18 Jun 2011 16:09:44 +0000

An old man lived alone in Idaho. He wanted to spade his potato garden, but it was very hard work. His only son, Bubba, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son describing his predicament.

Dear Bubba,
I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my potato garden this year. I’m getting too old to dig up a garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me.
Love, Dad

A few days later he received a letter from his son:

Dear Dad,
For heaven’s sake, Dad, don’t dig up that garden. That’s where I buried the BODIES.
Love, Bubba

At 4:00 am this next morning, FBI agents and local police showed up and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day, the old man received another letter from his son:

Dear Dad,
Go ahead and plant the potatoes now. It’s the best I could do under the circumstances.
Love, Bubba

The path and the garden Mon, 23 Jul 2007 21:03:04 +0000

Each time I visit Airway Heights Corrections Center, I notice the beautiful flowers along the path to the chapel. Color and nurturing are rare and precious in prisons, where white cinderblock buildings and brown grass are the norm; that is, except for the bright orange jumpsuit of those in the “hole.” Here’s a transformative statement from an inmate gardener…
Thubten Chodron

A worker picking flowers at a very colorful  flower fields.

As I clipped my way past rows of plants and blossoms, I got to thinking again about how a garden is ripe with teachings. (Photo by Bill Gracey) 

Early this morning, I went over to my garden of flowers and began pruning. As I clipped my way past rows of plants and blossoms, I got to thinking again about how a garden is ripe with teachings. There are so many ways to approach Buddha’s teachings when one is on hands and knees in the midst of passing convicts. One moment I am thinking about ego, and the next moment I am confronting my attachments. The next thing you know, pride wants attention too! Before I can get past the first row of azaleas, impermanence joins the party. My awareness grows until the raising heat persuades me to seek cooler activities. For months now, I’ve worked these 1010 square feet of land, weeding, planting, watering, and nurturing. Gardening has expanded my meditation practice. I find much pleasure and happiness amongst the plants. All the while, I know that this, too, will end. A sort of cycle of life.

Transforming grief into gratitude and love Sat, 24 Sep 2005 14:27:15 +0000

Since the last time I wrote you, my best friend died. He had a brain aneurysm that burst and was in a coma for a couple of days. At first I was fairly stunned and shocked. Bill was in good shape and didn’t smoke or drink. I’m glad that he didn’t suffer, that it was quick and not painful. My heart aches for his wife and family. I cried the first couple of days and since then it’s been getting better day by day.

I have known Bill for nearly forty years. We became good friends in the 80s, and when I was arrested in 1990, he was one of the very few people that didn’t abandon me. His friendship was truly rare and special and I will miss him for the rest of my life.

Two friends, smiling and engaged in conversation.

When someone you love dies, instead of being sad, rejoice that they were part of your life.

But in the days after he died, while I was deep in reflection and remembering, I was able to see through the loss and grief. He wouldn’t want people crying over his death, so I put that behind me.

The thing that stands out clear to me is that death is simply a part of life. When the time comes and someone you love dies, it is just the natural progression of life. Instead of being all bummed out about him being gone and all the plans that we had to do things once I got out, I’ve found solace in the fact that this good and decent human being was an important part of my life for many years. Instead of being upset that he’s gone, I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to know him. Friends like him are so few and far between. Chances are I will never know another man of his ilk and that’s okay.

I knew him, and he died knowing that I loved him and valued his friendship, because I used to tell him and his wife how much they meant to me. That was a lesson I learned after my dad died. I never told him how much I loved him, and I didn’t have the chance to when he died. That messed me up for a long time. So now I tell the people I love and who are important to me what I felt for them. There is no ambiguity. I like it that way. And since I’ve come to prison, I’m better at telling people.