Prison is a State of Mind…

Posts tagged ‘Self-Help’

Congratulations! You Have a New Puppy



WHAT IF you woke up this morning and could not remember anything negative from your past?  WHAT IF when you awoke you were told you were one of those rare individuals who had endured much but who had overcome all obstacles and was now an example of the best the human race could possibly become?

WHAT IF when you heard this – that you had diligently dedicated yourself to being the best person possible – WHAT IF you did not doubt, nor did you waiver in assuming this new identity?


If you truly believed this, a powerful mental shift would occur that would change everything for as long as you lived.  Instantly, and without question, your reaction to life’s inevitable irritations would alter.  Your perceptions of others would become more compassionate and the words you spoke would be more encouraging than victimization, damning or filled with blame.

When caught in the quagmire of human weakness, we all are less than our best.  We point the finger, find blame, and confabulate excuses for our own inadequacies and wrongdoings.


When we awake each morning, we have the choice to remember or to forget those things no longer serving our efforts to find our freedom from drama and anguish.  We can LET GO of being upset with circumstance, irritation at our spouse, disliking our boss, the inevitable familial struggles, or our concerns for our economy or government.  In truth, we do not need to carry around on our weary backs those things in our daily life that serve to dismantle our efforts to find the internal freedom which comes when we turn our individual focus to becoming a very good human.

What we remember each morning, or choose to remember when we awake, is entirely up to each individual. Our focus – those things on which we place our mental attention- is our critical choice as the determining factor in our level of internal freedom.


Your brain is at your command.  It is yours to train, to exercise, to guide and to control. The problem is, we are not taught this as children.  We are taught to rely on parents, teachers, peers, neighbors, media and government to make things better for us, that we are somehow incapable of being our own boss.

The truth of the matter is each one of us is in the driver’s seat of our life experience. What we choose to do with our 80-somehting years is more under our control than we would like to conveniently believe.  It is much more convenient and consistent with our training to believe the control lies outside of ourselves.

We can, however, begin to train the neurons in our brain – those messengers assigned the task of moving data from one part of the brain to the next – to get excited about a new way of thinking, eventually altering our very life experiences, our habits, our likes and dislikes, and even elements of our personality we may believe are unchangeable.

Fact: We can train our brain, much like we can train a puppy. We can train our brain to understand when to sit still, when to bark, and when to roll over.  Our brain is our very own puppy to train, or to let roam wild causing havoc and creating a mess we eventually blame on the puppy.


WHAT IF we begin to let our past, our parents, our enemies, our teachers, or our economy off the hook? WHAT IF we stated, “I am BOSS OF MY BRAIN!”

WHAT IF we declared that no one and nothing was in control of our thoughts and opinions? WHAT IF we truly believed we could pick and choose those things we want to have bouncing around in our brain, those thoughts taking up valuable space and energy?


Well.  Wake up.  Good morning, I say to you.  You have a new puppy in your hands.  It’s yours brain to train any way you see fit.

Good morning, I say to you.  The facts about you will never alter.  You are a dear, wonderful, and powerful human, no matter what you have experienced or chosen to believe.  You are born of a lineage of creators, and a species that has the capacity for greatness and goodness, miracle making and magic.

This is your life to create from this day forward as you take control of your reactions and perceptions to life’s unfairness and inevitable obstacles.  It is your day to create your opinions just as you see fit.  You can carry a heavy burden of human errors of the past, or you can embrace the concept that the weight of the past no longer serves you.


In reading this, you are now in charge.  You have the permission; you always have had the permission, but now you really have it tossed in your lap.  And your new puppy needs feeding.

You need nothing more than this simple knowledge to make this very day one filled with example after example of how you are training your brain to respond to your wishes, not the other way around.


Fact: You are more magnificent that you believe; you just have been hiding under a big sack of unnecessary history.

Fact: You are more talented that you can possibly realize; you have just been handcuffed by shame, doubt and the scripts told to you by others.

Fact: You are more than capable; you have just been burdened with unnecessary chatter bouncing around in your head and keeping you stuck, immobile and frozen in place, waiting for some external miracle to make things better for you.


Well, all I can say is, GOOD MORNING.  Wake up. The puppy needs feeding and it needs a good, solid instruction on how to obey its owner – you.  Today, nothing from the past can hold you back or clutter the path to your progress unless you permit it to remain there.

It’s time to find your freedom and that journey begins by you asking yourself “WHAT IF I am not my past? WHAT IF I truly am in control of this thing called life?”

