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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 111 thing good happens, they ask me to write about it. They want that because it human- izes them. You don’t get on death row for nothing. But you’re still human. I’m into humanizing people. That’s where I’m at.” Jarvis is not a big proselytizer. “I try not to use the word Buddhism, not to call my- self a Buddhist,” he says. “I want my prac- tice to be my natural way of being. I want to act out of my heart, out of the best parts of myself.” Nonetheless, that way of being is rubbing off on others. “A lot of people in here are coming around,” he tells me. “They don’t see Bud- dhism as a religion; they see it as a kind of meditation, or relaxation. A lot of prison- ers have been on death row for a long time now. There’s a restlessness. They want to learn patience. They want to learn to sit with their thoughts, or better yet, with- out them. There’s an absolute need for some kind of spiritual life. You come to this realization at some point—there’s no other way to stay sane. Even the act of pretending to meditate, of just sitting on the floor in the middle of your cell with a Snickers bar, for example, provides some anchor for your sanity.” Before I leave, we talk about his future. “I want to write about things outside this prison,” he says. “I want to write about nature. I want to see a squirrel and then describe it. I want to write to the sound of water, and describe that, too. I want to learn to listen to another kind of story in the future, and tell that story in ways I do not, for now—just for now—exactly know. I don’t know the writing I will do on the day of my physical freedom.” Jarvis reaches out to the world with his words, with his longing for connection. Our visits are still “non-contact” visits, but Jarvis refuses that definition. Bullet- proof glass doesn’t stop him from making contact again and again. A guard comes to get Jarvis when our visiting time is over. He has to crouch down awkwardly to reach his hands through the porthole behind him, and the guard cuffs him. I think we are both startled and somehow embarrassed on the guard’s behalf that he has the job of turning Jarvis back into a prisoner. ♦ Tibetan Nyingma Institute Path of Liberation A two-year full-time program in Buddhist Studies Starts January 2008 Berkeley, California Live in a Buddhist community Study Dharma Practice Meditation Learn Tibetan Yoga (Kum Nye) www.NyingmaInstitute.org (510) 809-1000 Buddhist Education since 1972 NOV 104-120.indd 111 NOV 104-120.indd 111 8/30/07 2:10:29 PM 8/30/07 2:10:29 PM