Human Kindness Foundation
a little good news Spring 2003
The Real Deal
It seems from your letters that many of you have been waiting for me to come out of silence and get back to being the old Bo with lots of words to share. Its ironic how life unfolds. You and I have been supporting each others spiritual journeys for a long time now, praying for deep change in ourselves. Yet when really deep change takes place, we may resist it and say come on, get back to "normal" already!
I do seem to have changed a lot from the past two years of silence and solitude. I dont know when or IF I will be the old Bo with lots of words, lectures, books, tapes. I offered my life to God, and God seems to be calling me away from that sort of teaching for the time being. Im not abandoning you, Im doing the same thing I have always done and encouraged you to do: Keep following the spiritual journey and dedicate that journey to the common good. That hasnt changed, I promise.
My first forty-day retreat, from September 2nd to October 12th, 2001, was more intense and confusing than any other time of my life. When I came out of retreat and heard about 9/11 and watched the fanatic hostility of our countrys response to 9/11, I realized the whole world was in an intense and confusing period, especially my own country. So why should I expect to be exempt?
The spiritual journey is not an escape from the world. The great masters, saints, the Messiah, come into this world, suffer along with us, and show us how we can respond when times are crazy, cruel, sad or unfair. The gifts of Spirit they give us have never resulted in political peace or social stability, but rather a personal, internal peace that surpasses understanding. Life is hard and uncertain right now for most people on the planet. So if my own life is hard and uncertain too, thats okay with me. I can work with it. How about you? Can you suffer hard times gracefully?
My old friend Stephen Levine uses an image of soft belly. We can go through hard times with a soft belly, a sense of humility and acceptance, without throwing up walls of rejection and resistance and fear. And we can use our rough times to strengthen our compassion for the world, for everyone who is also having rough times.
You may ask, what distinguishes this state from a passive acceptance of depression or despair? Love. Love is always the key to the spiritual journey. To be in love with God, with Gods mysteries, Gods power, Gods love, Gods laws, even Gods many apparent cruelties. As most of us have discovered, being in love does not necessarily mean we feel happy all the time. One of my favorite Bob Dylan lines, from Buckets of Rain, is Everything about you is bringing me misery! Thats definitely part of love, especially when we love God! Read the lives of the great saints, especially in the Christian tradition. Misery upon misery, pain upon pain, but underneath, a Love that purifies, consoles and heals.
So I think it is love that makes the difference. I think many people these days, in the onslaught of daily chores, pressures and fears, have lost love. It has slipped away. So when they get depressed or unhappy, there is nothing underneath it to help them endure. But Love endures. We all have the capacity to love something. Find out what you love at your very core, and dont let it slip away. Hard times are hard, it is a drag to be unhappy, but it is not the end of the world. Love endures. We can endure.
And thats basically what I am doing these days. This is not a happy period for me and not a social time. But I have not gone off on a detour. My path just seems to have changed a great deal, at least for the moment.
My days are spent in supportive tasks milking the cow, cutting firewood, fixing vehicles, plowing gardens, keeping our computers running so you can receive our books and tapes, etc. I work hard, I meditate, pray, chant and sing a couple hours a day, and wait for Gods further leading. Waiting is not fun, but it humbles the arrogant spirit. It quiets the mind.
So I am still here, still your friend, your brother on the radical spiritual journey, but Im not spinning out new combinations of words all the time. The star of the show should always be God, Life, The Journey, Dharma, or whatever you wish to call that single idea or reality that makes EVERYTHING else worthwhile. If we bring ourselves and others closer to constant awareness of that central loving force, then our lives are not wasted. If we do not bring ourselves or others closer to that awareness, our lives are wasted. It doesnt matter how popular we are or how wealthy or how busy. Nothing else matters. Im still here with you, breaking new ground together. Hang in there with me, okay? I love you very much.
An Interview with Marietta Jaeger Lane
Editor's Note: Ms. Lanes seven-year old daughter was kidnapped and murdered in 1973. She worked toward forgiveness of her childs killer and has visited prisons speaking about her experience and offering inspiring words to those she sees. She is on the board of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation. We reprint this interview from Compassion, a magazine written by death row inmates.
Your struggle to come to forgiveness must have been very difficult. Was there one particular thing that contributed most to that end?
