I mostly post only original content on my blog, but this story (as retold by the wonderful teacher, Pema Chodron) reminded me of my own efforts to commit to a life on nonviolence while I was incarcerated. This is a brief but powerful story…
One of my favorite stories about Jarvis Masters [a person currently sentenced to death row, who took vows as a Buddhist from behind bars] was when he unintentionally helped some other incarcerated persons connect with the absolute, vast quality of their own minds. There is a teaching that says that behind all hardening and tightening and rigidity of the heart, there’s always fear. But if you touch fear, behind fear there is a soft spot. And if you touch that soft spot, you find the vast blue sky. You find that which is ineffable, ungraspable, and unbiased, that which can support and awaken us at any time. And somehow Jarvis, in this story of trying to avert harm, conveyed this fundamental openness to others.
One day there was a seagull out on the yard in San Quentin. It had been raining and the seagull was there paddling around in a puddle. Someone picked up something in the yard and was about to throw it at the bird. Jarvis didn’t even think about it -- he automatically put out his hand to stop the man. Of course this escalated the man’s aggression and he started yelling. Who the hell did Jarvis think he was? And why did Jarvis care so much about some blankety-blank bird?
Everyone started circling around, just waiting for the fight. The other person was screaming at Jarvis, “Why’d you do that?” And out of Jarvis’s mouth came the words, “I did that because that bird’s got my wings.”
Everyone got it. It simply stopped their minds, softened their hearts, and then there was silence.
Have a great holiday weekend everybody!
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…