My next book will be available this week! On Amazon and all other book-getting sites. And the audible book, narrated by yours truly will quickly follow. It’s being edited right now. I am soooooo excited, folks! Spread the word! The great reviews indicate people LOVE this book, its message, its uplifting inspiration and on-your-seat story.
One of my greatest passions in life is to share with others the tools that worked to change my career path from that of an soon-to-be middle-aged loser to a completely reformed, dedicated member of the mindfulness and positive-thought tribe.
The events related in In the ‘I’ occurred in a juvie lockup some years ago when I was the teacher, not the inmate. But I’d already spent time bucking my true calling, ending up in a prison of the worst sort. Not just the third-world one in which my body was finally incarcerated in, but within the locked-up thinking that my closed and negative mind-set had created for me, as well.
In the ‘I’ is about the class I offered girls in prison, as a volunteer. Called “Miss T’s yoga and meditation class” by the at-risk girls who attended each week, the book chronicles our discoveries coinciding a major hurricane’s eye traveling right toward the isolated facility in central Florida.
To the government offices that received our facility’s reports, asking for continued funding so this high security correctional facility could operate, and the academy could offer more than regular high-school classes and individual psychological counseling, in official papers our yoga-and-meditation class was euphemistically deemed as: “Empowerment Techniques.”
As Hurricane Charley was being tracked deep in the heart of Florida’s cattle and citrus country (having already rampaged through central Cuba the night before that August 13th back in 2004) I’d already been teaching Empowerment Classes for several years at the high-fenced, triple-locked prison for teenage girls. The Academy of Bowling Green (ABG) housed 52 girls who’d been adjudicated for repeat offenses, their anti-social behavior seen as both drug- and mental health-related. Other than being rounded up and housed together, in all other ways except ABG’s efforts, they’d been abandoned by a system that doesn’t help at-risk kids at all. After six months of going to ABG, I was rewarded with pay, unasked for but a welcomed addition to the budget of my family’s suburban home at the time, more than a hour’s drive away.
While Hurricane Charley gathered speed after leaving Cuba, Miss Ursula, the founder of this unique experimental facility, who also served as ABG’s Mental Health Director, started repeatedly calling Miss Estelle, the head of security. After the cyclone shifted course, hitting much further south than anticipated, Charley’s eye was reported to be “heading up the Peace River corridor”—straight for where the girls and their caregivers at ABG were huddling in fear, anticipating the worst.
That Friday the 13th, after trying to drive through the heavy storm conditions Ursula and her car filled with co-workers was forced to turn back to their St. Pete’s Beach homes, seventy miles distant from ABG.
As Charley gathered speed, I relate from my distant-in-another-direction home, how our Empowerment classes were regularly held. What we did in them. First we’d focused on our breath, settling into our deeper, inward selves, our inner ‘I’ as I refer to this peaceful inner state everyone has, if only a person wishes to know about it. I relate how our circle of 12-girls-and-I talk for a short while about yoga-related topics, such as “How to be more calm,” “How to feel untouched by outside stress,” “How to choose to be positive,” and other practical things. We then begin our hatha (physical) poses, some simple, some challenging. And we always end by resting on the floor (the girls’ favorite!) in a short meditation period.
At the back of the classroom sat black-and-white uniformed Mr. Lawrence, usually the assigned guard, who constantly listened to the chirps of his mandatory walkie-talkie that was on all of the many guards’ hips at this busy, hectic, noisy reform school for what society deemed “hardcore incorrigibles.” That’s the term the Girl Scout director called these girls who’d been forgotten by the rest of society, when I went to ask, and received, sponsorship from them to reach these so-called “bad” girls. I had sought out the “baddest” I could find, you see. Because I wanted to share with them what I had never gotten early in life, to tap who I really was. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I would meet the teacher that set me straight on the spiritual road to discovering my inner ‘I’.
The day before the storm, at our regularly scheduled Thursday class, I used the oncoming storm as a metaphor. The rushing-toward-us hurricane was an opportunity for a lesson about choosing to be calm in the face of the catastrophic event that, more than likely, would be roaring toward some place in Florida by dawn. Possibly, ours.
“Charley is like all of life’s many woes,” I told my yoga-girls that Thursday before the storm was due to hit. Then I proceeded to remind the girls, encourage them to “stay within your inner ‘I’ like we’ve practiced in each of our previous classes.
