Apparently surviving a stroke that took half my eyesight and almost killed me would turn out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life. Before I get into how all that transpired, I need to give a little background on how it got to that point.
Growing up, my parents took the same approach to life that most people growing up in the United States could relate to. Their plan for my three younger siblings and me was simple: Go to school and get good grades so you can go to a good college. Then get a good job and make a lot of money so you can have nice things and then you’ll be happy. This was the mantra that I, like many other kids in the U.S., grew up with; the American Dream. I followed the guidelines and my years of hard work finally paid off when I landed a job working for a Fortune 500 company in Rockefeller Center, Manhattan.
Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a professional businessman. I wanted to wear nice suits, work in an office with breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline, dine in fancy restaurants, and date women outside of my Long Island gene pool. Each of these I had achieved more and more year after year as I slowly clawed my way up the corporate ladder. One job change, a couple moves from Long Island to Queens then the Upper West side of Manhattan, a few raises and promotions after almost a decade in the corporate finance realm, and I finally got to the point where I felt like I had “made it.”
However, when I got to that point I still wasn’t completely satisfied. In fact, I only wanted more. Then I saw an opportunity to move further up in the ranks when my director informed me that she would be leaving the company. This was the opportunity I was waiting for! I asked for and received more responsibility along with a sizeable increase to my salary. This eventually transpired into a “be careful what you wish for” situation. In the coming months I felt the responsibilities and workload piling up with no relief in sight. So began the silent war within myself that would lead to the event that shattered all that I had built for myself my entire life.
I worked longer and harder than I ever had in order to prove myself. In doing so, my life became completely imbalanced with the scale always weighted toward work. Over the next six months my stress and anxiety levels were higher than ever trying to keep up with my new workload, as the company had not yet found a suitable replacement to fill the empty role in the finance department. My mind began to turn against me and I felt as if I were stuck in the trenches of my work-related stress even when I left the office. Luckily at this point I was about to go on vacation with my girlfriend at the time to visit her parents, who had retired to a small village in Mexico. It was my first time visiting the country and I was delighted by the relaxed and care-free attitude of the locals and blown away by the beautiful beaches and nature that I immersed myself in. This was the vacation I needed! But all good things must come to an end, so on New Year’s Day 2014, we were dropped off at the airport to head back to New York City, or so we thought.
At the airline service counter, I was handed my boarding pass to return home. In that exact moment, I felt a sharp pain on my left temple like I had never experienced before in my life. I shut my eyes, grabbed my head, and let out a grunt. When I opened them, half my vision was gone and everything was blurry. Something was very wrong. I let my girlfriend know what was happening and that I was pretty sure I was having a stroke. I told her to get an ambulance immediately. I lay down where I was, drank some water, and began vomiting as my body convulsed on the floor of the airport. As the paramedics arrived, I began to feel a tingling sensation run throughout the right side of my body and I was starting to lose control of basic motor functions and consciousness. It was in this moment that for the first time in my life I thought to myself, “I might die.” I’ve been afraid before, but nothing could compare to the feeling I had on the floor of the airport on New Year’s Day 2014. The paramedics hooked me up to an IV and took me to the nearest hospital, which was luckily just down the road from the airport.
I was fortunate to survive with only having partial vision loss and no nerve damage. It was only when returning to New York would I realize the cause of my brain injury. The doctors at Cornell discovered a hole (PFO) inside my heart, which caused the blood clot in my brain. Not too longer after diagnosis, I was on the operating table in Columbia Hospital to remedy the situation. I never thought I’d be having heart surgery in my early thirties. My, how life is full of surprises!
Readjusting to city life after a stroke and heart surgery was by no means easy. At first, it was really bad. I had trouble physically getting around the crowded streets of New York City with only half my eyesight. My personality had changed drastically, as I had become more solemn. My relationships with my girlfriend, family, friends, and co-workers had all shifted to some awkward place that I was unfamiliar with, each in their own way. Invoking intimacy was not what it used to be, as my sex drive was stuck in first gear. I was nowhere near as fun and positive as I used to be when hanging out with friends and family. I had difficulty focusing so my performance at work suffered a great deal as well. My weekly therapy sessions proved to help temporarily, but my mind would constantly return to dark places. After a year of living this new life as a man I was no longer familiar with and didn’t even want to be around, the thoughts of leaving the planet began to cross my mind for the first time ever. That really scared me, so I did something I promised myself I would never do: go on medication.
I went on antidepressants and was also given Xanax that I was instructed to take only when my anxiety levels become unbearable. After just a few days, I levelled out. My depression was gone and my anxiety was non-existent. There was just one little problem: I didn’t really feel anything. Everything was just “fine.” If something good happened, my emotional response was “That’s fine.” Something bad happened? Also fine. At first I was so glad to have rid myself of crippling depression and anxiety that I was satisfied with living as a flesh-covered robot. That lasted only a couple of months. After a while I saw that I was rapidly dismantling into a highly functioning soulless drone. Was this better than living as the strung-out anxiety-ridden person I was before? Were there no other options for me to choose for continuing on with my life?