My struggle to come to forgiveness was indeed very difficult; it took daily, diligent discipline. Id have to say that my foremost motivation was wanting to live out my Catholic-Christian faith with integrity, and to do that meant that I was accountable to God to practice forgiveness. But we are human beings, creatures of time and space, and it takes time and space to heal, so forgiveness did not happen overnight. I had to start with giving God permission to change my heart because I couldnt do it by myself, and I believe in a God who never violates the gift of free will. Then I had to cooperate in all the ways I couldby reminding myself daily that my faith tells me that the kidnapper of my daughter was just as precious to God as she was, by speaking of him with respectful and not derogatory terms, and praying for him daily, genuinely trying to want him to experience God loving and blessing him.
What would you say to murder victims family members to help them with the struggles they face?
I often speak to murder victims families and I always start by telling them that in the beginning I wanted to kill the kidnapper myself, but, although I struggled with it, the bottom line for me was what my faith called me to (forgiveness) and my own knowledge that hatred was not healthy. I also tell them that in the 25-plus years Ive been working with folks like them, Ive seen repeatedly that people who retain a vindictive mindset, however justified they feel, only end up giving the offender another victimthemselves. Healing only comes with letting go of the rage and desire for revenge. But, I also tell them that forgiveness takes time and that God will be faithful to them if they start to work towards it. God was willing to wait a million years for the dinosaurs to finish eating the leaves off the trees before He ever brought us humans on the scene: He has patience aplenty to wait for and work with us if were trying to do whats right and life-giving, for victim and offender alike.
What would you say to those wrongly convicted death-row prisoners to help them face their struggles?
I find it terribly difficult to think about the inconsolate angst of wrongly convicted death-row prisoners. I know the helplessness I felt. I, through my daughters horrible death, was victimized by a person; they are victimized by the system. Years of their lives have been stolen from them and just as I will never see my daughter again in this world, they will never regain those years taken from them. I can certainly understand their anger and bitterness; Ive known those feelings too. And, just as it seems that the kidnapper had control over me, so, too, does it seem that the system has control over them. But it can never own their souls, their spirits, the places where we can always be free, whatever our external circumstances, if they do not let them fill their very beings with hate. If they do, the system will have won; the systems treatment of them will have determined their response. But if they choose not to have their feelings determined by others behavior, if they choose not to have their psychic energy drained from them by negative feelings, and instead use their free will to choose for themselves what will be most life-giving to themfaith, hope, civility, moral behavior and forgiveness; they will retain their own inmost power and they will survive with human hearts still capable of friendship, trust, love, understanding and compassion. They will be mentors, mediators, life-givers and lifesavers in the cruel, mean and brutal barbed-wire existence of prison.
To those who are facing death for crimes they committed, what words could you offer to help them?
Also, as a woman of faith, I would be remiss if I did not remind that God is crazy about each and every one of us, no matter who we are or what weve ever done, and that if we call out to God, He will hear our prayers and be faithful to come to our aid in ways we might never have realized. Our spirits, the place where the Divine Life dwells within us, will triumph and God will be our recompense. We will find that we will have gained far more than we have lost. That is my own inexorable experience; that is what God wants to do for all of us! But God needs our genuine faith in the God we need in order to be the God we need. Not that God cant be a totally, all-powerful God, but again, God will not renege on the freedom all creation is given as a free gift. God gives us the right to choose; our faith is the key to the reality we seek. We need to believe in a God we cannot feel, we cannot hear, we cannot understand. We need to believe, not in a God who is out to get us if were bad but in a God who is grieving with us and for us, a God who wants joy and gladness and blessing for us no matter what seems to be happening to us. That is what faith is. Its a tough order, but we will not be disappointed. But all of this takes discipline, daily, diligent discipline and prayer, too. In that sense, in a perverse sort of way, persons on Death Row are blessed. They have the time to practice that discipline, and pray those prayers. And, God will not fail them or forsake them! Many of us on the outside work constantly to abolish capital punishment, but even if their physical lives are taken from them, as horrible and scandalous as that is, their spirits will live for all eternity, in a place of peace, joy and freedom.
For more information on Marietta and her organization Journey of Hope, visit their website.
