Finding Freedom: An Interview With Author, Buddhist and San Quentin Death Row Inmate Jarvis Jay Masters.

January 29, 2013 by Chris Grosso

finding freedomIt was at the lowest point I’d ever reached in my life that I read Jarvis Jay Masters’s book Finding Freedom. I was in a drug rehabilitation facility in New Jersey after suffering a near fatal relapse, which resulted in a DUI conviction, which wasn’t my first and had the very strong probability of me facing jail time.

Following the DUI arrest, I checked myself into detox for six days followed by a two month inpatient rehabilitation program in New Jersey. When I arrived at the rehab, I was a mess. On top of my pending charges, I’d also lost the job I’d been at for over five years working with children at an elementary school (and rightfully so) due to the DUI and I was heartbroken over that as well. I really couldn’t have cared less about myself, or getting better, but like I previously said, I was too scared to take my own life and didn’t know what else to do. So I said “fuck it” and went to rehab.

A few days into treatment, I met with one of the program directors who noticed a Medicine Buddha tattoo I had on my leg. We spent the next 20 minutes discussing the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron and other great Buddhist scholars when he asked me if I’d ever read anything by Jarvis Jay Masters. I vaguely knew his name as I’d heard Pema Chodron reference him before but had never taken the time to really familiarize myself with him or his books.

The following day, the program director brought in his copy of Finding Freedom for me to read. I thumbed through it quickly surmising a brief synopsis of  the book and saw that it was about an innocent man on San Quentin’s Death Row who’d found Buddhism while incarcerated.

While I initially wasn’t so sure about the innocent man part, I was absolutely intrigued by the combination of Buddhism & Death Row. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for the Lockup type prison shows on MSNBC so it had my attention. The foreword, written by one of Jarvis’s defense investigators Melody Ermachild Chavis, immediately made me realize however, that this book was going to be much more than just an interesting read. (To read more about my experience in rehab while reading Jarvis’ book Finding Freedom, click HERE).

jarvis jay masters

The Jarvis Jay Masters Interview

{This is Global Tel Link. Your phone call will be recorded, and monitored. I have a collect call from Jarvis- an inmate at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, CA. To accept, dial, or say, “Five”—Your call is being connected. Thank you for using Global Tel Link}

{Call 1 – 12/13/12}

JJM: Chris?

TIS: Hey Jarvis.

JJM: How you doing buddy?

TIS: Good, how’s it going?

JJM: I’m doing pretty well, how about yourself?

TIS: Oh, very good, very good. I feel kind of silly even asking you that question, but you know it’s very nice to actually hear your voice and to connect with you.

JJM: Hey, you know what? I thought I’d be last week man, but you know I had called you earlier and somehow I tried to call you again but you wasn’t there. I called a little bit too early.

TIS: Yeah, my apologies for missing that. I didn’t even think to be ready that much earlier in the day, but I’ve been ready all day for this so I’m glad we’re able to connect.

JJM: Really, really man. I’ve read a lot of your stuff man and it’s cool that you’re able to be where you are after having that problem in your life. It’s very encouraging to me that I can see that, you know?

TIS: Wow, that means so much to hear.

JJM: Yeah man. It’s encouraging to know that someone can come out there after having those kind of experiences that you did and blossom in a way that you’re able to help a lot of other people through that experience. That’s pretty cool.

TIS: I mean, it’s vice versa. To hear you say that means the world to me because it’s exactly the impact that your work has had on me. It was really just the universe aligning things for me to read Finding Freedom when I did. I’m forever grateful for the inspiration I found through your books at such a dark time in my life, they’ve been hugely influential. And it’s nice and humbling to see that I am able to impact people in even a tenth of the way in which you did me— to hear powerful feedback from people and to continue to pay it forward through spreading the word with what’s going on with you as much as I humanly possibly can.

JJM: Yeah. I don’t even know where to start, man. It’s good hearing your voice though and knowing that you’re there for me and that you support me in whatever way that you can. I don’t even know how to begin. First of all I would like to thank you for what you’re doing. Thank you for your letter, I got it last night.

TIS: Oh, great.

JJM: I was surprised by your tattoos, man! They were pretty cool!

TIS: [Laughs] Oh yeah. I wanted to send you a few pictures so you could visualize and know who you were talking to. I felt kinda weird sending pictures but I wanted you to have a better mental image of who I am.

JJM: It did, it definitely did. It showed me that whatever you do you try make it stick.

TIS: Right. You’re not the first person to tell me that. [Laughs]

JJM: [Laughs]

TIS: I’m glad it reached you though, that’s great. I’m very glad.

JJM: So, where are you at now? How’s your website doing?

TIS: Everything’s going great. The website’s doing really well. I’m not sure how much Katherin ‘s (Jarvis’ wife) told you, but the website is great. I also have an awesome literary agents who’s just wonderful. She’s getting ready to shop the proposal for my first book.

{*Automated Interruption- This recorded call is from an inmate at a California Correctional Facility}

JJM: Sorry man, that recording is going to come on like every five minutes, so say again.