After picking up my prescription pills for the third month in a row, I hit the gym and when I got home later that evening, I realized they had slipped out of a hole in the bottom of my gym bag. I took this as a sign and decided to try going off of my meds cold-turkey. I fought through the withdrawals following the first few days then started to feel really human again. At this point in time, it was a little over a year after I survived the stroke and it became abundantly clear that I had a choice between pushing on with the usual day to day or maintaining my sanity. I chose my sanity. It was early 2015 when I officially decided I would quit my job to travel and figure things out somewhere else in the world. I immediately began downsizing my life. Most of my possessions were sold, donated, given away, or put in storage. With each item that left my possession, I felt physically and emotionally lighter, as if I were dropping off weights I had been carrying on my shoulders for years. That’s when I began the journey that would change my life forever.
In the summer of 2015 I bought an RV and my girlfriend, dog, and I decided to leave the corporate world behind and start anew in Mexico. After three months, a ten thousand mile road trip, and just over a month living together in the foreign country, it became apparent to us that our relationship of over three years was not going to work any longer. After it sunk in that everything we were planning for the future fell apart, I was completely lost. At least when I was in New York I had the comfort and stability of my job, family, friends, home country, and a language I was fluent in. Now I fell into yet another dark place, but not for long! I was determined to make the best of my situation, so I grabbed a backpack and began solo travelling for the first time in my life!
In the first month, I was just winging it and hopping on buses to the next stop on the backpacker trail of mid-western Mexico. This was a great experience where I met tons of friendly locals, expats, and travellers from all over the world. For the next phase of my travels, I decided to do a bit more planning. I was still hurting from my break-up and needed some physical, mental, and spiritual healing. So the next phase of my trip included an Ayahuasca ceremony in the Pueblo Mágico of Tepoztlán. My experience with Ayahuasca was very introspective and I kept receiving the same message over and over again: “You are on the right path.”
Next was a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Coatepec, Veracruz, another Pueblo Mágico. This was one of the most difficult yet profoundly enlightening experiences I’ve ever gone through. Ten days of being silent and meditating for eleven hours a day really helped silence my mind and take control of my thoughts and actions.
The last stop in my second walkabout was a month-long work exchange stay at a holistic healing retreat center called The Sanctuary in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Here it took just a few days at for me to realize that the Ayahuasca was right. I was on the right path! I learned new meditation techniques, was doing yoga every day, got a crash course on preparing meals for a high-raw vegan lifestyle, and shared the community house with extraordinary people from all walks of life. We worked, chanted, communed in nighttime ceremonies, shared our most intimate thoughts and feelings, and even cried together. This was exactly what I needed! Not too long after arriving, I ended up joining the team as general manager and The Sanctuary became my home for the next six months. During that time, I helped guide dozens of people through that chapter of their life’s journey, an experience I’ll never forget! It was here where I learned that truly spiritual people are those who have been through hell and have the overwhelming desire to help others out of their own versions of it.
After The Sanctuary, I was presented with the ultimate traveller moneymaking opportunity: trimming marijuana in Northern California, so I took it. I spent the next two months hunched over a table as a pot hairdresser. Once again, it was the people I was surrounded by that made the experience a memorable one. Nothing helps the time fly like sharing stories, listening to our favourite music, and laughing together around the fireplace at night when our fingers needed to rest.
With California in my rearview, I made a stop in New York to visit friends and family before heading to Puerto Rico. This was the home of a girl I fell in love with during my time in Mexico. The connection we forged during our short time together was different than any other in my entire life. It was based on a love and respect for who the other person was at their core as opposed to who we wanted them to be. Though the relationship would not continue after my visit, she without a doubt raised the bar in my ongoing search for a partner in life.
Once again I was leaving a piece of my heart behind and continued on with my travel journey! I flew into Cancún and worked my way slowly back to the beach city that helped heal my heart better than any other: Puerto Escondido. This trip was more about the journey than the destination for sure. In the Yucatan peninsula I witnessed and scaled massive ancient Mayan pyramids. While in Tulum I participated in a beautiful and emotional peyote ceremony where I took an even deeper look into the inner workings of my mind. In Palenque, I became one with nature after consuming the local magical mushrooms and bathing in the jungle’s mystical waterfalls near the ruins. As usual, sharing these experiences with travel mates amplified my experience. At this point I was a certified travel junky and never wanted it to end! Good thing I was going to nest in a beach paradise and backpacking hotspot.
Back in Puerto Escondido, I stayed in a Vivo Escondido Hostel for a month until I found a
long-term rental. You guessed it… more awesome people!
I ended up at a gorgeous newly-constructed two-story house where I would spend the next six months pursuing passions that I had been neglecting for years. I learned to surf, explored the local natural beauty, focused on healthy living, caught up on my travel blog, wrote a few articles, DJed at multiple venues, and made sure to enjoy every day as best I could. Mexico gave me the opportunity to let me live my life the way I wanted to for a while without any judgment, and for that I am forever grateful.