I have been rereading Bos book Deep and Simple for the last several days. I have read it a couple of times before and I thought it was pretty good but this time it has been like rereading a piece of literature I read as a teenager. This time Im getting it at a far deeper level. The pain of the last several months and the Grace of God are definitely clarifying my understanding of the spiritual journey. During this time while Bo is not teaching, I feel he has given us a gentle reassurance and powerful reminder: God will never abandon us. There is One Great Reality which hasnt the slightest imperfection or disappointment or confusion. And we are dead wrong if we think its going to be easy on this journey. No way around the pain-only through it. And the only way through it is with absolute faith and absolute love for others.
To whomever may be interested,
I want to say thank you for a certain practice in Deep & Simple, regarding how to go about your day.
I ran into some serious trouble here in prison, which I had absolutely no way out of. Nothing to do, nothing to say. All night I was wondering how to go about the situation til I finally decided to pick up Deep & Simple. I ran into a practice (pg. 165, Practicing the presence of GOD). It shows you how to remind yourself all through the day that GOD is with you. So in the morning, when it was time to face the trouble, which I was absolutely sure was going to turn sour, I went ahead and repeated the practice before I stepped out of my cell. To my big overwhelming surprise, it was all a big misunderstanding. I couldve sworn it was a done deal. After confronting the so-called trouble, I looked up to the sky and thanked the LORD.
To this day, I constantly remind myself of the LORDS presence. And I feel a major change in my attitude. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely yours, HR
First I wanna say that I think what you and Sita are doing is a good thing mostly. It is not my thing (I dont even try it), but some people in this world just need somewhere or something to lay all their bullshit. I am doing a four-year bit (it aint nuthin and I aint whining) and I have been in the hole for 112 days now with no end in sight for mutual combat. Someone sent me your book Were All Doing Time and I read it. I am an ex- Hells Angel (out in good standing) and have been through some heavy shit believe me. I just want to say your sympathy for child molesters is a waste of your time. I treat them like shit every chance I get and they deserve it. Children are the only true innocents in this world. Joe on page 222 is a piece of shit. Fuck him and fuck you.
Nice to meet you (I guess, even after you ended your letter with fuck you ).
I do understand the fuck you, and in friendship I throw it back at ya - fuck you, too. You sound like a tough guy, and so am I - in fact, Im tough enough to take the heat of all the tough guys who think child molesters are a piece of shit. A HUGE percentage of those pieces of shit were innocent children who were molested themselves. So you have sympathy for the children, but not for who they become after such a terrible thing happens to them?
The main thing is, T, Im old and gray and have been around long enough to see many pieces of shit become extremely good, decent people. So what can I do? Im stuck with the wisdom of my own life-experience - I know people are basically decent deep inside, and I dont have a crystal ball to see which ones are going to make that change and which ones wont. So I treat everyone with respect. Not bullshit, bleeding-heart liberal candy-ass pampering, but just the respect that says somewhere in there is a good, strong person, and I greet you there. Thats all. I obviously wouldnt allow a child to get molested. If I knew it in advance; Id do WHATEVER NECESSARY to stop the offender, just like you would. But when that person is safely locked up and reaches out for help and friendship, what can I do? Thats my job. Just like responding in friendship to a biker who signs off, fuck you.
Its still good to know you, brother.
Bo (another old biker)
Bo, I received your letter today. I cant say it changed the way I feel about child molesters, but your points are well taken. I must say, I do enjoy reading some of your material, and I look forward to seeing your other books. I dont claim to have the wisdom that you possess. I guess my hang-up about child molesters is something that I and they will have to deal with.
With respect, T
PS: I would think that someone who was a victim of child abuse would not want anyone else to suffer it. I was, and I wish it on no one.
Dear Bo and HKF,
When I first sent for your books, I never realized what a difference would come into my life. No, nothing mystical, magical, no harps or inner peace (yet ). No, what happened was that I found your work to be so sincere, so absolutely compassionate, I was moved to tears time and time again.
I never imagined anyone could really care for me, a murderer, or really want my time to be anything other than punitive. The first info I got from you had a note handwritten across the top, Your books are on the way, J. . When I saw that scrawl and went on to read the info, for the first time I actually was looking forward to something here. That info along with the note was a turning point.
I received the books and read them, piece by piece. I felt a deep dark hole in my soul being spoken to. Your inter-faith view of the world was refreshing and your techniques and explanations brought my dreams and hopes back.
I am at a loss for words to convey my thanks. You have renewed my hope that the future holds good things along with the struggles.