TIS: Oh, right on man. I was saying my agent will be shopping my proposal the first week of January, which is exciting.

JJM: Ah man. That’s cool.

TIS: It’s still sort of crazy for me, but it’s awesome. Things are just working out really well. It’s an exciting and humbling time to be doing all of this. But yeah, staying humble about it all, I’ll never forget where I came from. This is who I am and I feel blessed to be able to keep that in perspective.

JJM: Yeah man, you’re really trying to stay to your true nature and who that person is, stay in tune with and say in touch with. My whole thing is that people in and of themselves is not necessarily bad, but our human nature, and what we do, it isn’t part of who we are. It’s just our actions and responses and the things that we step out of ourselves to have those other experiences. I just think that inherently we’re not bad people. It’s the bad things we do that reflects all the bullshit that’s going on in people’s lives.

TIS: Yeah, absolutely.

JJM: So I’m learning man. I trying to get my life together. I’m just trying to get by. I’m trying to be of some benefit to people. Finding Freedom, it was an experience man. It was a lifetime experience and I never thought it would grow as well as it did. I question though, did I stay here write that book or did the book just give me something to do while I was here? It’s hard to say though, man. I know that if I had been out, that book would never have been possible. We probably would never have met each other. It’s that conflict that I’m constantly dealing with. We often wish our lives to be a whole lot different, but we come to find out that we wouldn’t have that experience were it not for the troubles. It’s the same with you. How many people’s lives have you effected because of the way you were back then, with the drugs and stuff? It’s amazing. It’s amazing that you were able to come out of that and help people in the way that you are now. A lot of people fall back into their pattern, their old habits.

TIS: Sure man. It’s been a trip. I’ve fallen back into old patterns myself years ago. I mean, I suffered a relapse that for all intents, and purposes, should have taken my life. I was literally on death’s door, but for whatever reason, I didn’t die. I was completely broken, a shell of a man at best, but not dead. And then Finding Freedom found me in rehab and things started to change man.

JJM: That’s so cool man. When I was reading about all these things you’re doing; your book, your agent, the websites you write for and the people you’re connecting with and lives you’re touching, I was amazed. It’s really cool.

TIS: You and me both, man. It’s been a little over a year and a half since I got out of that rehab. I was sober for a few years before that but like I said, I suffered a horrific relapse that all but took my life, but there was a greater purpose. It’s like you said, are you in there to write Finding Freedom and That Bird Has My Wings? I’ve found myself wondering why I’ve been to the dark places I have and suffered in the ways that I have, and maybe I’ll never know, but we just do what we do to make these living amends each day and to help others however I, or we can. That’s part of the bodhisattva vow, you know? I’m sure you can relate.

JJM: For sure. I accept my vows for what they are. I keep trying to put a name to the experience. It’s one of those things where I count my blessings every time I turn on that television, or any time I read the paper. I don’t know how that conflicts with me being here. I don’t know how to put a name to this experience, I guess I just live in this experience, this life experience.

san quentin

TIS: Sure, so while we’re on the bodhisattva vow, I was curious about how you are there in San Quentin and you’re obviously innocent of these charges against you. I mean, it’s beyond any reasonable doubt that you’re innocent. And here you’ve taken your bodhisattva vows while you’re there. For me, I’m trying to wrap my head around that experience. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you. Like really making peace with where you’re at and knowing you shouldn’t be there. I’m curious about what  your mental and emotional experience is regarding all of this while you’re there?

JJM: There’s a place inside me where there’s so many things going on that I could go crazy. The years I’ve been in here. There’s so many people, the lives I haven’t been present for. There’s a lot of people who don’t realize or understand why I’m down there. I know you can relate to it with all you’ve been through.

TIS: Yeah man, of course.

JJM: So the bodhisattva vows for me has been one of the things that gave me a direction and how I was going to use that to sustain myself through all these years. But it’s also looking around, I notice that in many ways I feel blessed. My sanity is here, my health is here, my sight. All the things that I have real good reason to feel blessed about. I just see so much violence and so much pain that it’s hard for me to not feel blessed in some way. But at the same time man, I’m here and I know what happened with this case. I know how it happened and what it was that made it happen. So how I deal with this? I just accept the fact that this is going to take a lot longer than I hoped, or ever thought it would. What else can I do, you know?

TIS: Sure. Sure.

JJM: I’ve been here 31, 32 years man and when people ask me about that, my first response is, “this is way I’m looking at it, from the outside” probably the same way you’re used to looking at it from, right?

TIS: Yeah man. Sometimes, when I just couldn’t take it anymore, there was no other way for me to look at it.

JJM: .Sure, and the person in those situations that is normal, they’d hang themselves. So, I really think there’s something there that has not allowed me to accept the possibility that I won’t get out. The vows though, they keep me in communication with my practice and people who are related to that practice. They’re what sustain me, and what allows me to grow from that experience. But I’m not always like that. Hell man, I curse and do all the other stuff everyone else does. I know how funny it is to me and how strange it is to other people, but one of the things I’ve learned to get along with everybody is  that you don’t have to react to the actions of everybody.

