Prison is a State of Mind…

Posts tagged ‘prison reform’

The GOGI Way

After answering a barrage of questions at recent prison workshops, I decided to add an introduction chapter to the next GOGI book I am writing.  The contents below make up the contents of that chapter….

Getting Out by Going In (GOGI) is the name for a nonprofit, volunteer-driven group of citizens who believe that humans can, and do, make positive decisions when their desire for change is combined with positive decision making tools. But Getting Out by Going In is not just an organization. Getting Out by Going In is also something you can do; turning inward for your answers and getting out of your old prisons.

The Unlimited Power of the Human Mind

At its very core, when Getting Out by Going In (GOGI) is in action, it acknowledges and supports the unlimited power of the human mind to change, to grow, and to create opportunities as well as create obstacles. GOGI, as an organization, is dedicated and committed to teaching simple tools that help a majority of individuals to make better decisions. That is what GOGI does; helping anyone, anywhere make better decisions through use of the Twelve Tools of GOGI.

As much as GOGI is a set of twelve simple tools for positive decision making, GOGI is also a perspective and very much a way to look at your life. The GOGI Way is one which has the ability to empower you to Getting Out of old behavior by Going In for the solutions. GOGI believes that if you take your focus off the problems around you and focus you efforts to fixing the problems within you, you will magically realize there are fewer external problems. By turning your focus inward, you will also identify simple solutions to those seemingly out-of-control problems which once kept you up at night or caused worry during the day.

The GOGI Way empowers you; it creates an opportunity for you to experience freedom, regardless of where you awake each morning. The GOGI perspective is about seeing the world with the knowledge that you can always make a positive decision, even in the most negative of circumstances.

What IS The GOGI Way?

This idea of “The GOGI Way” has people confused. They question if GOGI is a “program” or a “religion” or a twelve step or a club of some sort. GOGI is none of those things. Rather, GOGI is a way of seeing the world in which you live. Just like there can be negative people who go to your church, there can be positive people who go to your church. GOGI helps negative people be more positive, irrespective of their church affiliation. Just like there can be people who succeed in programs and others who fail programs again and again, people who learn the GOGI tools seem to do a better job in their programs. Just like there can be anxious people and relaxed people, GOGI is helpful in getting people to relax.

GOGI is a way of looking at life which helps anyone be better at anything they choose to do. GOGI is similar to, and is consistent with, core human values which are at the foundation of all religions and efforts aiding in the improvement of the human condition. The simple tools taught by GOGI are intended to permit you to do your religion more fully, excel more completely in your programs, and positively unite members of your clubs or organization with a simple language to promote increased levels of positive decision making. GOGI is for anyone, anytime, anyplace, at any age.

WHAT IF The GOGI Way was taught to kids?

If taught to our school children, we are certain there would be more relaxed, positive, and productive citizens as these simple tools are the foundation of positively functioning in society. If each and every child was taught LET GO, FORGIVE, CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY, there would be less dropouts and childhood drug use. If each child was taught BOSS OF MY BRAIN, BELLY BREATHING and FIVE SECOND LIGHTSWITCH, we would have an increased number of children smiling as they sat in overcrowded classrooms. If each child was taught POSITIVE THOUGHTS, POSITIVE WORDS and POSITIVE ACTIONS we would have less bullying of our school children. If we empowered our youngsters with WHAT IF, REALITY CHECK and ULTIMATE FREEDOM, it is likely we would be turning our prisons into colleges and universities because we would be reducing our inmate population so drastically.

It is our belief at GOGI that simple tools for positive decision making are not to be withheld from anyone for any reason. All humans could have the ability to learn simple tools for positive decision making. That is what the organization Getting Out by Going In has set out to do; provide every living human being with the Twelve Tools of GOGI to increase their ability to make positive decisions. We began our work with the incarcerated men, women and children in the United States of America and we are expanding to include every man, woman and child before they create the prison which limits their life experience.

