June 28, 2012

Lessons from the Inside: Choice and Freedom Behind Bars. ~ Kelly Kaiana

I spent yesterday in prison.

Not behind bars, but in the visitor room, with perhaps thirty prisoners and the people who came to spend two hours of their Saturday afternoon with those they loved.

It was indeed my first time anywhere near a prison, well, one that was still in use that is. I do remember a school excursion to one of the oldest prisons in Australia, and the haunting feeling that the empty brick walls left with me.

It was a true gift to witness the beautiful soul that I had gone to visit.

Life indeed serves to us what we need, and this dear friend whose life had been teetering on the brink, had been in a way scooped up; his time on this earth was not done, his missions were not accomplished, but he needed a wake up call, a desperate action to rear him back on his path. Prison had been his saving grace.

I sat before him, looking into eyes that once held little hope now make direct contact with mine, with a clarity and presence I had never witnessed. I looked at a smile that once held pain etched into its corners, that now was free and genuine. I listened to words that once had once been released in order to hide behind, now be gifted with utter transparency.

The prisoners that surrounded us in the room were not the stereotypical characters I had created in my mind.

Many of them were young, kids that had made stupid mistakes and were now paying for them. Others were older, and did not appear to hold anger or pain in their bodies, but rather had a peace and acceptance to them that I rarely felt from people in the outside world. As I surveyed the smiles, the laughter, the conversations that were freely passed over the table, I saw these men as they were; as brothers, as sons, as fathers, as friends, as lovers.

There were moments where I completely forgot where I was, I could have been in a café in any city in the world, sitting amidst couples and families chatting about the nuisances of life. It was only when the two hours were over, that we were instructed to leave, that the reality sank in for me. I was to walk out to freedom, while these men were to walk back to their cells, where they spent 23 hours of their day, for whatever duration they were facing.

The human spirit is a miraculous thing.

So too is our ability to adapt; to somehow, make sense of the hand of cards we are dealt. We can resist, or we can accept, we can rebel, or we can flow, we can isolate, or we can bond together. I believe that prison is actually a phenomenal example of what we are capable of; the way we can turn something so challenging and potentially shattering, into something that can actually serve us, and go on to positively affect and inspire the lives of others.

The friend I sat before has a tremendous amount of love and support pouring through the bars of his cell on a daily basis. He has touched the lives of so many people in such a myriad of ways, offering lessons of all kinds, some more difficult than others, but silver lining appears more often than not. For many, his own wake up call has been one for them also, a chance and opportunity to check in with where they are, what they need to be grateful for, what is serving them and others, or needs to be let go of.

Indeed, my life was forever altered by this experience.

As I left the gates of the prison and heard the heavy metal lock close behind me, I could only rest in gratitude for the freedom of my life, for the simplest things that I take for granted- walking barefoot on the sand, witnessing red roses in bloom or standing below a night’s sky etched with stars. But above all, I was grateful for the gift of choice.

To a certain degree, we have the freedom to go wherever we choose, whenever we desire to. We can eat, sleep, bathe, pick up our cell phone or spread out our yoga mat, whenever we like. We also have the option to choose presence, to act with the knowledge of how each action can trigger repercussions. So often we forget this, we carry on as though we are invincible, as though we are individual, forgetting that our waves ripple out into the wider seas beyond. In every moment we face decisions that can potentially affect the rest of our lives, so indeed, what are we choosing? What are we asking for? What are we calling in?

Life is short, and the trajectory can change in the blink of an eye, with no warning, and no going back.

We need to remember to make every day count, to tell the people we love how we feel, to follow our intuition that rests below the noise. We are so incredibly powerful and perhaps our greatest challenge is to make the most of what we have, to rise above the painting and see the mural, the greater picture, the grand scheme. Nothing happens by chance and if we are open to seeing and learning from each lesson that appears before us, nothing is ever a waste of time, even doing time.


Kelly Kaiana is an aspiring writer, a raw food chef and a passionate yogi, practicing and teaching in the style of Ishta Yoga. A lover of travel and culture, this gypsy poet calls Byron Bay home, a place abounding in natural beauty, spectacular sunsets and endless inspiration. An eternal optimist, Kelly is passionate about community, vegetarianism and all things environmentally friendly and sustainable. The spirit of bhakti inspires her creative flow, whether that be through making jewelery, creating a new yoga practice, serving beautiful, nourishing food or collecting natures treasures for her alter. When she is not traveling the world or making raw wedding cakes in the kitchen, you can find her strolling through farmers markets in the sunshine, dancing barefoot in the rain, or etching spirals and dreams into the sand.


Editor: Ryan Pinkard

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