TIS: Sure.

JJM: Hey. Before they hang up on us, let me call you back.

TIS: Sounds good man.

JJM: I hope I get to call you back. Sometimes these phones start tripping on me.

TIS: OK. No problem I’ll be here.


{CALL 2 – 12/13/12}

JJM: So I was thinking about that question again and how there’s a lot of sick people out there. There’s cancer and all these other various sicknesses that their lives are going to be cut short from.  I don’t have that, so, I don’t have that complaint. I don’t have those issues, I don’t have the guilt or nightmares that so many of the people I live around do, so I feel blessed in that way. I’ve got spiritual teachers and all kinds of people who are willing to help, there’s people who are there for me. But I’m still responsible to sustain myself at the same time.

TIS: Sure, but knowing that you’re there, unjustly imprisoned, how do you hold compassion in your heart towards the prosecution and others who’ve kept you there?

JJM: Hey man, for me, I knew I was trying to find language so, I became Buddhist and I started working on myself. It’s not like you become Buddhist and immediately have amazing revelations or anything, at least it wasn’t like that for me. I’m not too into the formal practice. My thing is being out there working with people. But to answer that question, and a lot of people don’t like this answer, but for me they didn’t get it right. They made a mistake. They didn’t get it right and that’s why I live on this rock, and we need to fix this thing. I just think that somehow, we got to fix this thing and I need to humbly ask for help to fix it. In an environment like this, everyone here hates the DA, but it’s not about me holding ill feelings towards them, because they don’t care, so who’s going to care? I need to take care of myself and that’s where I’m at.

TIS: So speaking about your case, Kathrin was explaining to me that it’s reopened and that’s amazing. Is there even a hint of some kind of realistic possible earliest release date for you if everything happens the way it should?

JJM: I swear I thought it was yesterday, I thought it was last month. What the Dharma is teaching me is to try and prepare for the outcome. Work on the outcome. Don’t look this way or that way, work on being able to look at how I’ll go on with any decision and that’s are a hard thing to do man. I’m always ready to get out of here. My practice is on staying centered, but I’m ready to get out of here. So any realistic dates? Man, I don’t know if this was part of your experience with jail or rehab, but they don’t know how to let people go.

TIS: I’ve been fortunate to never done any serious time so I haven’t experienced it first hand, but I know exactly what you’re saying.

JJM: They apologize when there’s an outcry and this mistake is very obvious, or DNA was discovered, something that can’t hold you and they can’t blame themselves for, but they don’t know how to let you out. There’s no game plan for “He’s innocent so what do we do now?” So they don’t know how to do this in a way that they’re not embarrassed, or a way that shows that the judicial system didn’t work  because they’re always going to believe that it works. So in order for you to get out, you have to disprove all of that and that’s a big hurdle. I had some of the most conservative, Supreme Court Justices put me in the position I’m in right now and they’re what’s wrong with this case. The more liberal judges have given me the chance for my case to be re-opened and completely overturned. What gets me the most is though is how long it’s taking. They say they’re gonna do it after Christmas or something but they don’t recognize they’re keeping an innocent human being  locked up until after Christmas. They do it on their own schedule.

They don’t see the human being I am that they’re keeping in prison while they’re doing their own thing. They don’t see that they’re keeping my wife in prison at the same time, so they keep your family in prison but they don’t see that. It’s like, “Hey Chris I’ll be on vacation through Christmas and then I’m going to take a few weeks off” and that’s taking time out of my life and that’s what confuses me, that’s my real issue. Even the lawyers don’t understand how many days they take out of your life when they can do something but they keep putting it off, and that hurts. I have a family, I’m married and it hurts. I was telling my wife a couple of days ago, that I can take a roll of toilet paper, smash it down, put it on the floor and I can use it as a pillow and sleep on it all night, because I’m used to being down there. I can’t accept that condition as long as I have other people to care for though. That changed the whole system for me. Having people I have to care for, people who are waiting on me, things waiting for me on the outside.

TIS: Well yeah, sure. So I mean, all this time has gone by and it’s a different world. When you are finally released, what do you envision that experience being like for you?

JJM: There’s days when I get up and I’m high off my practice and things seem to not matter so much, and I think to myself, “Wow man, if it wouldn’t be for the time in prison, everybody would love this trip.” Everybody would love coming into a world like this with a spiritual practice. Not prison per se, sleeping on the floor, but if you had the opportunity to go into a world of that nature with a spiritual practice, what is it that’s really going to motivate you and give you all these fresh experiences? I can’t leave this place though, I’m stuck here. Anybody who does do something for 25-30 years, that’s what they know how to do. You can’t get those years back but they’re going to say something about what you know how to do. So I have to stay close to this place, I understand that, because this is what I know.

