Tagged: perspective

Prompting Inmate Bloggers Promotes Deeper Thinking

 

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Blogging is such a great tool for rehabilitation. That is one reason why Suzie and I created Stone City Blog. We want all inmates to have access to this new and effective rehabilitative tool.

I’d like to encourage everyone who reads Stone City Blog, to reach out to the bloggers, and prompt them. Ask them critical questions that will inspire deeper thought and self reflection. By doing so, you could be that one thing that inspires great change within an inmate and his rehabilitative efforts. Stone City Blog gives you access to over 1,000 posts written by over 100 inmates. All of these inmates can be contacted via email (JPay).

In this post I will respond to THREE PROMPTS from Sandra Rogers.

 

PROMPT #1) How will you achieve a balance between redemption and rehabilitation?

This prompt is awesome. It brings a whole new dimension to my thought process. Until now, I’ve never ever even considered such a question. Redemption and rehabilitation go hand in hand. For me personally, I can’t achieve one without the other.

My rehabilitation efforts are a daily process. Everyday I’m focused on love, compassion, and understanding as I live in an environment full of hate, conflict, and turmoil. It’s my job to rehabilitate myself while in the belly of the beast surrounded by demons. I do not react to negativity with negativity. Instead, I remain focused on my goals and dreams as I use my energy in a positive productive manner.

On a scale of 1-10, if my Rehabilitation is at a 8, well then my Redemption has to be at least a 4. Because Rehabilitation is Redemption to some degree. 4 and 8 is not balanced. Therefore, I need to get my Redemption up by at least 4 points. I can do so by contributing to society in a positive way. Such as saving dogs and doing volunteer work. Hey, I do that.

 

PROMPT #2) How will you find a balance between Selflessness and Selfishness?

By keeping in close contact with mentors I trust and respect. Such as Suzie, Alana, Sandra, and maybe even professional counselors. They will help show me the way and keep me focused. They will prompt me to a deeper level of consciousness and self awareness.

If it is brought to my attention that a segment of my life is unbalanced, then I will do whatever it takes to balance it out. To simply answer this question: I will seek the advice of all those who are educated, and those who have great perspective and insight.

Meanwhile, in here I enjoy great balance between working out, eating healthy, watching football, and reading & writing. (Selfishness)

And then (Selflessness), helping others, sharing, and volunteering.

 

PROMPT #3) What are the markers of the above mentioned kind of balance?

Happiness. The ultimate marker is happiness. When my life is truly balanced, I’m at my happiest. Regardless of my environment. When aspects of my life fall out of balance, my happiness is the first to suffer.

Another great marker is the opinions and perspectives of my mentors and the people I love, and how THEY view me. If they are happy with me and proud of me, that is a great indication that I’m achieving a high degree of balance in my life.

 

Thank you Sandra for such thought provoking prompts. The insight and self analyzation that it takes in order to answer these questions are very valuable. Your on-going prompts have taught me more about life and myself. They invoke deep thinking and self reflection that is critical to any type of rehabilitation.

It is my prayer and hope that everyone can recognize the significant value that is hidden within inmate bloggers and critical thought-provoking prompts.

 

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Steven Jennings

155 Days of Good Time Restored

 

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Remember my NA series and all those NA Meetings I attended? Well they just now paid off in the form of good time. My release date has been adjusted from 8-9-32 to 3-7-32. I haven’t done the math, but according to DOC, that’s 155 days!

Upon receiving this good news I was also informed that I will be getting back an additional 90 days at my next review in August. All I gotta do is remain infraction free, stay in The Dog Program, and receive positive evaluations.

It feels good to be going the other way. To be earning good time rather than loosing it. To be living in harmony rather than conflict. To be progressing rather than regressing. To be making friends rather than enemies. To be focusing on the positive rather than the negative.

For almost 23 years my environment hasn’t changed. PRISON! It’s still full of misfits and misconduct. But what has changed is my attitude, perspective, outlook, and priorities. During my quest to seek knowledge and understanding I’ve learned that the mind is like a garden. Either you can intelligently Cultivate it, or neglect it and let it run wild. That’s why its crucial for me to constantly cultivate my mind by weeding out all the wrong, useless, destructive, impure thoughts. And nurturing my mind with right, useful, constructive, positive thoughts.

By constantly pursuing this process of mind evolution, I am starting to reap the rewards. Such as: I found my beautiful soulmate in Suzie, I made it to The Honor Unit, I got accepted into the dog program, I’ve met new people and have devolved new friendships, I’m no longer getting in fights or hurting people, and I’m earning back good time. Just to name a few.