Get your puppy chow ready.  That brain of yours needs to know who is in charge.


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.

GOGI The Hawk: A Story of Getting Strong

A Story of Getting Strong
By Coach Mara Leigh Taylor
Getting Out By Going In (GOGI)

One advantage of the aging process is that, if you are mindful and pay attention, a purposeful life comes more clearly into focus. If your goal is wisdom and internal happiness, rather than fight against the sands of time, you begin to pay attention to the events and circumstances in your life, gently linking them to a subtle meaning of personal importance.
It is a shame this process of observing rather than reacting to life comes after a half century of trial and error living, but alas, this appears to be the process of the human existence for most of us. In hindsight, I would have benefited from listening to anyone who might have told me that the world around me was not my adversary but my greatest teacher. But, even if someone shared those words of wisdom, I was not interested in listening and probably would not remember their advice anyway. In my youth, I would not have thought much about the baby hawk which prompts me to share this story. Now, however, I can see how the hawk in this story is the story of all of us, if we are willing to look beyond the obvious and into the metaphor which unfolds in every event we witness.
This spring was particularly windy in the mountain area where my father made his home. When I relocated to his cabin to care for him during the final months of his life, I left behind one of the biggest cities and all the chatter which comes with millions of people living in a tightly packed area. Life in the mountains permits a person to really think about the importance of things and between the 300 year-old Ponderosa Pines and Quaking Aspens, there is an offer of mental space for those who wish to indulge in such organic pleasures. In the mountains you are subject to nature’s laws, not the laws of humans scurrying from one appointment to the next on over-crowded manmade freeways.
When the wind picks up in the mountain, humans close their windows and remain inside until Mother Nature’s temper tantrum is over and peace is resumed. For the critters of the forest, however, they must cling on through any adverse weather and fight for their very survival. After one terribly destructive windstorm which stirred up chaos in the mountains and ripped ancient trees from roots, a county-employed meter-reader came upon what looked like a dead bird on the side of the road. Upon further inspection, he noticed it was a newly hatched hawk, complete with baby hawk fuzzy feathers and a body that could be held in one hand. When the worker went to remove the dead carcass from the street, however, the little guy not only showed signs of life, but he struggled to get away, his instinct for survival was intact. Not knowing what to do with his new responsibility, the county worker started placing calls to find someone, anyone, who might help this prematurely nest-ejected bird with the strong will to live.
After a series of calls, the county worker was referred to the Mountain Man. Don has lived on the mountain more decades than most people have been alive. He raised hawks as a child and was sometimes referred to as “Poppa Bird.” Cutting the county worker off an unnecessarily long explanation, Don gave the county worker precise instructions on how to transport the little fella to his home. Prior to the arrival of what would be identified as a 3-4 week old infant Cooper’s hawk, Don created a “hack station”, which was a netted cage on the third floor porch of his A-frame cabin. This cage would restrict the hawk’s mobility just long enough for Don to assess his readiness to return to his community. When the hawk first arrived it had been transported in a dark and barren box. Don left it in the box for a while, alone and confined, hoping the hawk would settle into his new circumstances with little resistance. The Mountain Man needed the hawk to come to understand the opportunity it was being given to live, but the hawk need to participate in the process if success was to result from all the effort extended in his behalf. The hawk would need to remain calm and begin the process of building the muscles needed to survive on the outside world. After some time, the side of the box was opened which enabled the hawk to explore its new confined setting on the porch. For quite a while the little guy simply tilted his head left and right, assessing things and occasionally puffing up his chest to ward off anyone trying to get too close.
I took an interest in the hawk and the transformation I hoped would happen. Here was an innocent bird, thrust into a cold and unforgiving world with no skills, talents, or teachers. He was on his own; a far cry from the warm nest he probably shared with his 3-4 siblings and protective mother. But, this was his last chance. If he could not make it here, he would undoubtedly die without ever experiencing the exhilaration of flying over the tops of the trees in the cool mountain air. I looked at him and wondered how his life would unfold.
As his box was placed facing out toward the world, I glanced beyond the barrier to what the hawk might see in the world around him. There were a variety of birds in the nearby trees, flying free and doing what forest birds do when the winds have subsided. My thoughts drifted to the other birds. What if they actually noticed the hawk, wondering about the misery it must be experiencing being locked in a cage? Certainly the birds flying free could not understand the role the cage played in the life of that bird. If it were not for that cage, the hawk would have been the dinner meal of some predator. The only chance the hawk had to remain alive was to be locked away for now. But being locked away was no guarantee of survival, either. In the absence of understanding of the process or a clear explanation of the goals, the hawk would need to trust, have faith, and then do the good works which would enable his freedom.