I’d love to be working right outside this gate, right outside there, and do my work there, but I know that my experience is right here, right now. So I have to stay close to this place. This is where my Dharma is right now and I have a lot to say about this place, and I know the opportunity will present itself to that in time. Similar to your case, that’s probably what a rehab would do for me, provide a really good place to detox from all of this. Or something like a retreat, somewhere I can stay, be there for myself for a week or however long, it would be weird, but good. It’s like someone who gets a Visa to visit America from Kenya. He’s on a weird trip. He’s going to see everybody walking around with little phones to their ear and so forth, so he’ll be on a trip.

{Call 3 – 12/21/12}

JJM: Hey Chris.

TIS: Hey Jarvis. How’s it going man?

JJM: I’m cool, I’m cool. We’ve got some more time now so this is great.

TIS: Yeah, for sure man.

JJM: So everything is well with you?

TIS: Yeah man, same old same old out here. It’s 12/21 so according to some Doomsday believers, the world should be ending any moment now (laughing.)

JJM: (Laughing) Right on. How’s the website and all the internet stuff?

TIS: It’s all going really well.

JJM: Oh is that right?

TIS: Yeah man. Posted a few new pieces this week and got some new articles up for other sites too.

JJM: Wow man. I wish I could be a part of all of that, in terms of learning how to manage all those things, you know, the things that kids who go to school already know.

TIS: Yeah, sure man.

JJM: I found out not too long ago that the email, I think it’s email, but they can email their homework if they have too. That’s incredible man. That’s that George Jetson type stuff man.

TIS: (Laughing) Yeah man, it’s crazy.

JJM: I think it’s weird man, seriously. I even saw that when a dog shits, they have these little things that they pick up the poop with and I ain’t never seen that before man. That was a trip. So I asked her what happens if they don’t pick it up and she told me they could get fined like $200 or $300 so I was like man, y’all got a lot of rules out there. Y’all probably have more rules out there than we have in here (laughing.)

TIS: You know man you may not be entirely far off with that thought. It actually reminds me of the story you tell at the end of That Bird Has My Wings when you were escorted from San Quentin to have your hearing checked and you saw what you thought were people talking to themselves on the streets, and in cars and you thought much of society had gone crazy. Lo and behold however, the people were talking on Bluetooth phones, which a prison guard had to explain to you what they were. I mean, man, I’m obviously sorry about your current circumstances but couldn’t help but gently laugh at that.

JJM: Yeah man, that tripped me out. I really thought there were crazy people out in the world and I didn’t understand why they were walking free or driving, and I thought maybe they’d stole the cars or something, and there they were driving and talking to themselves like it was the thing to do. Recently, I went out again because I had a minor knee surgery and check out how they took my temperature, they rubbed something across my forehead.

that bird has my wings

TIS: What? I’m not up to date on that myself.

JJM: Oh man, check this out, they’ve got this little gizmo that they roll across your forehead and it tells them the temperature. I went to one of those expensive outside hospitals and it tripped me out. I guess the doctors and nurses wanted to see my response. It was that Jetson stuff all over again man. You’ve gotta check it out.

TIS: You know, it doesn’t totally surprise me with the way that technology is headed man. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? The whole social media thing like Facebook and Twitter, it’s crazy. Have you heard of them?

JJM: Yeah, I’ve heard of them. I think the first time I heard of Twitter I was hearing about people becoming instant millionaires. I think I heard the creator was a dropout of college or something.

TIS: Huh, could be. I actually don’t know much about the origins of Twitter, I just started using it myself over the last year for promotional purposes, though I’ve grown to actually enjoy it as I’ve met a ton of cool people all over the world on there.

JJM: That’s such a trip man, and the Facebook thing sounds cool too. I actually think I’m on there.

TIS: Yeah you totally are. Kathy Rowe runs a really nice page keeping people in the loop of what’s going on with you and your case.

JJM: Yeah man, right, right.

TIS: Yeah, it’s strange but these media formats are actually a great way for people to connect with one another all over the world and use it for social goodness. I’d actually posted a comment in your Facebook page that I was going to be speaking with you today and working on the interview. A woman responded saying she’d read the initial article I wrote about you for and went out and bought That Bird Has My Wings. She went o to say she’d just finished reading it and passed it along to her son earlier this week. So that’s the kind of cool shit we can get accomplished on there.

JJM: Wow man. That’s so awesome.

TIS: Yeah, so how do you think you’ll adjust to that stuff when you get out?

JJM: Well, any Buddist would recognize how loud it is and how people are moving, not paying attention. How they’re always on their little gizmo’s. Is that a phone?

TIS: Like a cell phone, or an iPhone or iPad maybe?

JJM: Yeah, the thing we’re their thumbs are moving really fast.

TIS: Oh text messaging.

JJM: Yeah, that. It just seems like it’s clockwork. What really tripped me out when I was out in the world though, and I mean like really tripped me out man was the kids. The kids were so disciplined and so stable. It was like they didn’t know how to run or how to be wild. They didn’t even make their parents tell them to sit down, they were just stoic. They looked almost scared. So I wondered where were their lives at right then? What were they thinking? Where was their fun at? Why aren’t their mom’s pulling them back to the chair and telling them to sit down, constantly watching to make sure they don’t totally drift off.

