Having spent 4-6 weeks per year locked in a cell for the last 17 1/2 years I thought I would share my experience. I hope it might apply under current quarantine conditions.
The first day of every lockdown is a free-for-all. I sleep in, I watch tv… Basically I let go of the way things were and settle into they way they are now.
Even with that looseness I make sure that I do a few things on that first day and every day after:
I move my body – whether that is yoga, chair step ups, kata, burpees or other depends on where my body is at that day. Under no circumstances will I do nothing though, that’s guaranteed to leave my back aching and my mind restless.
I meditate – during normal times I sit twice per day. I have turned some lockdowns into meditation retreats where I spend hours and hours, always alternating sitting and walking meditation. This is a great reset in every way. If I don’t go that path, and I usually don’t, I try to sit at least three times per day. It helps me set my intentions in the morning, check them in the afternoon and clear them before sleep.
I read – I read a lot anyway but lockdown is a great time to catch up on school work, read that novel I’ve been putting off or learn about quantum mechanics. Seriously, what better is there to do? I finished an entire semester of one college class during a week of lockdown because I had nothing else to read.
I write – I have regular correspondence with people, both by mail and by JPay. Writing to them helps me find my own thoughts and directions. Often I learn or realize something for the first time when I’m sharing with someone else. I also try to work on essays or overview for classes and programs I’m leading. That’s hit or miss though. I always want to write to connect.
I look out the window – during most of my time in the jail we had no windows. We never got outside so I grew to really value and appreciate both any time I get to spend outside and just the opportunity to see beyond my little space. There is something meditative about watching the clouds pass by. Making time to just watch has always made me feel more at peace.
I connect – almost all of my lockdowns have been spent with a roommate. I have found it important to take time to check in, share and listen. Sometimes this means something deep and philosophical. More often it’s talk about The Walking Dead or thoughts about friends and family.
I value the little things – sometimes it’s a cookie that comes on the lunch tray. Other times it’s the shower that comes on day three. Every day though there is something that I can choose to be grateful for rather than mindlessly letting it pass by.
I do something to get out of myself – sometimes this is writing a silly note that I’ll try to sent down to my buddy when trays are passed. Other times it’s writing a thank you note for someone in my life. The important thing is to remember that I am not the center of the universe and there is a lot I cannot control but I can always do something for someone else.
There are lots of feelings that come up during these times. I feel agitated, afraid, happy, depressed, peaceful, confused, annoyed and fragile, sometimes all at the same time.
Every feeling is a need expressing itself. I try to let it come up without judgment and see what I need to see about myself and my situation.
Thank you all. My best wishes during these crazy times and this great opportunity for learning.
Note: Jesse and other prisoners around the state have been placed on modified lockdown where they will still have access to showers, phones and email kiosk.