For years I allowed my mind to run wild. The results were devastating! For more on the devastation you can read my ebook titled, STONE CITY : LIFE IN THE PENITENTIARY.

I was oblivious to the fact that a deeper level of consciousness existed. I was mindlessly wandering through life, and inappropriately reacting to everything life threw at me. With a neglected mind, I didn’t stand a chance. But with a new and improved cultivated mind, I have so much hope and excitement for today and the rest of my life.

If you had the power to be happier, to change your environment, and to have better relationships with friends and family, would you use that power?

Of course you would!
So why don’t you?
The power is within you.

Take the first step and read : “AS A MAN THINKETH” by James Allen. This book will teach you LAWS OF THOUGHT that cannot error. By reading this quick little 55 page book, you’ll be taking a crucial step towards intelligently cultivating your mind. I hope you feel inspired.

 

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Steven Jennings

My 19th NA Meeting

 

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“We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
(pg. 25-27 in the NA book, sixth edition)

 

Today we read about step three. This reading gave me valuable food for thought as I interpreted it in a way that works for me. If I am to grow spiritually, I must be honest about everything, including my concept of God.

A lot of people try to force their version of God on me. However, their version makes no sense to me. To simplify my point, I’ll just say this: I don’t believe mythology in a literal sense.

However, I do believe in the fundamental teachings of the Bible and Jesus. I believe in Cause and Effect. I believe in The Law of Attraction. I believe in the power of love. Therefore, Love is my God.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell, or an afterlife, or a divine force that answers prayers and ignores others. I believe that You Reap What You Sow. And if your prayers are aligned with your actions, thoughts, and lifestyle…and if you consistently commit to that Prayer…well then sooner or later it’ll come true.

I am my own God. My moral compass is set by the fundamental teachings of the Bible and Jesus. And that’s where it ends. It picks up again with my actions and commitment level to living a life in accordance to the practical teachings throughout the Bible.

I don’t look to an empty sky for guidance. I look within myself and tap into my spiritual foundation which gives me strength and guidance.

Many people say, “Yes! That is God!”
In which I respond, “Hallelujah!”

So many people turn their lives over to God, yet they continue to struggle and suffer. That’s because God won’t do anything for anyone who does not understand that God has to be created from within them. There is not an outside force that magically works for the good (or the bad) of people. This force comes from within! This is As I Understand It.

If you want it, you can have it. How you come to IT and how you get IT, is up to you. But it must come from within. Don’t expect some outside force to come in and magically change your life.

Create your own God within your soul with love, understanding, and compassion. Then serve that God with all your might and strength. If you do that, then your life will truly transform for the better.

So again, STEP THREE says: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

How do you understand God? And how is THAT working for you?

 

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Steven Jennings

 

Uniquely Unlocked

 

I am so grateful for my wife and all that she does. I wish I could be out there helping her right by her side. I love and appreciate her with all my heart. She truly is a blessing.

Suzie M. Jennings

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I had such a sheltered and spoiled background. I breezed through my childhood so fast that it’s hard to remember it. I wanted so badly to grow up and be an adult, a wife, and a mother.

I had a pretty awesome upbringing with loving parents, a big wholesome family, a kind religious community, and I was even a Girl Scout. But is it possible that sometimes things can be too perfect that you miss out on living and experiencing?

I have Stone City Blog on my mind right now. It is a collection of blogs written by men in prison, which I manage. Honestly, I’ve struggled with putting in all those hours helping men who couldn’t give me much in return.

I help men in prison share their voice with the world. At first, I choked on my own voice when telling people this. It wasn’t something I wanted to brag…

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My 17th NA Meeting

 

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This book is awesome! I’m talking about the NA book, sixth edition. I can literally flip it open to any random page, and find something practical and useful.

I randomly flipped it open to page 19. As I read, I thought to myself, “This was the wrong page to flip to.” I was testing my “Any page is practicle and useful” theory. And I found page 19 hard to relate to.

It said things like, “Do we fully accept the fact that our every attempt to stop or to control our using failed?”

My Answer: NO, I don’t accept that. I have succeeded.

It also says, “Through this desperation, we sought help in NA. When we come to NA we are physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt.”

Not me. I was assigned NA as a pathway to earn back 6 months of good time for smoking weed back in 1996. As for being physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt… not me! I’m thriving in all three.

I just wasn’t feeling page 19. So I tried again, this time flipping to page 113.