The kids were just so stoic and didn’t even seem like they were kids. Even the damn dogs didn’t move (laughing.) Their tails didn’t move! The dogs tail did not move and I’m thinking, where’s the life around here? It just wasn’t there, it was quiet and respectful. No one was turning to talk to one another. No one asked anyone else How are you doing? What’s going on? Are you here for surgery? No one was picking up conversations. I remember a time where we’d come together and we’d just talk about what was going on, we’d start kicking it off. That kind of interrelationships and stories don’t seem to exist anymore man. Maybe since everyone is communicating more on the internet, we’re not really in one another’s space anymore. I was expecting to see a lot of human contact, that interpersonal relationship but it wasn’t there man.

TIS: Sure. I think we’ve become very desensitized as a society through being always plugged into something, the internet, our laptops and cell phones. It’s like you said about people sitting next to each other and not even acknowledging one another’s existence. I found myself laughing out loud at the story in That Bird you told about striking up a conversation with an elderly woman at the doctors. You in your bright orange jumpsuit and she interrupting the entire waiting room as she spoke really loudly because her hearing aids weren’t in. I mean, we live in the type of society now where stuff like that isn’t kosher. We sit in public minding our own business and let others do the same, and I mean, this may sound crazy but I was really excited to get the first letter you wrote me. Not only because it was great to hear from you, but because of the actual personal connection involved. There’s a very lost art of people writing to one another. Email is great and I use it all the time myself, but no one takes the time to hand write letters anymore and ass that touch of personal communication.

JJM: Yeah, man. I mean, I told myself, I’m gonna find me a conversation. You can sit there being all stoic, that’s fine, but I’m gonna find me a conversation before I get back to that prison. There was no doubt in my mind I wasn’t gonna find someone to talk to. I wanted that experience, that How are you doing? What’s going on in your life? I knew I was going to get my conversation, it was funny how I was thinking about it, but I was serious about hearing someone’s voice speak to me, and me speak to them. That was hard for me to do. I had a clipboard in the office to fill out a form with a bunch of questions, Can you hear? Can you see? and all these other things. So the metal part at the top popped when I was taking the papers out, like a loud pop, and oh man, you should have seen how many people turned around and looked at me.

It was like, “Uh oh, what’d I just do?” I mean, it was a real quiet scene, sitting in this waiting room with some really peaceful music. So when that clipboard popped, everyone looked at me and one lady even jumped. They pretended like they didn’t see me, like I was just another person, even though I was wearing my orange jumpsuit, but they pretended like I was just another person not to pay attention too, but when I popped that board, it was like you could hear what everyone was thinking. All eyes were on me and I had these guards next to me and all of the sudden people had nervous looks on their face like, “Jesus Christ, are we safe in here?” “Is I cool to be here right now?” Can I reschedule or something?” (laughing) So it was a trip man and I remember those kinds of experiences because they are so rare. They may not be as big to other people as they are to me, but I could really dig them. I come back to the prison and share the stories with people and they just laugh and laugh man.

{Call 4 – 12/21/12}

TIS: So I wanted to ask you what one of the most shocking as well as one of the most beautiful experiences in your life has been. I know you’ve gone into detail about so many things, both wonderful and traumatic in both Finding Freedom and That Bird Has My Wings, but is there something particular that stands out to you above everything else?

JJM: Well, I remember when I went to my empowerment thinking about how similar it was to when someone is on their way to be executed. I mean, these two guards came to my cell and asked me, Are you ready? Do you have everything you need? Then they walked me down one of the tiers, and in that atmosphere, even though there was noise around me, it was silent. It was silent because I had prepared to see this teacher. I’d done my meditation and prayers that morning, the same thing one would do before they left to have their life taken from them. And I was scared, because I was going to have that empowerment, but a part of me experienced it as if I was going to be executed. I was scared, I’d done those practices, I had guards come get me to make me down the tier, and I knew so much about the process of life and death and how that works. So as I was walking down the tier, I was reciting the Red Tara Prayer and I’d never done anything like that before.

I was brought into the visiting area and the first thing I saw was a big glass window and a chair and I immediately thought, “This is so weird, it’s getting a little crazy right now. This is a trip.” So I sat in the chair and Rinpoche, my teacher asks me, How am I doing? Am I okay? Am I ready for this? and my response, which scared me the most was, “I’m okay. I’m ready for this.” Those words seemed to be filled with fear and shock as my mind was still relating them to the experience of execution. So I tried to play it off like I wasn’t thinking about any of that, but man, it was a trip. Once I started doing the empowerment, my mindset began to shift. I realized how blessed I was to have that glass window in front of me with people asking me serious questions, and Melody standing  there with a pen and paper writing everything down. As the ceremony went on, Rinpoche asked me to close my eyes as he told me he was giving me things I could take with me, things that in a way were offering me my life back, things that will bring me to a place where I have a chance to be with the Dharma and not give it up. I thought to myself about the fact that this was all especially important because I’d just experienced the fear of execution, and the next thing I knew, I felt great.

