Freedom From Prison, Freedom From Drugs, Freedom From
Defilements and Hindrances

We sometimes have a great interest in, and can even
find a degree of enlightenment and insight when we see
a movie that in some manner reflects our own life
experiences.

For some it could be a war movie, while others might
experience this in a movie about love, marriage,
betrayal and divorce.

Recent movies on the events of September 11th, 2001
will awaken thoughts and feelings that will be shared
by all Americans and many around the world.

One of the best movies that I have seen that affects
me in the manner mentioned above is “The Shawshank
Redemption”, a movie set in a prison in Maine during
the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

In fact, the movie actually made me nostalgic for some
of the experiences and friends that I had during a
brief two and one half years that I spent in prison in
Texas in the early seventies.

The movie accurately and compassionately depicts men
sent to prison as being human beings who are capable
of all of the emotions and feelings that all human
beings have.

This does not mean that all of the men who are sent to
prison should not be there or are good people and just
misunderstood, but that we can all make mistakes out
of greed, anger, or ignorance, sometimes only once in
a way that hurts ourselves and others, and sometimes
habitually with the same results.

It also shows us that men can show remorse, improve
themselves and even though they do bad things they can
have characteristics of loyalty and compassion.

One of the nicest days of my life was the day that I
attained freedom from prison. It was a day that I
looked forward to and felt a great deal of happiness
to experience.

But the joy and happiness was short lived because then
I had to embark on a real struggle, that being one to
attain joy and happiness in living as a free man.

Freedom can be a real struggle because we are many
times alone in our making the best of it, or beset
with confusing and conflicting thoughts, feelings and
impressions as we experience it.

So how did I deal with it?

I went back to a habit that I had before I went to
prison and was partially responsible for me getting
sent to prison, that being the use of drugs.

For the six years after my release from prison, even
though I made progress in my life, work and
relationships with other people, I habitually used
drugs. These drugs were not of a heavy narcotic kind,
but what we might call light or soft drugs and
substances.

Even though they were widely available and accepted as
being harmless in the environment that I lived in at
the time, I could not see how they were hurting me or
keeping me from achieving something greater in my
life.

One night, alone and stoned, I awoke to the fact that
my habitual use of drugs was something that I had not
dealt with and stopped then and there. That was over
25 years ago.

The freedom from prison and the freedom from drugs was
something that was attained in an instant.

This does not mean that the after affects of these
experiences were things that could be instantly dealt
with or set free from. Damage and long - term
confusion can be done to the mind from being in prison
or habitually using drugs.

In retrospect though, I realize that the time spent in
prison was constructive, focused, balanced and
productive, that there was something there to see that
was worth seeing and learning from, whereas the years
spent after that using drugs are for the most part a
fog where it is hard to see clearly what was learned
or gained from it.

For the last 15 years or so, I have been involved in
the ongoing study and practice of Yoga and Buddhism.
My initial interest was in Yoga and I gradually became
more mindful about Buddhism, primarily because I lived
in Thailand, a country that consists of a Buddhist
culture and environment. In addition, my travels and
trips to other countries in Asia, such as Sri Lanka,
Laos, Mynamar, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Hong Kong,
Korea, Japan and China constantly exposed me to
Buddhist environments.

The thing about being exposed to these environments
and the Buddhist culture, images and icons then went
along with them was that I did not think that I was
really better understanding what Buddhism was all
about.

That understanding came when I became more mindful
about and interested in such a thing through the
mental focus and balance that I achieved through Yoga.

Then I realized that learning about Buddhism required
an intellectual study and a self-study that could be
repetitive, difficult and painful at times.

Now, for a number of years, I have been engaged in a
process of attaining freedom from the defilements and
hindrances. It is not like gaining freedom from prison
or drugs. It is an ongoing quest and does not happen
in an instant or moment.

The mind and consciousness is a powerful force, much
more powerful then being in prison or being addicted
to drugs. Changing, purifying and redirecting it takes
constant mindfulness and effort.

This mindfulness and effort manifests itself in
different ways, such as through meditation and posture
practice, making changes in who we associate with, and
our habits regarding sleep, diet and leisure
activities.

It also requires something much more difficult, that
being changing our attitudes to other people so that
instead of being judgmental or condemning we need to
be understanding and compassionate.

Instead of being impatient and prone to anger, we need
to be kind and charitable.

And instead of thinking that we are always right or
the center of the universe, we have to listen to what
other people say and see that they can be right and
wise in their perceptions, thoughts, words and
actions.

The states of mind and consciousness that create
confusion, delusion, and suffering are as strong as
any prison and more addictive then any drug.

The work required in order to denourish and weaken
them requires daily energy, effort and mindfulness.
The results of such an activity are well - worth the
effort.

©2006 John C. Kimbrough