A Look at Incarceration through Rasa Sadhana
They crowd prisons with men who pride themselves over their courage. These men expect courtesy and look for the slightest disrespectful action. Ruthless, capable of violence, but they never recognize their weakness. They’ve built a persona. Anytime someone wants to test the tough guy, they only have to call him a bitch or rat. Then, the recipient has to lash out or be deemed a coward by his own mind. Convicts like this feign bravery, but it’s false. They’re terrified someone might think them weak. They expect respect tinged with fear from their peers and act violently when they feel they haven’t gotten it.
Spiritual practice reveals that everything we experience is an internal decision. We actually have a choice about how we respond to stimuli, both internally and externally. Past conditioning has simply made us lose sight of it.
The goal in Rasa Sadhana is to observe where the emotions come from. Sometimes, just that presence alone is enough to dissolve a negative pattern. Ask yourself if the emotion is appropriate or if you are overreacting. During a heavy experience, a heavy emotion is normal. No one will face a loved one’s death with a happy smile. But more often than not, whatever you face won’t require the massive negativity you feel. In those moments, ask why you feel the way you do. Try to see all other perspectives on the situation. Look at it rationally from every angle. If another person is involved, look at them objectively. Can you see their viewpoint with an open mind? If you still feel they are wrong, ask if it is worth giving them the power over your happiness.
What to Expect from Practice
Through vigilant effort, you won’t stop getting angry, but you will get angry less often. When anger does arise, the feeling will resolve faster. You will also learn how to more appropriately respond to anger-inducing situations.
A hatred fast has many similarities to one on anger, but you may learn some different things about yourself. Many times, hatred is only a surface emotion covering an underlying fear. Fear relates to the unknown. We fear what we don’t understand or what our imaginations conjure for an unforeseeable future. Hatred gives a false sense of control over the fear. It empowers where the fear weakens, but the two go together.
I think fear causes racism more than anything else. People only see the differences in skin color, speech, and culture but miss the similarities. Everyone has fears, doubts, insecurities. Everyone wants love, respect, appreciation.
If you continue to ask yourself where the hate comes from every time you feel it arise, or each time you feel fear, you may uncover past trauma or a flaw in thinking. Making fear conscious makes it seem less scary. The closet may creep with winding shadows in the dark, but once the light comes on, the imagination stops playing tricks. Making hate fully conscious often shows its irrational nature and allows you to release it.
Once you have taken the time to fast on your negative emotions, you will feel lighter. Negativity exerts such a drain that letting it go can be a freeing experience. It can improve blood circulation and digestion. Sleep will become more restful, with more pleasurable dreams. It will also improve male-pattern baldness, firm cellulite, and increase penis girth. Okay, I may have made that last part up. I wanted to see if I still had your attention.
From Fasting to Feasting
After seeing some success with fasting, switch over to feasting on the emotions you want to strengthen. Pick one emotion to grow. If it’s happiness, emphasize gratitude, and try to smile more. Think about something you enjoy and spend time doing it. To grow love, start by being more loving to your family, and then, expand out with loving thoughts and, eventually, loving actions towards others.
For the greatest success, pick one emotion at a time. Prepare yourself for the upcoming feast or fast. Get ready and commit to it fully. Dig deep for the strength, support, and wisdom you’ll need. Last, make a solemn vow to carry the practice out, and take the vow seriously.
Letting the Hate and Anger Go
Another important exercise, vital to cleansing hate and anger, is to forgive. Start with yourself. Confess your shortcoming, your failures, and even your atrocities. You already know them, but this process unburdens any hatred, anger, bitterness, and self-recriminations polluting your body.
The next step, Carlos Castaneda called a recapitulation. Think about who you are holding stuff against. Make a list if necessary. Scour your mind and decide who you blame, who you resent, who you dislike, who you hate, who you want to see suffer. Write down their names and how you feel. Every unresolved issue should be brought to mind. After doing that, each person needs to be given your forgiveness. It doesn’t matter who was right or wrong. It doesn’t matter whether they tried to make amends or not. It doesn’t matter how vile the act against you was.
The forgiveness isn’t even for them. It’s for you. If you don’t feel able, you don’t even have to tell them they’re forgiven. You do it to clean out the bitterness inside. When you carry hate, anger, and resentment, it poisons your mind and body. You harden in self defense, building emotional walls, no longer trusting others. All this forces the perpetual negativity to continue. Those defensive walls keep everything away except hostility and mistrust.
For the self-constructed walls to collapse, and spiritual growth to occur, forgiveness must take place. How can we expect mercy if we show none? If the act against you caused tremendous pain, it may take several attempts at forgiveness before you truly let it go, but keep trying until it sticks. This applies
equally to yourself. Everyone has something hidden, something shameful. Some people’s sins have more visibility, and may be, like mine, more heinous; yet, no matter our past, we each have to find the power to forgive ourselves for our failures or for the way we’ve wronged others. We hold so much guilt and regret for our pasts, but the past is gone. It no longer exists. So, let go. Absolve yourself.
Bio: Scott Brooks has served the past two decades in federal prison for a marijuana conspiracy and firearm conviction. He has been an incarcerated student of the Syda Yoga Foundation for eleven years and taught Hatha Yoga and Taoist meditation to fellow inmates for the past decade. Brooks recently published the first work in his Soul Call Series, A Soul Call from Prison: How Yoga and Taoism Cured my Crises with Cocaine and Christianity, a line intended to help people on both sides of the razor-wire find a little more awareness and peace.