I breathed deeply. “Ours is the inhaling of the entire universe; ours is the exhaling of the entire universe.” That’s an old refrain from zen teachings. I like to imagine my lungs as the whole universe, big banging and big crunching with every breath.
I stared up at the sky, looking at the sparrows that passed by, my view framed by razor wire. Maybe if I wished hard enough, I could sprout wings, or trade places with one of those birds for a few hours.
Limited by my body, staring up and beyond, feeling the breeze against my face… things were pretty good. I could imagine myself somewhere else, and I could also embrace the moment, where I was. Seeing the sky, I could be anywhere. I let everything float away – a taste of freedom.
Again I breathed deeply, and sat down. I wrote:
Even if I had nothing but the ability to breathe deeply, I would still be grateful. Breathing is the most important freedom, and when I have a liberty, I will push it to the limit, explore it and play with it. I may be in a cage, but as long as they don’t take my life, I will live it.
In that situation, it’s normal to think of all the things you don’t have. I made the effort, almost every day, to remind myself of the things I did have: food, shelter, clothes, fresh water, clean (enough) air. I had my life. I knew that if I stayed grateful, Grace would offer me more things for which to be grateful. And if She didn’t, gratitude was reward enough.
The Italian came up to me and said he couldn’t stand it. “¡No me aguanto, guey!” A funny thing to say. It was unlikely he would attack the guards or take the ‘Midnight Express’. I had analysed the potential vectors for escape – you’d probably need a grappling hook, wire cutters, perhaps weapons, a high level of stealth, or bribes upwards of $10,000 USD to make your way out. Italia couldn’t stand it, nor could he leave. He was caught in the middle place, ‘the waiting place’, caught between life and death, where nothing is certain and everything is uncomfortable.
In any case, Italia left a few days later, after a little more than 2 weeks in the centre. He was very happy in the hours before he left. I wonder if he stayed that happy.
My friend Jeremy is practising as a monk at a temple in Thailand. I wonder how different his experience is to mine in the immigration centre. I’m sure they would never stop him leaving the monastery. He can probably walk out at any moment, but he probably stays there for weeks or months at a time. I know he has access to his phone, but most of the time he doesn’t touch it. He probably eats humble food, in modest amounts, just as I was doing. I’m almost certain that he never would feel trapped, even though the restrictions he placed upon himself were harsher than anything that would happen to me in the centre. So, my imprisonment was more a question of perspective. All I had to do was choose to be where I was.
Ours is the inhaling of the entire universe; ours is the exhaling of the entire universe.
To be continued…