Just a few months ago, I took a two and a half week visa-run/vacation to Guatemala to visit my friend Luke Maguire Armstrong in San Marcos. He and I met while I was managing the Sanctuary in Puerto Escondido the year before and ever since becoming friends, I grew ever more curious of his work with a school for impoverished children in Antigua, Guatemala. I spent my first two weeks immersing myself in the raw beauty of the active volcano communities surrounding Lake Atitlán where he lived. Here I would partake in yoga, cacao ceremonies, ecstatic dance at the Yoga Forest, and even Bhakti singing at The Fungi Academy. All activities of course were shared with new and exciting traveller friends of various nationalities. For the finale of my stay, I even booked myself a DJ gig at Bar Sublime, a quick ten-minute boat ride across the lake to San Pedro.
After bidding farewell to my new friends I met on the lake, Luke and I headed to Antigua to visit the Integral Heart Foundation’s school. Though I had been helping remotely with fundraising efforts for months before visiting, actually meeting the children I was helping made it much more personal for me. It was incredibly heartwarming to actually see the children in person, knowing the adverse environment they had come from not too long ago. None of them were going to school and many were forced to rummage through garbage dumps for pennies a day due to difficult circumstances. No wonder these were the happiest school kids I had ever met in my life!
A couple days later, I said goodbye to Luke and the kids to return to Puerto Escondido. However, when I got back a shift happened within me and I slipped into another depression. I began to question what I really wanted and needed in my life. I missed my friends and family back home and my funds were starting to run low. After a month of self-reflection, I decided it was time to return to New York.
So now I have come full circle… kind of. Over the course of a little more than two years I have had more adventures and experienced more of what this incredible world has to offer than most people do their entire lives. It’s comical for me to look back at all that happened, remember living in my own personal hell for so long, and to see how far I’ve come since those times of intense despair. It was like a mental quicksand; the more I struggled, the deeper I would sink into it. Of all the lessons I’ve learned, my greatest one is probably this: My mind can be my worst enemy or greatest ally. In the end, I am the one who gets to choose which one it will be. I had to journey into the unknown and experience life firsthand to personally integrate this lesson myself. My experiences and the hundreds of connections I made along the way were what really saved my life. Without them, I don’t even want to begin to think about where I would be right now. I still have no vision on my right peripheral, but I can once again see a beautiful future for myself, something I had lost immediately following the stroke.
In over two years of travelling I have had many revelations, but none more important than
this: At the very core of my being, I am a traveller. It is one of the few things in life that makes me feel truly alive. By travelling, I saw for myself that so much of what I thought I knew about foreign cultures was wrong until I experienced them firsthand.
Meeting people from all corners of the Earth gave me a new perspective on life. I realized
that although we may have been born thousands of miles away, were raised in completely
different cultures, and in many instances didn’t speak the same native tongue, none of us were that different from each other. In fact, many of us were on our own personal quests searching for a deeper meaning in life.
Living and working in New York City for a decade had put me in contact with people from
all over the world. This, however, was completely different from my experiences travelling, as most Manhattanites had found their way and were usually more focused on their careers than soul-searching. In my personal experiences with the people I’ve encountered, those who travel are seekers, searching for something that was missing in their lives back home. For me, I was missing a greater purpose, something that my fundraising efforts with the Integral Heart Family in Guatemala fulfills.
The best part of my story called life thus far is that it is nowhere close to being complete. I still have many more chapters to write, thousands of new characters to meet, and countless adventures to experience. In over two years of travel, the greatest gifts I have received were the connections I have made with my soul tribe from all corners of the Earth. I left New York to heal myself and find a higher purpose and I feel that I have accomplished these goals. In my experience living over thirty-four years on this planet, I have found no greater healer than creating deep and meaningful connections with other souls. This lesson I promised myself to follow through with and spread to as many other people as possible. What better place to continue this journey than New York!
Why We Need To Take A Look At The Way We Treat Prisoners And Do It Differently
- The Facts:
The USA locks up more people per capita than any other nation in the world. The rate is 668 per 100,000 people which equals over 2.3 million. There has been an increase of 500% over the last 40 years. Changes in sentencing law and policy - not change
- Reflect On:
What really goes on in many prisons? Why does this breed more violence, adds to social disharmony and increases mental illness issues? We also highlight prisons that are a shining example of what can be done to truly rehabilitate people.
“Violent offenders, more often than not, are victims long before they commit their first crime: A former inmate who spent two years in a Boston prison for robbery was given away by his mother, a heroin addict, by the time he was 5 — the same year her boyfriends began beating him up; when he was 8, he watched another kid get shot in the head in his housing project.
Another man, in and out of prison from age 18 to 33 for assaults and drug crimes, grew up getting routinely beaten by his mother and frequently saw neighbors get stabbed and shot in the New York community of his childhood.” (source)
If you had been around violence, crime and poverty all your life, and this was all you had known, would it be any surprise that you too, may also end up committing crimes? Would you think it might be difficult to grow up as a ‘good person’ if all you had seen was the opposite of love? Would you think that being forced into another repressive life, which was even worse than what you had experienced previously, would be good for you and would somehow turn you into a better person by the time your sentence ended?
No – of course, it wouldn’t.
This is the reality of many prisoners face, that their time spent locked away for their crimes, actually makes them worse. What does this do to society as a whole? Do we ever really think about how this impacts all of us?