It said, “You may not relate to everything you read here – just as you might not identify with everyone who shares in a NA meeting – but we hope that at least some of these voices will touch and inspire you.”

Hmmm….page 19 had great meaning to me after all. Empathy, understanding, different perspectives. It’s all part of the never ending journey.

 

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Steven Jennings

Engaging In Meaningful Activities Is Crucial To A Healthy Lifestyle

 

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Now that I’m learning a little about Occupational Therapy, I feel like it’s giving me a deeper, richer, more thorough understanding of life in general. I reflect back to my days of crime and misconduct, and I see direct parallels to the fact that I had zero to very little meaningful activities in my life.

Today I engage in several meaningful activities. And as a result, I live a healthy lifestyle full of love, compassion, excitement, and happiness. It’s so clear to see that the healthy lifestyle came AFTER I started to engage in meaningful activities.

Early in my incarceration I had a desire to live a healthy lifestyle. I told myself on numerous occasions, “It’s time. Let’s do it!” But time and time again, I’d fail. Why? Because I wasn’t engaging in meaningful activities. The ONLY way to achieve a healthy lifestyle IS to engage in meaningful activities. There’s no other way to do it!

I’m so glad I’m learning this stuff. In addition to the clarity it brings me, it also teaches me effective ways to articulate my journey when mentoring and helping others.

I feel like I’ve done a lot of this work on my own. And just now, I’m starting to learn about it from a clinical standpoint. Which is great! Because the principles and philosophies have been validated before they were recognized.

Now it’s time to continue to learn and build as I use Occupational Therapy (Wikipedia definition). That in itself is a meaningful activity that is essential to a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve learned that in Occupational Therapy there are 7 areas of occupation that people engage in. Some are self explanatory. Some are not. But I feel they are all important to know. By knowing them, I can achieve a better balance in my life. I can do a self evaluation and determine if I’m lacking or over compensating in a specific area. The 7 occupations are:

 

#1) Activities of Daily Living (ADL) This refers to basic needs such as eating, showering, hygiene, clothing, sex, etc.

I’m definitely lacking in the sex department. So this is something I need to address in my life. And address it I shall…in March 2017!…EFV’s with my wife, Suzie. 🙂

 

#2) Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL’s) This is the act of caring for my environment, such as ordering my commissary, cleaning my cell, helping my disabled celly, taking care of my dog, turning off the water that people deliberately leave on, etc.

I feel balanced with this one. However, I can do more. A lot of guys don’t clean up after themselves. Therefore, the sink and microwave area is always a mess. From now on, whenever I see a mess, I’ll take 30 seconds and clean it up. Why not? It’ll be good for me.

 

#3) Education – Participating in a learning environment or learning activities.

I could definitely use more of this. And now that its been brought to my attention, I will actively seek opportunities to engaged in more educational activities. I currently engage in two educational activities: NA Meetings and the Sustainability In Prison lectures.

 

#4) Leisure – A non-obligatory activity that is engeged in during discretionary time.

I have plenty of leisure activities, such as: blogging, writing Real Love Letters to the love of my life, working out, taking my dog for a walk, reading, etc.

 

#5) Work – Employment. Making money. Getting paid! Also, volunteer activities.

I do both. Freedom Tails is all volunteer work. And I find it way more rewarding than my actual job. If I had to choose between my “Remunerative Work” and my “Volunteer Work” I would sacrifice my pay and choose my Volunteer work. This just goes to show how rewarding volunteer work really is.

 

#6) Play – Any activity that provides enjoyment, entertainment, amusement, or diversion.

This is interesting. Because what happens when these adjectives can be applied to work, volunteer, and leisure? All of a sudden, play becomes a dominant meaningful activities in my life. I like that! I’m going to make it happen.

 

#7) Social Participation – Activities associated with patterns of behavior within a given social system.

Prison is a social system. A lot of misconduct goes on in here. So I’m better off engaging in anti-social participation when it comes to the prison social system as a whole. Another word for “Social Participation” in prison would be “Institutionalized”. This is just one perspective. My reality is: there are sub societies within the overall predominant prison social system.

By conducting myself in a positive, productive manner, and observing The Law of Attraction, I find my self socially participating in a positive mini sub-division within a predominant negative social system. The social participation that I engage in, is strong enough to give me strength to navigate through the negative prison social system without getting caught up in the current of negativity.

I’m thankful for the path I’m on. I’m thankful for my wife, family, and friends. I’m thankful for Sandra Rogers and the learning opportunity she has brought to my life.