It is said that people who follow The GOGI Way seem to look happier, seem to have a glow about them and that they exude a happiness which comes from within. That is true. Happiness on the inside eventually finds its way outward. GOGI helps people be better people and the internal happiness this creates is inescapable. GOGI is not about polishing the outside, but, rather, empowering the individual to do a reconstruction project from the inside out. This internal happiness is true and right, and is not limited to a select group of individuals. You, too, can include GOGI into your daily life and being to reap the benefits of living your life The GOGI Way.

Can Something So Simple Really Work?

It’s curious to me that something as simple as a set of positive decision making tools can make such a profound difference in the lives of millions of individuals, but that is the fact. The GOGI Way is value added to your life, a way which values life and living and understands that much of your life experience is created within your mind. Through your use of the Twelve Tools of GOGI, you may find the ability to change your world, from the inside out. The best part of all of it is that The GOGI Way is just the way you need it to be to fortify you to become more than you could possibly imagine.

Volunteerism: A Most Powerful Anti-Depressant

Forget the overcrowded waiting room of the family physician, the most powerful anti-depressant may be found right beyond your own back door.

Life is Unfair and Uncertain

Life rarely reveals itself as consistent with our goals, dreams, or expectations. For most of us, there is a fork in the road which we feel powerless to avoid. For me, it was the telephone call I received after placing the final Christmas ornament on the tree. My husband would not be coming home for Christmas. This was not because he could not come home; it was because he was choosing no to come home so he might follow his heart and start a new life with a new woman.

With that call I realized my toddler daughter, in her fluffy pink footie PJ’s, and I would be spending the first of many Christmas holidays alone.

The Not-So-Perfect Picture

The shock of that news still reverberates through my life.  What had I done wrong? What signs of discontent did I miss? His meals were always cooked. His laundry? Done. His daughter was always greeting him at the door with open arms, and his bed was always warm.

What, I asked, was so wrong with our life? Depression can creep up on you like sunburn after a long day at the beach, or it can hit you like a bolt of lightning which has no mercy on any living cell in your body. Mine was the latter.

For nearly a decade after my husband’s overnight departure from my life, I struggled with the poverty which came from having focused on being a good wife and a mother; both jobs which didn’t offer a paycheck. Torn between knowing I wanted to be with my daughter to feed her mind and soul with good fuel and needing to pay the $60.00 electric bill, my depression ran deep.

What’s more, I didn’t have a marketable or a powerful resume of employment successes. Yes, I had graduated from college, but I would need to start at the bottom, at a minimum wage job paying $8.00 as a store cashier, or something. The biggest downside to entry-level work, I quickly realized, was the negative cash flow it would create. The local babysitter in the building was charging $7.00 an hour. Coupled with travel time and taxes, I would be in the red about $3.00 per hour if I went to work.

The Struggle to Make Ends Meet

Fast forward through sleepless nights and renting out bedrooms to pay the rent for the better part of a decade which was marked by debilitating depression and a clenched jaw, in my late 30’s I was becoming somewhat of a positive example to others who struggled with single parenthood. More often than not, I could give some sound advice on how to navigate through the ex’s most current wife, or the inconveniences of renting out bedroom #2 in a 2 bedroom apartment, or the resourcefulness of buying whole milk and mixing it with water to make my own version of skim milk at ½ the price.

I found a pamphlet posted on a community board while I was searching for any form of possible employment. The United Way offered a form of brief therapy for those struggling with loss or confusion. I was, undoubtedly both lost and confused. Their sliding scale rates determined that my 50 minute weekly sessions would cost me $5.00, and even that was a bit of a stretch for my nonexistent budget.

The value of the therapy sessions was felt immediately and the long-term benefits remain. The intern/therapist tasked with making my world livable suggested I explore continuing my education, that school loans might make it possible for me to gain an education which could offer some career options.

“Go back to school? At MY age?” I asked.

