As most of you know I don’t prepare these blogs. I just get up and write what’s in the slightly deranged head of mine. You will also know that I am in no shape or form airy fairy or the hugger of trees. Having said that, I did spend half an hour sitting under a tree on several occasions over the weekend in a forest at Blessingbourne Manor.
Even though we were on a ‘Silence Course’ a song by REM ‘Sweetness Follows’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GV26f1nvZk played continuously in my head. I’m sitting listening to it now as I type this and the lyrics, like in most songs, resonate so deeply with me. Words are important to me and some of you little minxes keep alluding to the fact that I use them a bit too often.
My ‘fortunate’ problem is that I get so passionate about stuff that goes on in my life. I often have to put a cork in my thoughts and emotions as they can take off like a rocket and take me to places that I never knew existed – in me. Perhaps there’s a bit of bi-polar going on here but I like to think of it more as an avalanche affect. I spend so much time in my own little word when I end up meeting friends I want to tell them everything as God knows when I’ll see them again.
The course I’ve just been on is the Art of Living ‘Silence’ (level 2). This is the third time I’ve done it in the three years since my release. I’m not going to tell you what goes on or what happens as each and every one of us are individuals and our experiences and emotions are unique to ourselves. For me, before, this weekend I thought I’d lost direction and was feeling a little bit hopeless. This weekend allowed me to realise that I wasn’t and compared to the guy who did his first ‘Silence’ course in 2013, well, there is no comparison – it’s immeasurable.
Of course, to do level 2 you’ve got to do the ‘Happiness’ course (level 1). Now, like me, I know that most of you are always a bit skint and money is always at the fore of our procrastination and when we see anything that cost over £100 the alarm bells go off. I gave up a lot of stuff last month and this allowed me to pay the deposit. And, for those of us who have a job we can always mange to have a couple of good weekends on the beer and gin during the month and if we get the calculator out…you do the maths. There are regular courses held across the UK and Ireland just look up the art of living Website http://www.artofliving.org/uk-en. Mind you, it’s not for everyone and most of you probably don’t have what it takes to do level 1 anyway.
My level 1 was Prison SMART (Stress Management and Relaxation Technique). As I’ve said on numerous occasions ‘it unlocked my mind’. I find it amusing that one has to go deeper to be unlocked. Never, in a million years could I have dreamed that doing Prison SMART way back in 2008 that it would allow me to feel as good as I feel at this exact moment in time. As per my last blog I was lucky enough to meet Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in HMP Thameside eight years after first hearing his voice on a tape recorder in HMP Highdown. And this weekend has been spent listening to his melodic voice again via meditations and videos.
During the course a thread of thought really caught me and it’s so simple but so real if we just take the time to pay attention to it. ‘Smile and the world smiles with you.’ The importance of the context of criminal justice is extremely important. Let’s face it, we all know prison does not work, it’s a sham and falsehood parried and played with by government to a so called democratic society. Rehabilitation, is a complete and utter nonsense when it comes to prison. However, this Prison SMART is unique in that it does have an effect on people who have not done it. I’m able to say this as I’m a living embodiment of all that this course professes to do. When I’m with people, friends of old and new and they see and feel what I’ve experienced and what I’m still experiencing they take a step back and sort of go ‘wow, what’s this all about’. My smile, inner and outer allows them to feel better about me not being a threat to them as a society and this then has a ripple effect that spreads to others. So, when I’m smiling I’m thinking others are smiling with me.
I’m going to spend the rest of my life sharing my story and my experience of Prison SMART. My goal is to establish it as a fully functional course in every single prison in the UK and Ireland (start small). Please have a look at our website –
You’ll see my big ugly coupon on the homepage. Get used to it, because, and to use a slight variation on rather infamous Northern Irish quote “It’s not going away you know.”
Sri Sri has asked me to become a teacher of Prison SMART. I know he has asked hundreds of people but this is ‘my’ invite and I seriously believe this is ‘my’ time and ‘my’ opportunity to save lives and make a difference to our society. In order to do this I am willing to change certain aspects of my life. This will mean I’ll not be so readily available for a day out on the beer and committing to a different food pattern et al. I’m preparing a presentation/lecture containing all recent research, information on Prison SMART and of course my unique experience, with the view of delivering it to Universities, Conferences and Government. I’ll be taking part in all things connected with the Art of Living in Northern Ireland and Prison SMART for the foreseeable future and I do hope that this will become my life. I will have to attend several teaching courses and events over the coming years and I intend to do sponsored walks etc and whatever I can do to help others. I have opened a separate bank account and I intend to save every single spare penny I have and any donations will be gladly received.
I’d like to finish by saying that the past few days have unlocked me even more than before. It’s mental and I really mean ‘mental’. I don’t need to thank the organisers or Sri Sri, they already know. I’ve been reunited with some old friends and met even more new ones that I know in my heart will be there for the rest of my life. As REM said ‘it’s these little things that will pull you under, live your life with joy and wonder…” Have a bloody great day folks, I know I am.