With the numbers of those incarcerated, increasing all the time, it is not hard to fathom the implications this has on all of us for the future.
‘Corrections’ Is A Term That Is Not The Reality
Whilst many prisons are called ‘correctional centers’ shouldn’t they be a place of rehabilitation so that the prisoners become better people? So that they don’t commit these crimes again, and instead start to contribute positively to society? The reality of what goes on inside prisons is often the exact opposite. For those that have spent time in jail, there is a strong chance they will end up re-offending. Texas for example, incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world, and suffers from a staggering 60% recidivism (re-offending) rate.
Shouldn’t we take look at why this is so, and try and stop it from happening?
Hurt People, Hurt People
I know, you may be thinking that if a person has committed serious offenses, they deserve to be locked away, to do ‘time’ to pay for their sins? Yes – that is true. However, what we don’t often realize is that the way prisoners are treated in the majority of prisons often makes them worse, and they become even more broken, as prison life encourages more violence and increases mental instability.
If someone is never shown any kindness and compassion, will they ever become an example of this themselves?
The causes of crime are complex. Poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse can be connected to why people break the law. Some are at greater risk of becoming offenders because of the circumstances into which they are born. (source)
For the innocent victims of a false sentence – which you will always find in any jail – can you imagine what these harsh and cruel environments would do to their own spirit?
With over 2 million people incarcerated just in the USA alone, there are over 11 million prisoners worldwide (source). These are astronomical numbers and it is clear that there is indeed, a very big – and growing – problem, particularly in America.
This subject has so many layers that it is impossible to give them all the focus they need, and I do understand the reaction many people have to this subject; those that do the crime should pay the time. However, as a concerned citizen who believes that we are all actually spiritually connected to each other, I think it’s important to highlight these issues.
The number of women in prison has been increasing at twice the rate of growth for men since 1980. Women in prison often have significant histories of physical and sexual abuse, high rates of HIV, and substance abuse problems. Women’s imprisonment in femaleled households leads to children who suffer from their mother’s absence and breaks in family ties. (source)
To become more aware of this problem, Netflix and Youtube have many eye-opening documentaries that highlight issues that I want to bring attention to, which are all mentioned below.
Another huge layer to all of this is, how many innocent people are actually in jails? Is the system breaking good, innocent people that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and are in fact, terribly unfortunate victims of a failing ‘justice’ system?
Prisons Should Not Be ‘For Profit’
USA prisons (and others around the world) are often run ‘for profit’, so the increasing numbers and overcrowded jails, may in fact, actually be all by design to line the pockets of powerful people and companies.
Because of this reach, the market for privatized services dwarfs that of privatized facilities. The private-prison industry’s annual revenues total $4 billion. By comparison, the correctional food-service industry alone provides the equivalent of $4 billion worth of food each year, according to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm. Corrections departments spend at least $12.3 billion on health care, about half of which is provided by private companies. Telephone companies, which can charge up to $25 for a 15-minute call, rake in $1.3 billion annually. The range of for-profit services is extensive, from transport vans to halfway houses, from video visitations to e-mail, from ankle monitors to care packages. To many companies, the roughly $80 billion that the United States spends on corrections each year is not a national embarrassment but a gold mine.
Today, a handful of privately held companies dominate the correctional-services market, many with troubling records of price gouging some of the poorest families and violating the human rights of prisoners. But the problem doesn’t end there. These companies are often controlled by private-equity firms, which through financial alchemy transform the prison-industrial complex into lavish returns for pensions, endowments, and charitable foundations. And, as successive administrations have ramped up immigration enforcement, they’ve also squeezed money out of immigrant detention. (source)
It begs the question, Is the prison system actually a legal human trafficking industry? Is it in their interests to keep them at overcapacity?
Coloured People Incarcerated In Higher Numbers
There is also a very high disproportionate amount of people of color compared to white in USA jails, which is of huge concern by itself.
The reality of what is going on inside the prison system makes for indeed, truly brutal viewing, but it is very important for us all, to beware of the reality. It is another part of our society that desperately requires great change because it does truly impact us all.
The USA, and other countries lock up many people for what are seemingly minor crimes. Some, as you will learn below, are almost unbelievable.
What impact does this have on the families who are left behind: a young child’s father or mother taken away, leaving them for years, without that important role model in their lives. What psychological damage does this do to them, what impact does this have on society, and how will it impact their own futures? Will they too, resort to crime, or drugs and alcohol one day?
On a positive note, I also show you what good is being done in some prisons around the world that are actually able to rehabilitate people in a way that is truly transformative. This is what we need to do for broken and hurt people, we need to help give them a purpose for taking control of their lives and making amends of the mistakes they once made. Only then, will this help society.
This documentary, available on Netflix is the best place to start if you are interested in looking at how the justice system became such a mess, you will see why it became an industry for profit, and why there are far more colored people incarcerated.
You will discover the very shocking untold history lesson about slavery and how it never really left the USA, coloured people were instead moved into the prison system for very petty crimes at an ever-increasing rate.