The Oldest Student

When I first walked into the classroom filled with eager faces, the students all grew silent and turned toward me. It was only later that I realized they assumed I was the professor, not a fellow student. Yes, I was, by far, the oldest student. And Psychology is not exactly the most career-direct degree. In fact, when I chose psychology it was with little understanding of any career options which might emerge once the Master’s Degree certificate was in hand.

All I knew was that I was getting pretty good at guerrilla warfare against the challenges of single parenthood and deadbeat daddies and my experience oftentimes helped others not feel so badly about their situation. This, in a weird way, helped lift my depression, if only slightly.

Psychology became the route I choose. Pepperdine University School of Education and Psychology became the institution of choice because it was close to my home, which meant less babysitting expenses. FAFSA loans secured, I turned over my mind and my money hoping that an institution of higher learning might help alleviate the heavy cloud hovering over my every move.

Extra Credit Prison Tour

It was an optional classroom activity offered by Professor Laurie Schollkopf, the university’s resident Drug and Alcohol Treatment professor that changed my life. The classroom of 30+ students was invited to tour the Federal Corrections Institution at Terminal Island in San Pedro, California.

The timing of the tour was perfect, as all my activities were navigated around my daughter’s pick up and drop off schedule. My daughter would still be in school and I had sufficient time to complete the tour and pick her up without worrying about who would get her or how to pay for the babysitter.

I signed up.

No Hostage is Rescued

The first time visiting a prison is jarring, even for the most logically minded individual who knows they will be “released” at the end of the tour. Maybe the most jarring part is that one bold-face line on the release form which states that in the event that you are taken hostage there will be no effort to trade your life for the release of an inmate. Basically, if you are taken hostage, you are on your own.

I signed on the dotted line and was patted down, wanded with a metal detector, and walked shoeless through the even-bigger metal detector. After the heavy doors slammed and the reverberation silenced throughout my body, what happened next could only be described as my very own little miracle.

Our tour group of students was led out onto the “yard,” which is the open space between housing structures containing thousands of men who had broken the laws sufficiently to land them as residents of the taxpayer-funded block buildings. When my eyes lifted from the concrete slab flooring onto the yard, it was as if the cloud was lifted and I felt an odd sense of comfort.

The prison walls and the men walking from one side of the yard to the next resembled how I felt inside. I, too, was trapped, in prison, and struggling in a quicksand of complications from which I could not find freedom.

Finding Freedom Inside Prison

That day was the first day I remember a genuine smile coming from deep within my heart and soul. I didn’t know what my career would be, but I knew I would be working with prisoners. They were, after all, a walking and talking emanation of my most inner feelings. We were both in prison. My prison was in my mind; their prison was one of the physical body. I wanted to help them find an internal freedom for which I had struggled for more than a decade. I had a hunch, that in being of service to them, that I, too, might find some peace in my life.

This year marks the culmination of a decade of volunteer service to the 2.3 million men, women and children in our nation who have abdicated the right to their physical freedom through their unlawful acts or their debilitating addiction or depression.

In total, since that first tour of a Federal Prison, I have unwaveringly volunteered more than 40 hours each week to the incarcerated individuals in prisons and jails, accepting a standard of living which most people may find embarrassing.

A Most Powerful Anti-Depressant

The most proven anti-depressant is that of being of service.  Service, in all its wide variety of forms, is the only guaranteed anti-depressant on the market today. In fact, living a life service has been the one remedy which not only lifted the cloud from my life, but has proven to provide a light at the end of the tunnel in the lives of the incarcerated. Through my service to those in prison I have, oddly, discovered my own internal freedom.

The Sweetest Pill

Volunteerism is undoubtedly the single most powerful anti-depressant available to any living human being, even those who feel they are confined to a prison from which they cannot escape. Signing up to volunteer and then putting your heart and soul into the service of others is the sweetest of life’s pills.

For those who volunteer at Getting Out by Going In, the organization I founded to empower inmates with the courage and tools to self-correct, the joy in the face of a mother who can be released from prison on a drug related offence and return to her children as a sober and sane presence in their lives makes all the sacrifices of volunteerism worth its weight in gold.

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