The incarceration playbook

Malcolm X went to jail a criminal and came out a convert. Yes, he found Islam via the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, but this was just a stepping stone on the way to his pursuit of truth and justice. See, he used his incarceration to reinvent himself. 

I often wonder, first, if I would do the same, and second, how I’d go about it. So let’s say that I’m sent to jail. Worse, I’m sentenced to solitary confinement indefinitely. How do I answer this abundance of time and the deprivation of stimulation?

One. I meditate. I already practice mindfulness and meditation. I’d use incarceration as a reason to take the practice to another level. Rather than sitting for twenty minutes and counting my breath, I’d attempt to learn how to sit for hours. I’d slowly work my way up to increasingly complex visualisations, mantras and methods. Instead of fleeting feelings of no-mind, I’d aim to induce a contemplative state for extended periods.

Two. I move. I would do bodyweight exercises. I’d practice yoga poses. I’d stretch. I’d shake. I’d challenge myself and exhaust myself. And I’d do so because I know that the mind has a better chance at enduring when it is supported by a strong and supple body. 

Three. I compose. Lacking any materials with which to record or create, I’d use my mind. I would come up with a novel. Or I’d outline a play, or a movie. I’d compose an epic poem. I’d piece together a symphony. Using my mind as a canvas, I would seek to create.

That’s my playbook for incarceration: meditate, move, compose. Of course, my incarceration is unlikely. But these activities still retain their value, regardless of my external circumstance. Which is why I try to give them a central role in my life as a mostly-free man.