13th, a film by American Ava DuVernay, explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. It was named 13th after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States except as a punishment for conviction of a crime.
Prisons that are run for-profit, mean that some people may go to jail for a long time, despite their offense being quite minor. This also means that there are now many young people in adult jails.
In the USA it seems that it’s very easy to be put in detention centers for seemingly minor crimes. This robbing of their childhoods can ruin their entire lives which we will cover below when we discuss the documentary Kids For Cash.
DuVernay shows that slavery has been increasingly perpetuated since the end of the American Civil War through criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor men and force them to work for the state under what is known as ‘convict leasing’ This factual documentary shows eye-opening statistics about the huge increase in prison numbers that are of colored people.
Ava examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, discussing how much money is actually being made by corporations from such incarcerations.
Kids For Cash
This is a great one to watch after viewing 13th, because it then brings attention to the concern regarding young children being put in detention centers, also for very petty crimes. These centers, are again, mostly run for profit.
The kids for cash scandal centered on two judges at the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 2008, two judges, Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella were accused of accepting money in return for imposing harsh sentences on juveniles simply to increase occupancy at for-profit detention centers.
This documentary shows the damage this can do to the individual, quite often exposing a typical ‘naughty’ pre-teen to horrific and frightening treatment which goes on in ‘kid’ jails, that they really aren’t mentally able to cope with.
This, of course, can impact them for life, because of the trauma (imagine being 12 and not able to see your parents for months at a time, whilst being involved in, or witness to many extremely violent acts) they may themselves end up turning to violence in there just to survive, which then means they likely will end up staying imprisoned much longer.
Judge Mark Ciavarella was found to have forced thousands of children to have ‘extended stays’ in youth centers for offenses as trivial as mocking a school staff member on Myspace or trespassing in a vacant building. How utterly ridiculous, and a crime in itself, that so many kids have been put away for these kinds of silly things.
This incarceration of minor offenses has led to permanent emotional trauma, and some victims have ended up committing suicide or becoming drug and alcohol addicts. This is what psychological trauma does. A life, and families ruined because of money-hungry people in positions of power.
Thankfully, Judge Ciavarella was convicted on 12 of 39 counts and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.
Whilst it is great that he has been locked away himself, it does not mean that the youth prison system is now a good one, they are still being run for profit.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
This documentary series found on Netflix is an absolutely harrowing and gut-wrenching story of what goes on in many prisons around the world. It is hard not to feel your own heart break after witnessing this horrific account of what maximum security prisons did to an innocent, young and good man who had a promising future ahead of him.
In 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder, from The Bronx NYC, whilst walking home from a party, was accused of stealing a backpack by police, and not only was he thrown in jail without a trial, but he was sent to one of the toughest adult prisons in NYC, Rikers Island. If convicted, Kaleif faced up to 15 years in prison – for stealing a backpack no less.
This lengthy sentence seems unbelievable, yet this is how punishment is dealt out in the USA. They are incredibly tough on minor crimes. It seems like any of us could be easily accused of something, thrown in jail, and unless we had money to pay for bail, we also may have to wait a very long time to have our case heard. This is very wrong, and once again, the vulnerable, and impoverished people have to pay a price whilst those with money will have a much easier time dealing with the justice system. When we look into the ‘for profit’ prison industry, could this be why they are so tough on crimes, and quick to send people to prison?
Sadly, Kalief’s family were not able to afford his $3000 bail, so Kalief went straight to Rikers Island, a jail notorious for it’s violent criminals and for being very poorly managed. It is widely known as ‘hell on earth’ and somewhere no teenager should be found in.
Whilst waiting to have his hearing on the alleged crime, Kalief ended up spending an astronomical 3 years in jail experiencing what can only be described as completely disturbing and ongoing violent, physical and mental abuse.
Kalief, slight in stature and still a teenager, was regularly attacked by dangerous and much older gang members, and was thrown in solitary confinement for months at a time. He often had food withheld from him, and never had any access to mental health programs. Kalief was also often violently attacked by cruel prison guards.
Due to this ongoing inhumane treatment, and, not surprisingly, feeling so hopeless, Kalief tried to commit suicide under the watch of prison guards – who were later found to have cruelly taunted Kalief whilst he was doing this – they took him down from the noose just as he was about to pass out, then they proceeded to violently beat him. This was not the last time he tried to take his own life in jail, yet nobody of authority helped him with his mental health issues.
This gruesome footage of what happened to Kalief was released to the public and is also shown in the documentary, and it indeed displayed this sickening and cruel treatment by the hands of the prison guards. This is the reality of many prisons, where the guards commit despicable crimes themselves.
Those guards, to this day, have never been held accountable for their own disgusting behavior against this innocent, young man.
Kalief never had his case go to trial, the ‘witness’ disappeared to Mexico, and after an unfathomable 30 separate visits to court to see if his case would, at last, be heard by the court, Kalief eventually was released.