“I’m here to remind you, honestly, how all humans get to choose to be focused within, even in the midst of horrific outer-chaos, no matter what’s happening outside ourselves. These events, these Life-storms, are a constant. We get hit by storms of both natural causes or people-made all the time,” I spoke lightheartedly in our opening circle, not scaring them, but wanting the girls to be fully aware: They always have a choice.
“Even if the eye comes here tomorrow, you’ll be absolutely safe inside these walls.” Miss Ursula assured them. She knew because she’d done extensive renovation work a couple years earlier. “When the storm hits, and it most likely will get pretty scary, girls, now you won’t be worried, knowing how safe this building is. If you remain calm, you’ll be given the chance to enjoy the power of Nature, coming so close to you, I’m sure. For most of you here today, you’ve never witnessed such a phenomenon.”
She looked around at her wards at the daily community meeting she was holding the day before the storm, before its devastating eye would be forecasted to directly hit their tiny speck on the map. Against all odds. The worse happening, to them!
“Knowing you’ll be safe frees up your mind. Now you have the choice to tune into something much greater than what might happen on the outside of us, when we’re hit by this humongous storm. Knowing you’re safe, frees you up to choose to not let your emotions carry you away, into the danger-zone of life’s outer, swirling chaos,” Ursula ended her preparatory talk that Thursday before Charley was due.
All the girls nodded their heads. They were happy to be reminded that they have this choice. To not be frozen in fear, or worry, or anxiety, or any other negative, heart-clamping feeling.
In class that Thursday before the hurricane, Katy, the star student of the yoga class who was also alpha-girl at ABG, shouted to the others, “Let’s not be stupid! Let’s do what Miss T says.” I smiled. All the girls respected Katy. She was the biggest, sturdiest, and oldest: the baddest of the bunch. Plus she was the only one who ever tried to run away from ABG, during an hard-earned home pass. Of course more time was added on to her sentence when she was caught and returned to lockup.
Alex nodded her head vigorously. She was to be released soon. She’s one who told me when she first came to class: “Doing yoga is the only thing that makes me happy. I used to be a cutter. Watching the blood ooze out where the razor cut me used to be the only way I could ever feel anything before. But now, I have yoga. I’m doing yoga for the rest of my life on the Outs.”
Also in class that day was the gang girl called Shay, whose real first name was the literary wondrous one of ShakespearesDelight. Hardcore Gangsta, her hood’s tats ran down those skinny, no-muscle arms of her looking more like a vertical brocade. Yet she was the most vocal in defying all other gang girls who “diss me for doing this wimpy ass yoga shit,” she’d report in our opening circle with a shrug and a rough laugh. At the back of the room Mr. Lawrence looked up at this use of foul language, and scowled, wondering, as he always did, if he should give Shay one of his usual “criticals,” a serious-offense recorded mark that particular grumpy guard was notorious for dishing out too easily.
Profanity was not allowed at ABG. Nor was physical contact. But in yoga class we did both: we talked down-n-dirty at our opening circle … before we got into our “yoga groove” and often, but only after getting a girl’s permission, I made adjustments to her pose.
There’s another reason why I chose to teach these particular girls. People often wonder why I was drawn to teaching girls in heavy-duty detention. I love and accept all young people who get in trouble, because that was me. I wished someone had guided me when I was going through my tough times, exactly like they were.
In class I revealed to each and every new girl—”I’m just like you guys. Yeah, I was a teenage alchie, then a druggie semi-criminal, too, before I decided to change. The only different between you and me, girls, is—I didn’t get caught nearly as young as you guys did. That’s why I chose ABG—to be with you, who most people have given up on—to share what I have to offer. Because finding out who I really was, learning to tap my inner power, after getting sober first!, is how I changed from my resentful, scared, former bad-girl ways—to who you see before you today.”
Eyes always popped open at these opening remarks of mine. I never elaborated even when pressed. I gave just enough away about my colorful past to entice, to create equality, to form bonds of solidarity, these caught, so-called bad-girls, and me—their former-wayward, now mostly-straight yoga teacher.
I’ll post a link if you want to purchase a copy for yourself, very soon! Check back, sign up for LordFlea posts here, or … go to my website tezalord.com and sign up for my info e-mails and book updates. Lots of exciting events coming up! Interviews, podcasts, giveaway contests! Sending LOVE to you! LordFlea aka teZa