Prison is a State of Mind…

As GOGI continues to expand and earn credibility as the cost-effective and replicable solution to the failure of our jails and prisons to “correct” the behavior of 2.3 million law-breaking citizens, I am being asked to expand the GOGI message beyond prison cells into the boardrooms of our Nation’s leaders.  This coming month, as the founder of Getting Out by Going In (GOGI), I will speak to hundreds of inmates one week and have the opportunity to address an equal number of tuxedo-clad men with their sequined-adorned counterparts the following.

Speaking to prisoners is easy and natural for me.  I have done it for a decade; choosing only to speak after sufficiently listening to their needs and combining their desire for information with my studies in psychology and spirituality.  As I prepare for the task of sharing the “GOGI phenomenon” with those gathered over a chef-prepared meal delivered by underpaid waiters, the question arose in my mind, what could these very different audiences possibly have in common?

The prisoners are individuals tucked away by the courts for not playing nicely on the playground of society.  The other audience has full advantage of all that society offers and can be found tucked away in trendy vacation spots, adorned with expensive clothes and jewelry as they temporarily get  away from their finely appointed hilltop homes. How could these two audiences have anything in common? And what could I possibly say which might touch the hearts and souls of both groups of individuals?

For the answer, I consider the obvious.  Prisoners are oftentimes poor, undereducated or inadequately raised. Each of these men, women and children behind bars seek their physical freedom, as if walking beyond the wall would eliminate every problem they had ever experienced.  On the other side of society are those individuals with their physical and financial freedom intact who seek a different kind of life experience, one which they believe comes through their careers, their increasing number of possessions or prescription drugs and a 5 o’clock drink.   As diametrically opposed as they may seem, both groups of individuals are laboring with the same prison, the external search for internal freedom.

In a very real way, each of us suffers from our own self-imposed prison.  I say self-imposed because how we respond to life’s inevitable unfairness, inequity and misfortune is the determining factor in our level of personal imprisonment.  And it is through my work with tens of thousands of incarcerated individuals over the past decade, I have come to realize that prison is very much a state of mind, rather than a place, a situation, or a condition imposed upon us by any person other than ourselves.  What’s more, the personal prisons created by physically free individuals are oftentimes as debilitating as those created by someone behind bars.

The Twelve Tools of GOGI were created over the period of a decade through listening to the incarcerated; listening to their life experiences, their excuses, their reasons and eventually their resolutions to create something better for themselves and their families.  Through many pat-downs and countless trips behind the heavy prison doors, the Twelve Tools of GOGI were developed by me and the inmates to aid any individual willing to explore a new kind of freedom; GOGI’s path toward internal freedom.

The Twelve Tools of GOGI are: LET GO, FORGIVE, CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY, BOSS OF MY BRAIN, BELLY BREATHING, FIVE SECOND LIGHTSWITCH, POSITIVE THOUGHTS, POSITIVE WORDS, POSITIVE ACTIONS, WHAT IF, REALITY CHECK and ULTIMATE FREEDOM. It is through the application of these inmate-developed tools that I have personally witnessed the lasting transformation in the lives of individuals who had given up all hope of living a “normal” life.  The freedom now experienced by Teri, a GOGI Graduate and certified GOGI Coach who once lived under a freeway in a drug-induced stupor, far exceeds the illusion of freedom of some of my most financially successful private practice clients.

As I prepare to be heard by the tuxedo-filled rooms of our Nation, I realize the message I offer to the elegantly-dressed is the same message I offer individuals wearing State-issued blues.  We all seek a freedom which is only found within.  What we wear, what we drive and where we wake up each morning is insignificant if we do not have the ability to turn within to realize our freedom.

As GOGI continues to prove that even the most difficult changes are possible, it is my prayer that this positive culture, this organic self-help virus called GOGI can spread out beyond the cells of our prisons into our Nation’s board rooms as well as our children’s classrooms, creating the possibility of internal freedom in the lives of all men, women and children… incarcerated or not.


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