Whilst Kalief was now a free man after 3 years of mental and physical torture, his mind was anything but, and his story does not have a happy eneding. After his release, and when the trial against the city began to try and receive compensation for his time in jail, Kalief wrote this:
“People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right. But I’m not all right. I’m messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that’s not going to help me mentally. I’m mentally scarred right now. That’s how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back.” He also said, “Before I went to jail, I didn’t know about a lot of stuff, and, now that I’m aware, I’m paranoid. I feel like I was robbed of my happiness.”
Kalief’s unforgettable and deeply traumatic experiences caused such everlasting damage to his health and well-being. His time in jail crushed his spirit and most tragically, he wasn’t able to cope with his haunting memories and how his mind had now become.
Akeem Browder, a prison reform campaigner, is the truly inspiring, fiercely intelligent, brave, older brother of Kalief, and has since started the Kalief Browder Foundation in honor of his brother’s life:
The KBF strategies support youth and young adults, typically in middle/ high school and college, who were negatively impacted by the incarceration system and the school to prison pipeline particularly and labeled “At Risk Youth”. We aim to enhance their social emotional learning skills through critical thinking exercises, relationship building lessons, mentoring through narrative change and skill building. The KBF has engaged the youth impacted by the incarceration system to shift into the role of leaders for systems change through its work in New York within it’s legislative body. Listening to the community and its needs allowed us to develop a curriculum that speaks directly to the necessities that our youth and young adults face day to day. The criminalization of poverty, race and trauma has held our poor communities in its grips far too long for us to not find a way out.
Akeem has since been campaigning to get Rikers Island shut down. The documentary received much press and celebrity attention after it’s release, but sadly whilst there has been a lot of ‘talk’ about Kalief’s story, to date, no one has helped much financially to get the foundation seriously off the ground. To make real changes, to hire staff and to run a foundation properly, funds are needed.
You can help keep Kalief’s memory alive, and to support the foundation which strives to bring about much-needed change to the justice system.
Kalief’s story deserves to be heard, in the hope that something good can one day come out of it.
When They See Us
When They See Us is a 2019 American miniseries which was created, co-written, and directed also by 13th director Ava DuVernay for Netflix. It premiered on May 31, 2019 and is a four-part series. It is based on the highly publicized 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives and families of the five male suspects who were prosecuted on charges related to the brutal rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, New York City.
The series explores the shocking way that 5 innocent young males who were targeted for committing this crime against a young white woman in Central Park, just because they were black, and were in the park that night. The film shows they were coerced into a false confession and there was actually never any solid evidence that they did it, yet the prosecution was still able to pin the crimes on all 5 boys.
After spending years in jail, they later ended up being exonerated, what they all experienced whilst in prison was truly horrific, especially Korey Wise, who having been beaten many times in jail – sometimes almost to his death – was often placed in solitary confinement for long periods at a time.
A truly harrowing scene in the film is of Korey (played by the brilliant Emmy Award-winning actor Jharrel Jerome) shouting ‘Why doesn’t anyone care about me?’.
This, I think sums up the prison system and how many inmates feel, innocent or not.
Whilst DNA evidence ended up clearing their names (how this came to be, is an extraordinary story in itself) and they are all now out of jail, their lives of course, have been forever turned upside down. How can you get back that time, or how can you ever erase all of those horrific experiences? How can your brain ever really recover from that?
Whilst the exonerated 5 have been able to seek financial compensation, it took a whopping 11 years of fighting in court to be eventually given to them, and the money of course, does not make up for the time and the destruction of their health and mental well-being that they lost in prison due to a justice system that can often be anything but.
Many victims of false incarceration do not ever win any financial justice for their time spent in prison.
Those who targeted these boys, have not been punished for their own despicable behavior, which is another example of how the system gets away with their own criminal activity.
I am now able to share with you now some more positive stories about what can be done in jails.
Happy Jail is a documentary that is currently streaming on Netflix. The story revolves around Marco O Toral, who became the manager of the Philippine jail known as CPDRC in Cebu province, known for a Michael Jackson dance video that went viral in 2007. What is immediately fascinating is that Marco was a previous inmate of this exact jail for seven years.
I highly recommend watching this 5 part series as it is very heartwarming and inspiring in that you see for your own eyes, what compassion, kindness, fun, and joy can do for people who have ended up in jail due to the crimes they commit. Marco Toral, is I think, an extraordinary human being, who was able to keep violence and drug use at a minimum, due to the way he treated the inmates.
Marco would meet every new inmate and treat them with kindness, often giving them money to use at the jail shop. He would, of course, lay down the rules, and the punishment for breaking them was a painful paddle on the bottom, as a last resort.
Whilst watching Happy Jail, I was struck by how the prisoners were constantly smiling, seemingly enjoying their time, and this is because Marco allowed them to dance, play music, play games, and have their family members not only visit them each week but that it would be in close contact where they would come inside the prison.
I personally feel that perhaps it is enough punishment simply being locked away in the same building for years at a time, never being allowed out until their time is served. Surely, during this time we can then work on encouraging people to learn from their own mistakes from a spiritual level?
Marco received harsh criticism by the media and some government members as he was seen as being ‘not tough enough’ on the prisoners, but you perhaps you will see for yourself if you think this was the case.
