In the Rider-Waite tarot tradition, the twentieth card in the major arcana (the portion of the deck representing archetypal themes) stands for Judgment.
It’s a heavy word, isn’t it? Even spoken, a product of breath and vibration, those two syllables seem weightier than others. Judgment. Some of us carry it on our backs, some of us bear it in our arms. Some of us, like Sisyphus, push it perpetually uphill. The tarot card, however, represents forgiveness, renewal, rebirth. Judgment in that tradition is also penultimate to the card of integration and fulfillment, the final card in the Fool’s journey, and is meaningful as such.
While the birds were concluding their dawn chorus today, I made one of my rare visits to the town’s Episcopal church. I guessed the theme, given the day, would be resurrection, and that’s a potent word for me, as I near the end of an exceptionally long four-year process. How will I emerge? What will I find when I do? I thought the sermon might stimulate my thoughts. The salt-of-the-earth rector’s talks rarely disappoint; he brings boyish enthusiasm to the experience of awe. This morning he said that most of us live as though resurrection is a concept of the past, a subject for historical discussion, or a concept of the future, a fate that awaits. But no, he said—it is present, it is with us, it is active. “Not a spectator sport,” he said. The action of resurrection is love and forgiveness.
I thought about the ramifications of such an attitude for my personal life and in relation to the broader world. I thought about the value of co-construction.
Restorative justice is a model of judgment that incorporates the concept of renewal, and as I paused on the front walk of the building where I live, to examine the tight red buds tipping the trees, my thoughts turned to the county jail. Late last summer and into the fall, I led a ten-part “skills of mindfulness” course there, with two different groups, one of men, one of women. Roughly halfway through, I asked all participants to write two letters: one to a loved one, living or dead, explaining the concept of mindfulness; and one to me, in which they were to evaluate their progress in the class. This letter is shared with permission.
There are definite pluses and minuses to incorporating mindfulness into a convict’s daily life, as I’m discovering. On one hand I have a routine every day. It’s always the same and as such, I am able to choose a time for meditation that best fits. For me, just after lunch works. I’m awake and there’s ample time before the noon lockdown to get into the correct state of mind. And if it falls through I have time to plan and execute another.
On the other hand, interruptions are a way of life here. Just today, as I meditated, I had three visitors come in the room and twice they wanted to talk. I usually have earplugs in to lessen the effects of shouting, TV, showers, toilets, intercoms and all other such matters of distraction. I imagine it’s the same on the outside. Sometimes it works better than others.
But I’m also trying to work mindfulness into regular living, accepting that this is where I am now and how things are. I’ve been trying to be less judgmental for the past year in response to my legal situations. I realized that I needed to change for the positive, that a lifetime of being negative and bottling things up, as is expected of males in our society, did not lead to a happy, fulfilling life. And I hope mindfulness can bring some good changes. It definitely seems to relieve tension, even in this not so perfect climate. I have yet to see if mindfulness is something I will be able to continue in regular life (on the outside), but I will try.
My girlfriend actually started me on mindfulness and meditation before I was incarcerated and day to day living seemed to throw things at me that made me forget about the daily practice.
But I consider it a marathon, not a sprint, and a journey, not a destination, so hopefully it will become more integral to my life as the months and years pass.
Thank you for your part in my journey.