So man, I remember thinking that was some funny shit to me at that time, like wow, this is like some voodoo stuff. It was a weird experience and I’m not going to pretend like I’d just seen Christ and been baptized, because it wasn’t like that. After it was over, I had the fear of not wanting to tell people about it, you know, telling people I’d become a Buddhist in the joint. So then, I had this really nice secret that didn’t interfere with anything. It just pushed me along without having to reflect on some idea that I didn’t become instantly enlightened. It felt good that I had this really big secret, that I was a Buddhist and that I could feel good about it. So that’s how I looked at that experience and then, I began to wonder what’s it all about, all of this? So this question easy to answer because I’ve always felt that fear and joy and I’ve seen them move so fast. Within an hour I felt an extreme of both those experiences and I said wow to one, and I said wow to another, and I didn’t feel connected to myself, but rather, I felt like it was okay, that they were both things I now had in my life.

red tara

TIS: Wow man, I mean, I can definitely relate to embracing both aspects of an experience, the good and the bad, albeit on a significantly smaller scale than what you experienced of course, but anchoring oneself into a place of being the observer, and allowing the experience to be what they will be, you know? Allowing a space to arise which makes it all a bit less personal, not in a desensitized way but rather, a way that allows us to go deeper into our own truest essence of being while honoring life to unfold as it will. And speaking of allowing life to unfold as it will, can you tell me a bit about your life in San Quentin? I mean the thought alone of spending as much time in those cells as you have is difficult for me to really comprehend.

JJM: Well when I had the experience of my knee being swollen, so let me give you that short story. I had a meniscus tear in my knee and I went out to the hospital. It took me about a month to see the surgeon who looked at it, took some x-rays and said they needed to fix it because it was really messed up. So I went out to the hospital about a month later, went into the surgery and before I knew it, I was wrapped up, finished and on my way back. So later that night, around eleven or twelve, my knee started swelling up a lot. I thought about a friend who’d just had his mother die because of a busted vein or something and as I continued to think about that, around midnight or so, I finally asked them to call a “man down.” Man down is when the inmates acknowledge there’s something wrong with someone and we all call “man down” and when you get fifty, sixty, seventy people yelling man down, the guards are quick to come down. So they put me in a wheelchair and rolled me over to clinic. Once I was there and they looked at it, they decided I had to go back to the outside hospital because it was really very swollen.

So they put me in an ambulance and man, I saw dead people, I saw ghosts.  Thought about this place and how it’s where people live and die at. I don’t know how many people on this table thing in the back of the ambulance I was laying on had died, but in my mind, I saw people passing away. I also saw people who survived, and I wondered how much time, if any, did they have to think about their lives? So I was thinking about this and realized those questions were a part of my meditation, my practice. I was recognizing the ideas of what had been prior to the experience where I currently was. So we get to the hospital and they put all these medications into my system and I start having hallucinations, which is an entirely different story, but when I finally got back to my cell, the fucking cell seemed so big. It was like a living room because after being stuffed in that one little area in the ambulance, man, after that, my cell seemed so huge. I had all these places I could sit and mediate that I’d never noticed before. Places that when I looked at them before I’d felt squeezed. Sitting by the toilet, or the sink, or bed, they had felt squeezed, but in that moment, I didn’t see it like that anymore. I felt like I had so much room because of that ambulance ride, now however, it’s back to being in a small cell. That’s just one of the many experiences I’ve had living in this cell.

{Call 5 – 12/21/12}

TIS: So that’s all really heavy stuff man. Do you find you’re having really insightful experiences like that often in your days, and actually, what is a typical day in general like for you on Death Row?

JJM: Well normally when I wake up, I meditate, though sometimes not. It’s usually a slow process, getting up. I’ll think about what I’m gonna do that day and usually end up sitting somewhere thinking about why I don’t like this place. I think about things like, How long is this gonna take? When are people going to let me go? What am I gonna do with this day?

{*Jarvis comments-Oh hey man, just to give you a heads up, they’re letting the exercise yard back in so it’s gonna be a little loud for a minute.}

TIS: Okay man, no problem. Thanks for the heads up.

JJM: Right on. So yeah man, I don’t want to be here when I wake up and I acknowledge that point. So what does one do, not wanting to be here and having the whole day to do it? I may read a book. I go out to the tier and talk to guys about various things that come up and then next thing I know, one or two hours have gone by and I have to catch up on something else I was going planning on doing. It’s like I’m always living behind the things I want to do, like I have all these things to do, and I’ve forgotten to do them. So time can actually move really fast throughout the days here, and surprisingly, it can be tough sometimes to stay caught up on things. I usually spend my days sitting, writing, talking to people, listening to the radio, like some NPR for a little bit until I get so depressed I don’t want to listen to it anymore. I turn on the television and see something totally stupid, or something I don’t really want to watch, but there I am watching it. As it gets towards the evening, I’ll probably meditate again. I’ll try to write a letter if I have time. I’ll tinker with a new book I’m working on with this little typewriter that I have and then I’ll grow tired and go to sleep and wake up not wanting to be here again all over again. There’s other things that come up too sometimes, like I may have a legal visit that takes me out of the cell for a couple of hours, or I may talk to you for an hour or two, which puts me a little behind schedule but I love that because it keeps time moving by quickly. I’m always trying to keep up with things, and the idea that I have these things that  I have to get done keeps the days moving quickly. So yeah, life usually isn’t all that boring here.