 

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Steven Jennings

Prison & Occupational Therapy

 

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I recently received an email from Sandra Rogers. She is a faculty member in the School of Occupational Therapy (OT) at Pacific University. In part, this is how the email read:

 

Dear Steven,

My name is Sandra Rogers, I am a faculty member in the School of OT at Pacific University. I am writing to request help with a project I am working on. I work and mentor a group of occupational therapists who work in criminal justice (prison, jail, and community corrections) throughout the US. Occupational therapists believe that engaging in meaningful activities is important no matter your circumstances. In correctional facilities OT’s work with those incarcerated to help them develop and practice skills that lead to engagement in healthy lifestyles, like work that you enjoy, leisure interests that are fulfilling (and do not harm others), taking care of children or families, having relationships that are meaningful and healthy. We term the lack of engagement in meaningful activities occupational deprivation. I think you are a very good example of how engaging in meaningful activities, even while incarcerated, can really help you maintain health. I have read your blog and book, your wonderful relationship with your wife, and have been reading your adventures with Yahoo. I am wondering if you would be willing to talk to me about your experience of engaging in these activities and how they have helped you. IF you are willing I would love to videotape or share your written comments with the group of OT’s I mentor, and use your comments in a presentation I am doing. I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts from a lived perspective, of having to deal with the consequences of the crime, and still trying to do good in the world. I think it would be helpful for the audience to understand how you personally were affected by occupational deprivation.

~Sandra Rogers

 

How awesome is that? I share this because IT in itself is “meaningful activity” to me. She and I have exchanged emails about working together and I am super excited about all of this. She’ll be interviewing me via email, phone calls, and video visitations. And I will be sure to blog this experience here for you all to read.

This blog is “meaningful activity” and has enriched my life tremendously.

I look forward to working with Sandra. This experience will be both educational and healing. It’ll also give me the opportunity to acquire new tools to help myself and others.

After reading her first email I learned the term “meaningful activities” and the crucial role they play in a healthy lifestyle. I am so excited about this learning journey I’m about to embark upon. Nothing gets me more excited, except for my wife and our upcoming EFV’s! 🙂

Already, Sandra has inspired deep, intellectual, soul searching thought. As a result, I have decided to write an ongoing blog series based solely on the food-for-thought which she inspires. The following three titles were derived from the very words she wrote in her initial email to me. I will kick start this series with:

 

#1) HOW I WAS AFFECTED BY OCCUPATIONAL DEPRIVATION

#2) CONSEQUENCES OF MY CRIME INSPIRE GREAT CHANGE

#3) ENGAGING IN MEANINGFUL ACTIVITIES IS CRUCIAL TO A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

 

It is my greatest hope that this blog will plant seeds that will somehow reach your incarcerated loved one (or anyone else for that matter) and inspire positive change in those lives.

 

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Steven Jennings

 

no limits ahead

The Sweetest Letter From My Husband

 

I’ve asked my beautiful wife to attend this year’s “Significant Woman’s Event” with me. Her love is so special and dear in my life. Here, she shares the letter I wrote to her with my invitation…

Suzie M. Jennings

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I will always remember the exact moment I read this very letter. A flood of tender love & emotion ran through me and instantly healed my heart from hurtful words. I truly felt what it is like to forgive quickly and to forget all previous painful conversations. It was as though this letter hit the “refresh” button for my mind and heart.

It’s hard to explain, but I instantly felt safe. Such a huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders in a single second, and replaced with pure wholesomeness & comfort. I completely love my husband and how he snuggles so perfectly into my heart and soul.  ❤

2/5/2016

Hello My Sweet Ladylove,

I love you…I miss you.

Early on in our relationship I said some things according to how I felt at that time. I said some things that formed in my mind as a result of being single, alone, and in prison…

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OCD, A Hairy Dog, And A Prison Cell

 

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I keep my prison cell immaculate. Everything has its place.

Cosmetics are lined up perfectly, labels out, finger width apart, from tallest to smallest.

Shoes lined up perfectly, one inch apart.

Clothes neatly hung, starting with pants, ending with shirts and a coat. Buttons and zippers facing out.

Socks, underwear, t-shirts, and towels, all folded perfectly… seems facing out. I don’t stuff one sock into the other. That stretches them out. I fold them.

Over the years my OCD created a lot of havoc between cellmates and I.

In addition to everything I just mentioned, I also like the floor to be disinfected and spotless.

These days I have a celly who could care less about my OCD and spotless floor. He’s a 9 year old black lab/collie mix. His name is Yahoo. And let me tell you, Yahoo sheds more than one thousand Ball Pythons in mid July!

