This is an Al-Jezeera video of Otis Johnson, a man who spent 44 years in prison. His crime was assaulting a police officer. At this time when there is much rancor in this country about injustice that authority has had on people of color, Mr. Johnson has a different perspective on the matter. He is not angry about his disproportionately long sentence. “Holding on to anger will only stagnate your growth and development,” he says.
For those who are deep into their yoga practice, it is easy to spot that this man is indeed a master. Despite all of his hardship, he is able to see society with fresh eyes and an open heart. He takes great pleasure in the mundane. And he notices how people are now fused together with their electronic devices, but somehow are more “disconnected” than ever.
He enjoys riding on the bus and observing people. Not with any kind of bad intent, but genuine curiosity of what has happened to the world in just about half a century. He wonders how people can walk and talk on the phone without looking where they are going. That is something I wonder about often too especially with the advent of Pokemon Go!
The touching thing to me about this video that is not mentioned is that someone at some point in time taught this man his spiritual practice in prison. It is not clear if he is has a Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, or other faith. It doesn’t matter. Someone taught him a way to peace, he followed that path, and now he bearing the fruit of it in a scary modern world that he was thrust back into.
One of the blogs I follow is Oneika’s Yoga Life. Oneika Mays teaches yoga to women at Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York. Her blog details the lives she touches in her practice, and outlines the challenges many of these women face. It is because of people like Oneika that those who are incarcerated get exposed to practices that can liberate them no matter where they are.
This video brings a sense of sadness and injustice at first. But to see Mr. Johnson interact with what our world has become, somehow you think that he may be one of the few sane people left on the planet.