Bastoy – Norway
Bastoy, which sits on an island in Norway, is quite an incredible place that is doing a remarkable job to rehabilitate prisoners. Inmates, who live in small houses, not cells, are required to look after the island, (which also has its own small shop) have work duties and responsibilities that require them to get close to nature and to work with others. They learn to also look after themselves and learn to interact well with other people. There are animals to look after and they can play music, learn cooking and study.
A Governor was interviewed for this short documentary (below) and I think what he said should be how all Governors look at their own prisons.
‘I think my job as a Governer at Bastoy Prison is if I can put a person back into society who has actually been trained to be a good member of society’
Another guard said this:
“We punish them them by taking away their freedom, but we don’t take away their life”
Halden Prison – Norway
Also in Norway, Halden Prison is known as the worlds most ‘humane’ prison. It is designed with an architecture that takes into account it’s surrounding nature, where prisoners have access to beautiful views of the land, because connecting with nature is good for the human spirit. The warden’s of Halden state that ‘being imprisoned’ is enough punishment.
Punta de Rieles – Urugay
Located in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, Punta de Rieles is known as “the prison from which nobody wants to escape”. It is set on a 100-acre property which has lots of outdoor space where inmates can live, work, do yoga, have pets, and play music. At Punta de Rieles, the focus is on helping prisoners prepare to go back into society after they leave.
The prison’s director shared that their focus is to help the inmates be ‘better’ people than when they first arrived. Using ‘repression’ won’t rehabilitate people. They allow their inmates to study and also teach them how to start up a business. The funds earned enable the inmates to purchase things from the prison shop, or they can save up for when they leave. Punta De Rieles has a bakery, restaurant, brick factory, barbers, carpentry, and grocery stores.
Rehabilitation IS Possible
It seems very clear that the common way people are incarcerated today is simply not helping them become better people.
However, rehabilitation IS possible, and the way we can actually do this is seen in the last few documentaries above.
They all have a common theme, allow the inmates to have access to nature, to not be ‘locked up’ in ugly and depressing surroundings, give them responsibilities, encourage them to learn skills, have a purpose and above all, to be treated with compassion.
Whilst it must be said, that rehabilitating serial killers and very violent gang members might not be an easy task, it is something that must be attempted. Violence breeds violence so if we want to put an end to it, we have to see all people as human beings that may have had a very damaging upbringing which has affected their behavior.
Monkey Sharpens Rock & Uses It To Smash Through Glass Enclosure At Zoo
- The Facts:
At a zoo in China, a monkey uses a rock to smash its glass enclosure in what appears to be an attempted escape.
- Reflect On:
Are we treating animals on this planet in a way that we would want to be treated? If not, why? How does it feel to know we impede on the freedoms of living beings on a mass scale, and they don't like it?
Intriguing footage shows a Colombian white-faced capuchin at a zoo in China using a rock to smash through a glass enclosure in what appears to look like an attempted escape. The incident took place at the Zhengzhou Zoo in Central China’s Henan Province on the 20th of August 2019. Was it an actual escape? It’s hard to say, the monkey was surely surprised by the shattering of the glass, but why else would they be doing this if getting out wasn’t on their mind? Something to ponder.
In the video below you can see the monkey next to the glass, with a rock in its hand, examining the glass before hitting it multiple times with a rock before finally shattering it.
According to Metro UK, a bystander by the name of Mr. Wang told reporters that the monkey was actually sharpening the stone prior to hitting the glass. If this is the case, the attempted escape idea becomes much more likely.
‘The monkey was sharpening the stone, then it started hitting it on the glass. The monkey scared itself away, but it came back to take another look and even touched it,” Mr. Wang said.
Zhengzhou Zoo staff member Tian Shuliao said that this monkey actually knows how to use tools.
“This monkey is unlike other monkeys. This one knows how to use tools to break walnuts. When we feed walnuts to other monkeys, they only know to bite it. But it had never hit the glass before though. This is the first time. It’s toughened glass, so it would never have got out,[…]After it happened, we picked up all the rocks and took away all its ‘weapons’,” Shuliao said.
Why it matters: If this monkey is indeed attempting to escape, perhaps it doesn’t want to be in captivity. There are certainly times when humans intervene in nature to help animals who are hurt or cannot survive in the wild. Providing them with humane and expansive natural, yet safe, environments to live in can be helpful. But how often is this really the case when so much of what we do to animals is abuse and murder?
Perhaps humanity is at a time where we must reflect on whether using animals or entertainment and profit is not in alignment with a heart centred humanity.
The conscious takeaway: When it comes to the CE Protocol, looking at step 4, Living Aligned, is key because it points to being connecting with our true authentic self, beyond programmings of societal norms, but instead focused and being from a space of the heart. In this space and state of being, we are living from our authentic self and make decisions from that state of being.
From that space, how do we feel about animal captivity and the way we treat animals? This isn’t a question of belief systems, rather it’s a matter of first getting connected with your true authentic self and asking yourself how you truly wish to act in relation to animals and nature. This is why our focus is on the protocol and using the 5 Days of You Challenge to learn connection. It’s through this practice that truths and decisions become self-evident, not based on what someone else tells you or what you have to believe.