He’s also an awesome cure for OCD. I love him so much that I just don’t care about all the XL sweaters and Fur Coats he leaves behind.

The first week I got him, I was cleaning my floor at least 6 times a day. I would try to drop the doggie treat in his mouth so I wouldn’t get his saliva on my hands. I was washing my hands a million times per day. I wouldn’t touch my cup or bowl after touching Yahoo, unless I washed first.

And oh, did I mention I also have a disabled human celly? His name is Dickie. He’s in a wheelchair due to Guillian syndrome. He has a ton of medical gear in here. He’s messy, sloppy, and unorganized.

IT WAS JUST TOO MUCH!!!

So I decided to use the power of MIND, and cure myself of OCD. To a degree.

I’ve had Yahoo four weeks and I now wipe my hand on my pants to get rid of his saliva before I grab my cup to take a drink of dog haired water. Everyday I’m picking or spitting dog hair outta my mouth. I lay down next to him on the floor. Then step out into the day room to brush myself off. I view it as a form of dust mopping. I get to love on Yahoo while cleaning the floor. Its a win win!

My perspective determines my attitude. Both are within my control.

In the past, I didn’t handle things appropriately. As a result, I suffered the consequences.

Today I simply do what I know to be right. As a result, the blessings speak for itself. I’M IN THE DOG PROGRAM!

 

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Steven Jennings

 

PS – Yahoo has earned his yellow bandanna. Sweet! He is progressing beautifully! Now I gotta try to get him to smile for the camera 😉

My 10th NA Meeting

 

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As I sit in these meetings, I look for principles and philosophies that will serve me in the NOW.

Meeting #10 offered me just that as we read from chapter 4, titled “HOW IT WORKS”. There are 12 principles within this chapter. Principle #10 really stood out to me. It says:

 

“We continue to take personal inventory, and when we’re wrong, promptly admit it.”

 

I actually did this the other day when I put myself in a dangerous situation by sitting at the wrong table in the chow hall. I didn’t do anything wrong as far as rules are concerned. But I was wrong for allowing the situation to escalate to the point to where my recovery from violence was in serious jeopardy.

The second I realized that, I took a quick personal inventory. I reflected on my past and drew knowledge from past mistakes. I acknowledged the mistakes I just made. I became aware of how I was feeling and the serge of adrenalin that shot through my veins. I was in the heat of a confrontational moment. My body physically prepared for combat.

I knew this was an opportunity to demonstrate right action and defuse the situation with kindness and understanding.

So I did phase two of STEP TEN. I approached old boy and promptly admitted my mistake, apologized, and assured him it wouldn’t happen again.

By saying that, it freed me from the wreckage caused by the situation. NA is teaching me that if I don’t stay aware of my defects and actions, then it could drive me into a corner that results in relapse.

For me, a relapse isn’t drug use. It would be me beating down one of these so called convicts.

No matter what, if I fight, I lose. Never again will fighting ever be an option for me.

That’s why it’s so important for me to constantly be taking a personal inventory of my most inner self. This means, forming a habit of looking at myself, my thoughts, my attitude, the language I use, and the relationships I have with others.

Humans are creatures of habit. For most my life I had a habit of lashing out in a violent manner. I was a monster. I had an appetite for destruction. I looked for reasons to fight people I disliked.

To a degree, I’m still vulnerable to my old ways of thinking and reacting. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

When ol boy threatened to break my jaw, there was a part of me that wanted to teach him a lesson.

Today I am not trapped by my old patterns. I have discovered a better way of life. A way that revolves around love and understanding. The rewards of this loving lifestyle is unlimited with joy and happiness.

Sure, I’m still in prison, but I won’t always be. I get out in 13 years. People have encouraged me to seek an early release via clemency, or commutation. The truth is, I don’t want that. I’m going to take full responsibility for my actions and serve the time I was sentenced to.

I’m going to learn how to function as a law abiding citizen from within prison. I’m going to rise above all the negativity and impose my own goodwill. I will only focus on the positive and the things that serve me well.

I have discovered the power of positive thought. I have proven to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to: The Honor Unit, Dog Program, Winning the Ironman, avoiding fights and becoming stronger for it.

The list goes on…being a loving husband, son, brother, uncle, and oneday a father.

When I first started NA, I was skeptical. But then I took personal inventory, re-adjusted my attitude, and decided I’d use it to broaden my perspective. And it has done just that!

Until next time, treat everyone with love and respect…it’ll serve you well.

 

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Steven Jennings