TIS: Wow, I honestly hadn’t expected to hear you say your days flew by. It seems rather contradictory to what popular media has made prison life look like. Though I do understand that you’re not exactly the typical prison either, so that’s to be taken into consideration as well. Speaking of the turning on the television, I’m sure you saw the news of the tragic school shooting here in CT last week.

JJM: Oh yeah man, that’s just awful.

TIS: Yeah man, absolutely horrific. Actually, at one point, I found myself thinking about you and how you’ve said before that it’s your hope that That Bird Has My Wings finds its way into as many young people’s hands as possible, so that it may inspire them not to go down roads similar to yours. So with the recent tragedy in mind, and your sentiment regarding That Bird changing younger people’s lives, if you were to share a message with today’s youth, especially in light of this recent tragic event here in CT, what would it be?

JJM: Well, that tragedy, how can one ever really believe it happened, you know?  Especially in an area like that in CT, it’s not like it’s Watts or something. And these weren’t even Junior High Kids man, these were kids just learning how to write and learning how to walk, still bold legged to some degree, and they loved school. Remember how I mentioned that we have talks with one another here on the tier, or from cell to cell, well, the shooting in CT was one of those talks, and sometimes we argue about these things. I actually got into an argument about it the night it happened when I talked about today’s these kids how they play this game every day. What I mean is this is something they play every day in video games. You put a video game into your machine and you pretend to be a character that walks around shooting people. The characters may have scars on their heads or whatever, and these games, they’re being played every day. This one, well as far as I’m concerned, it played out in real life. They do call them video games right?

TIS: Yes, that’s right.

JJM: Okay, so yeah, these games are played almost every single day in most households. Now, I don’t mean that every kid is going to go out and do something like the CT tragedy because of these games, but when I saw this incident, and how terrible it was, seeing the children’s bodies, it brought tears to my eyes man. For me though man, it also confirmed something else I’ve asked myself before which is, “How do you change the mind of someone like that, someone who’s in serious mental trouble?” What can anyone say that can change a young person whose mentally gone like that’s mind? I really don’t have an answer to that man. The closet thing I could say is that we criminalize all of these behaviors without looking at them from a medical standpoint. Honestly, there’s no real place for a young person like that to be put that could have helped him heal.  So how I’d personally deal with something like this is to say, we need to be better listeners. I don’t think we listen well or really get it all man. It’s like we don’t really try to find way to address these issues. We don’t know how to address these kids in a productive way and guide them away from doing things like this.

TIS: I couldn’t agree more man. I spent six years of my life working with children grades K-5 as well as doing one on one youth mentoring with kids ages 5-18, and much of the work was done in areas considered “at risk” because of low incomes, single parents and so forth. It could be disheartening at times, for sure, but also, I saw a lot of hope. At what’s unfortunately considered a very low level, there’s plenty of people who have amazing hearts and are trying so sincerely to make a difference. At this level however, are the teachers and youth program coordinators who are never given enough credit or respect. These people are the true heroes of our youth’s lives. They, of course along with parents, but they are the ones who are teaching our children from the heart, but they have to work within certain guidelines set up before them often made by people not coming from a place of heart and compassion. I was recently speaking with my dear author friends Stephen and Ondrea Levine when they made the simple comment of, “We wish there was a compassion class taught in every third grade across the world.” I mean, that blew my mind. Can you imagine that? So while our teachers unfortunately don’t have a huge say currently in their positions, thus making it very difficult for them to make sincere lasting changes, if we were able to come together as parents, teachers, students, and concerned citizens, we could begin to truly have an effect and start seeing these things come to fruition. I truly believe that in my heart.

{Call 6 – 12/21/12}

JJM: So I’m working on this new article and I wanted to tell you a little about it because I’m trying to get the word out. Hopefully when it’s written, you’d be interested in running it. I’m just trying to let people know about this, man.

TIS: Yeah, of course I’ll help you however I can tell. What’s it about?

JJM: Cool. So they have this initiative, this bill called The Safe Act, and California put a bill on the initiative for the voters back in November which basically said the death penalty shouldn’t exist. It said that it’s a waste of money because no one is being executed, and the state of California should reconsider having it because it cost millions of dollars. The bill also basically said that in exchange for having the death penalty, every inmate would be given life without the possibility of parole, every inmate would not have access to the courts like they previously had, and every inmate would have to pay a restitution of 55% of every dollar that they made. So that’s what they sold to the public as a means of saying we don’t need a death penalty, that this would be the equivalent except a lot more cost effective for the state.

