This blog post was originally posted on Transformation Yoga Project's blog on July 19, 2016.
Having recently married, it seems everyone feels the need to provide marital advice. I’ve been forewarned that marriage can be a minefield fraught with danger. There have been many well-wishers providing the secret to a happy marriage. Wow, I didn’t know there were so many things to do and, more importantly, so many things to avoid! I take these words of encouragement with a grain of salt. We all have our own experiences, nuances, and personalities as individuals and as couples. There is no one magic formula for a loving and lasting marriage.
So, I was taken by surprise to receive a letter from an inmate with relationship advice. Steve is incarcerated at Graterford prison and was one of the individuals selected to participate in Transformation Yoga Project’s 200-hour yoga teacher training program at this maximum security prison. 14 men are participating, many of whom are lifers, in this intensive study of both the philosophy and practical applications of yoga. I’m proud to be a member of the Transformation Yoga Project team running this amazing program.
We are about 100 hours into the program and have spent a great deal of time diving into yoga’s ethical and moral codes— the Yamas and the Niyamas. Contrary to popular belief, yoga in prison is not all about asana (the physical aspect of the practice).
Steve is a lifer who’s never been married and has been incarcerated for thirty years. One would think that he would be the last person to provide marital advice. However, he has a deep spiritual side with insight into many world philosophies and religions. Steve likes to think of himself as a modern day monastic. Instead of retreating into a cave, as monks did thousands of years ago, he retreats into his cell, which is stripped of modern conveniences/distractions, to contemplate and meditate on the world condition.
Steve provided the following heartfelt words of insight and wisdom which I believe capture the essence of yoga:
Greetings and congratulations,
Monday is the Summer Solstice, a celebration of the year’s coming of age, its achievement of maturity. So has your love reached an achievement of maturity as the two of you become one.
I’m a heathen but I must share something from the Bible with my own commentary:
As he slept God took one of his ribs and he created women.
It was not a bone of the foot that he took for the man to walk over the woman.
Nor was it from the top of her head for the woman to rule over the man.
He took a rib so they could walk as equals – side by side but his strong arm is always there to protect her.
I wish you many lifetimes of happiness.
I’m reminded of the words so eloquently spoken by the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery highlighted in Timber Hawkeye’s book Buddhist Boot Camp:
‘Love does not consist in gazing at each other,
But in looking outward together in the same direction’
Light, life, love & luck,
Now that’s marital advice I can embrace.
This blog post was originally featured on Transformation Yoga Project's website. To learn more about the organization, go to transformationyogaproject.org.