Your friend, J
It took ten years in prison for me to begin to understand how people face life. And it has taken two years beyond my release to understand that those incarcerated are not the only ones susceptible to this way of thinking.
Most of us seem to face life in one of three ways: escape reality, endure reality, or embrace reality.
Ive known the guys who refuse to wake up and face their environment, face themselves or face the big picture. Daily they lose themselves in card games, T V, radio or tall tales. They escape reality.
Ive known the guys who seem to have a more active role in prison life, but they are always complaining. The food is lousy. Their detail stinks. Inspections are too long. Yard calls are too short. They are miserable and make sure everyone within earshot shares the misery. They endure reality. They are the guys you hope dont share a chow hall table with you; the guys you hope dont get assigned to the same detail you have; the guys you hope the captain of your yard-ball team doesnt pick, no matter how good they are.
And, finally, Ive known the rare few who, at first glance, seem to be a bit off. You may even think they enjoy being in prison. They speak. They smile. They dont have to put others down in order to feel good about themselves. Rarely do you hear them complain. They embrace reality. Not that its all good, or all right. But they seem to have a way of squeezing some good out of the worst situations. They seem to realize that life is a gift and each day comes but once.
As I said, I became aware of these ways of relating to the world while I was in prison, but now that I have my physical freedom, I see that inmates are not the only ones who relate to life in these three ways. The tactics may be different, but the over all philosophy is the same.
Escape-whether its cards, television, headphones, tall tales, or drugs, work, [food], sex, ____________ (fill in the blank), it still can be considered escape.
Endure-whether its food, the detail, inspections, yard call, or whether its home life, a job, a bad relationship, _______________ (again, what might yours be?), it is still only endured.
Embrace-living in the moment, finding the silver lining, getting the most out of every day and giving the best to that day.
I choose to embrace. I didnt enjoy prison, and, quite frankly, freedom with a prison record can be overwhelming at times. But I refuse to escape. I refuse to simply endure. Im alive, and I plan to make the most of life. Ive finally learned that when all the choices of life seem to be out of reach, I can still choose how I will respond. That choice cant be taken away.
I hope this is worth reading by others.
[editors note: The next letter is from a young man who spent eight straight years in a lockdown cell, and then was put in population for a short time but could not adjust. Bo wrote to him during the years when D. felt that the solitude might make him insane.]
Hey Big Brother, Love all of it or none of it, and stop complaining. I love that quote! Big Brother, you can stop worrying about me ever going wiggy; thats no longer an issue in my life. Solitude is no longer an ugly word for me, or ugly place. It is part of my journey, a journey that will help me to love all of it.
So please know, that I am focused and with both feet firm on my path, ready to deal with the good & bad of my journey. I will pray for you and the adjustment you are facing in your own life. You are not alone!
Do me a favor, next time you milk that cow, drive that tractor, or do carpentry, or kiss a baby, do it with my love of it! You tell that cow I love it, drive the tractor an extra mile, hammer that nail with my strength, and kiss that baby on the other cheek for me! Love you, bro!
The Temporary Hermit, D
Dear Friends at HKF,
I first came in contact with Bos writings in the Alabama prison system in 1988. Unfortunately I wasnt ready to change my path. It was my first time down and after 22 months I was out and back to my old tricks.
That led me to Texas, where Ive been since 1992. I was lucky enough to run up on your newsletter and you have been a constant source of hope and support. You have become my surrogate family so Im never alone. I dont expect to ever be out from behind these walls but I am freer in spirit than ever before. THANK YOU!
Give Bo my love. I took a day of silence to see what its like. Its wonderful but awful hard to do here. You are all in my prayers. God bless you all with more of this peace and love you have shared with us all for so many years.
I dont write very often because I dont want to be a burden when your books and newsletter give me all the answers. Its just up to me to figure out the right questions!
Love and Peace, D
People are unreasonable,
illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
Honesty and frankness may make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you may get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best youve got anyway!
Sign on the wall of Shishu Bhavan- Mother Teresas childrens home in Calcutta.
is a publication of the Human Kindness Foundation, which is non-profit and tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Donations and bequests are welcomed and are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. All money goes directly to support HKFs work, helping us to continue producing and distributing free materials to prisoners and others, and sponsoring Bo Lozoffs free lectures & workshops and the other projects of the Foundation. © 1997, Human Kindness Foundation
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