Scientists Discover That The Heart & Brain Respond To Future Events – Before They Happen
- The Facts:
Multiple experiments have shown strong evidence for precognition in several different ways. One of them comes in the form of activity within the heart and the brain responding to events before they even happen.
- Reflect On:
Do we have extra human capacities we are unaware of? Perhaps we can learn them, develop them, and use them for good. Perhaps when the human race is ready, we will start learning more.
Is precognition real? There are many examples suggesting that yes, it is. The remote viewing program conducted by the CIA in conjunction with Stanford University was a good example of that. After its declassification in 1995, or at least partial declassification, the Department of Defense and those involved revealed an exceptionally high success rate:
To summarize, over the years, the back-and-forth criticism of protocols, refinement of methods, and successful replication of this type of remote viewing in independent laboratories has yielded considerable scientific evidence for the reality of the (remote viewing) phenomenon. Adding to the strength of these results was the discovery that a growing number of individuals could be found to demonstrate high-quality remote viewing, often to their own surprise… The development of this capability at SRI has evolved to the point where visiting CIA personnel with no previous exposure to such concepts have performed well under controlled laboratory conditions. (source)
The kicker? Part of remote viewing involves peering into future events as well as events that happened in the past.
It’s not only within the Department of Defense that we find this stuff, but a lot of science is emerging on this subject as well.
For example, a study (meta analysis) published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” examined a number of experiments regarding this phenomenon that were conducted by several different laboratories. These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems to know of an event and reacts to the event before it has occurred. What occurs in the human body before these events are physiological changes that are measured regarding the cardiopulmonary, the skin, and the nervous system.
A few years ago, the chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Dr. Dean Radin, visited the scientists over at HearthMath Institute and shared the results of one of his studies. Radin is also one of multiple scientists who authored the paper above. These studies, as mentioned above, tracked the autonomic nervous system, physiological changes, etc.
Scientists at HeartMath Institute (HMI) added more protocols, which included measuring participants’ brain waves (EEG), their hearts’ electrical activity (ECG), and their heart rate variability (HRV).
As HMI explains:
Twenty-six adults experienced in using HeartMath techniques and who could sustain a heart-coherent state completed two rounds of study protocols approximately two weeks apart. Half of the participants completed the protocols after they intentionally achieved a heart-coherent state for 10 minutes. The other half completed the same procedures without first achieving heart coherence. Then they reversed the process for the second round of monitoring, with the first group not becoming heart-coherent before completing the protocols and the second group becoming heart-coherent before. The point was to test whether heart coherence affected the results of the experiment.
Participants were told the study’s purpose was to test stress reactions and were unaware of its actual purpose. (This practice meets institutional-review-board standards.) Each participant sat at a computer and was instructed to click a mouse when ready to begin.
The screen stayed blank for six seconds. The participant’s physiological data was recorded by a special software program, and then, one by one, a series of 45 pictures was displayed on the screen. Each picture, displayed for 3 seconds, evoked either a strong emotional reaction or a calm state. After each picture, the screen went blank for 10 seconds. Participants repeated this process for all 45 pictures, 30 of which were known to evoke a calm response and 15 a strong emotional response.
The results of the experiment were fascinating to say the least. The participants’ brains and hearts responded to information about the emotional quality of the pictures before the computer flashed them (random selection). This means that the heart and brain were both responding to future events. The results indicated that the responses happened, on average, 4.8 seconds before the computer selected the pictures.
How mind-altering is that?
Even more profound, perhaps, was data showing the heart received information before the brain. “It is first registered from the heart,” Rollin McCraty Ph.D. explained, “then up to the brain (emotional and pre-frontal cortex), where we can logically relate what we are intuiting, then finally down to the gut (or where something stirs).”
Another significant study (meta-analysis) that was published in Journal of Parapsychology by Charles Honorton and Diane C. Ferrari in 1989 examined a number of studies that were published between 1935 and 1987. The studies involved individuals’ attempts to predict “the identity of target stimuli selected randomly over intervals ranging from several hundred million seconds to one year following the individuals responses.” These authors investigated over 300 studies conducted by over 60 authors, using approximately 2 million individual trials by more than 50,000 people. (source)
It concluded that their analysis of precognition experiments “confirms the existence of a small but highly significant precognition effect. The effect appears to be repeatable; significant outcomes are reported by 40 investigators using a variety of methodological paradigms and subject populations. The precognition effect is not merely an unexplained departure from a theoretical chance baseline, but rather is an effect that covaries with factors known to influence more familiar aspects of human performance.” (source)
“There seems to be a deep concern that the whole field will be tarnished by studying a phenomenon that is tainted by its association with superstition, spiritualism and magic. Protecting against this possibility sometimes seems more important than encouraging scientific exploration or protecting academic freedom. But this may be changing.”
– Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (source)
We are living in a day and age where new information and evidence are constantly emerging, challenging what we once thought was real or what we think we know about ourselves as human beings. It’s best to keep an open mind. Perhaps there are aspects of ourselves and our consciousness that have yet to be discovered. Perhaps if we learn and grow from these studies, they can help us better ourselves and others.
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