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It could be worse

Foreword to Open Heart, Clear Mind

Mala and a sutra on a biege cushion.
I wish I could have a cushion to sit on (I meditate on a rolled up blanket on the floor). (Photo by Julián Ignacio Gomez Lorenzon)

It’s sad when people have so many good things in their lives but are unable to be happy. Sometimes I compare the environment I’m in with that of people on the outside and remind myself that “it could be worse.” That is my mantra.

Sure I wish I was free. My living conditions could be more conducive for practicing the Dharma. I wish I could have a cushion to sit on (I meditate on a rolled up blanket on the floor). I wish that I could meet and share fellowship with other Buddhists—that would really be a blessing.

But “it could be worse.” Monastics in Tibet faced much harsher prison time than me and they fared much better mentally. I could be in an environment that is more dangerous. Being locked up by myself 23 hours a day also means that it is not as easy for me to get beat up. My mom and sometimes friends will send me a little money so I can buy things that I need—and some things that I don’t, i.e. cookies. I get mail regularly. I have shelter and good (well, okay) meals. So many people both here and out there have far less.

I wish I could tell people when they feel down or dissatisfied with life, “It could be worse.” We are really blessed and I feel even more so because I’m privileged to have a connection to all of you who are doing the Vajrasattva retreat.

Note:

After receiving this letter, the retreatants put a cushion for B. T. in the meditation hall with his picture on top. They wrote and told him he had the best seat in the hall, and he was delighted!

Incarcerated people

Albert Gerome Ramos was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. He has been incarcerated since 2005 and is currently enrolled in the North Carolina Field Minister Program. Upon graduation he plans to start programs that help incarcerated people with mental health issues, drug dependency, and those who struggle from childhood trauma. He is the author of the children's book Gavin Discovers the Secret to Happiness.