Of course, I named the rescued hawk “GOGI”. (All rescued animals are named GOGI in my world. There has been GOGI the Squirrel, GOGI the Parakeet, GOGI the Dog. And now there was GOGI the Hawk. ) Safe under the watchful, and tough-love care of Don the Mountain Man, GOGI the Hawk was going to need to learn tools he never had the opportunity to learn. He would need to grow muscles he never knew existed. He would need to think thoughts he had never thought before. He would need to have associates to which he was unaccustomed. And, if he was going to live, he would need to remain behind bars long enough develop the muscles for survival. Then, he would need to prove to Don the Mountain Man that he could fly free and live a good hawk’s life. His success, however, was completely dependent upon how he responded to his new environment.
GOGI stood still in the corner for quite some time, instinctively assessing if he was intended as the next meal for the enemy which had trapped and locked him away. His first action was to thrust his baby-fuzz body against the netting which was restricting his freedom. His little feet hung on as he struggled for release from the web-like hold of the netting. Would he survive, I asked myself? Could he possibly understand the opportunity was being given in being plucked from certain death? Would he instinctively come to learn that he needed to build the internal muscles which would permit him to get out of his cage by going inward for the answers? Knowing a supportive environment helps in all healing and learning, I was grateful Don was the one to provide the cage, but environment is not always a controllable element. Even if GOGI were to have been caged by a less-skilled Poppa Bird, GOGI had to have the will to live which was stronger than his instincts to fight like hell for escape. GOGI’s success was entirely up to GOGI and the effort he put forth.
Days passed with GOGI inching toward a modicum of comfort. His growth seemed almost hourly. As his adolescent feathers began to come into place, all the baby fuzz drifted into the gentle breeze. During the daylight hours, probably bored into a state of self-amusement, he learned that hopping from one end of the cage to the other afforded him different views of his world. He learned his talons, his little feet, were strong and could hold his body while he navigated narrow spaces. He learned his vision was superb as he instinctively began to focus on small objects outside. He learned his cage, while not optimal, was still a place for him to grow and learn. He learned to jump. Then he learned to jump with his wings extended.
The most unfortunate aspect of Mother Nature is the “survival of the fittest” design. In the world of hawks, less than 3 percent of all youngsters live beyond one year. Most get eaten, caught in wire, or otherwise disabled and devoured. Not unlike our National recidivism rate for incarcerated men, women and children, GOGI the Hawk has only a small chance of survival unless he spends every minute of every day in keen preparation for his day of freedom. If GOGI is to earn his way into that small 3 percent of survivors and soar free in skies well into his adulthood, he is going to need to be diligent in the learning of tools he will need for his survival. Once he proved ready for the wild, the netting would be cut and he could come and go as he pleased. He would leave the safe confines of the netted porch to test his wings. He would have his opportunity at freedom where he would use his flap- flap-glide flight style as he flew freely among the tips of the trees. Would he make it out there as a free bird? He could, if his skills were developed enough. Would he live to be one of those 3-percenters who live longer than a year? He could, if he took every opportunity to learn. His youth would be his only enemy; that one thing which might cut short his opportunity for a long life. In his youth, he might overlook a detail, or believe he had a certain level of immortality. His youth was his biggest vulnerability, offset, perhaps, by a willingness to observe and learn.
There is a wisdom which comes from living a long time and learning to pay attention to the lessons available in all things in our world. For GOGI, if he paid attention to the world around him, if he absorbed each and every lesson he could learn, he just might make it in the free world. But GOGI’s success was going to entirely up to him. He would be free to make the choices which would give him a long and fruitful life or he would make choices which would mean a short life. When the time was right, the Mountain Man unzipped the cage and GOGI the Hawk was given his one shot at freedom.
In my willingness to observe all aspects of life as having meaning, observing the rescue of the little hawk reminded me that cages can be a lifesaver. Feeling trapped can be exactly what we need to build the correct muscles. Being locked away can be the biggest blessing of our existence. It is my secret hope that GOGI will live to be the oldest Cooper’s hawk on the mountain. It is also my prayer that he becomes the father of other Cooper’s hawks that are taught skills and tools of survival from their master father.
In a very real way, GOGI the Hawk has been my teacher and I know for certain there will not be a day I do not look upward, hoping to witness the beauty and elegance of GOGI the Hawk soaring strong and free against the blue sky. The reality of his fate, however, will only reside in my imagination.

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