So this group called Death Penalty Focus who were trying to get the death penalty changed and supposed to be on our side, they used us. They said some really untrue things about death row, like those of us here have it light and easy, that it’s a privilege, that we don’t have to worry about anything and we have better personal things than anyone else in prison. They said that giving us life without the possibility of parole would be a lot harsher then leaving us on death row, while not have to kill anyone. So they went around selling the idea that death row isn’t really death row anymore. They also said things like we get to go to vending machines and eat with our families whereas the general population of the prison doesn’t, and they don’t have many of the same privileges we have on death row. So the campaign went on and on basically saying that killing us isn’t fun enough, but instead, they should throw us in a cell without any possible way for us to get out and that that’s a better plan.

So I’m writing this article on the people who’ve been saying that, the Death Penalty Focus Group here in California. They created a talking point strategy that said we’re having too much fun on death row and we’re privileged. I felt sacrificed man. I don’t want life without the possibility of parole without me having any possible way of addressing my case in the court. Anybody who has an issue in the courts right now on death row, they would automatically and uniformly get life without the possibility of parole and that’d take away my, and many others chance of being free. This isn’t in a Buddhist context either man. I think every person should have the right to be indignant and should have the right to speak from their own voice. In Buddhism, there’s a different voice, but man, when I wrote this article, I was pissed off. It looks like it and sounds like it.

TIS: Well yeah man, because it sounds like it’s completely fucked, to be totally straight up about it. I’m feeling a bit and angry just from you telling me about it, so I can only imagine what it’s like for you and everyone else there. How people think it’s okay to play with people’s lives like that is beyond me man. I’m not saying there’s some people there who haven’t done some really shitty stuff, but still, if we’re supposed to be the civilized ones making these decisions, well, it’d be great if actually acted like it. So yes, of course I’ll help you spread it as much as possible man, whatever I can do to help.

{Call 7 – 12/21/12}

JJM: Hey man, you know it’s funny. I was just thinking, you and I, we could talk forever, you know?

TIS: (Laughing) Yeah man, I hear you for sure, and I’m grateful for this time with you.

JJM: Yeah man, me too.

TIS: Cool, so I wanted to ask you, I mean, we were just talking about that shooting here in CT, and you’re living in a violent environment there every day, so with that being said, do you ever find it hard to keep your faith in humanity?

JJM: You know man, sure, that’s always an issue. Faith for me is something that there’s no way of proving. It’s just out there and it has no physical connection that can prove itself. It’s something that we just inherently need to believe, and I do have that kind of faith. I also have a reality check being here, you know? I know people get killed in prison. Way before you and I were born, they were doing that, and those rules still exist and they always will exist, it’s not going anywhere. In these 31 years for me though, it’s been about finding a way to get out of the way, if that makes sense to you?

TIS: That makes perfect sense man. The only real aspiration I make sure to set every morning is that I ask God (Spirit, Brahman, Universe) to guide me in a way that allows me to lay myself aside as much as possible throughout the day. Once I’ve laid Chris aside, I allow for that which is greater than me to work through me in whatever way will be most beneficial for all beings. It’s usually a short lived experience. Chris loves to run the show you know, but yeah, I definitely grasp what you’re saying.

JJM: Oh wow, yeah man, that’s right. So yeah, if you can do that, get out of the way, then you don’t have to worry about all the other stuff. If you can find a way to get out of the way, as simple as that sounds, it gets you through a lot of stuff. I’ve got impulsive friends you know? They say things like, “Let’s go, let’s do this” but I see how unhealthy it is to think like that, and usually, if you give me a few seconds, I’ll be able to come up with another way of working things out. Other times though, I can’t. These people are so mad sometimes that there’s no way I’m going to change their minds.

TIS: Yeah, of course not, but it’s valiant that you try. So I mean then, 31 years Jarvis, what’s it all about?

JJM: That’s a question I ponder a lot. I usually start out by thinking of my younger sense of stupidity. I did a lot of stupid stuff to get here, and as a Buddhist, I have to acknowledge that stuff. I have to apologize to myself in order to have the sense to apologize for what I’ve done. That’s just the way I’m taught as a Buddhist. We have to give ourselves compassion before we can truly extend it to someone else.

TIS: You’re preaching to the choir man. I had to learn that one the extremely difficult way and still definitely struggle with it at times.

JJM: I know right? So being here, my whole life in this place is trying to work on all of that. 31 years man, Nelson Mandela didn’t do that much, not that I’m comparing myself to that great person, but you know, there’s thing people in our situations have to embrace to make it through them. There has to be something that will allow me to not want to kill myself, living in a cell that’s so small I feel like I could suffocate in it at times.

TIS: So how do you avoid all of that?

JJM: Well I’ve been so blessed man, and it’s a weird thing that I don’t even get sometimes. I mean, I’ve been here 31 years and wrote a book that’s helped a lot of people. I think about how if they released me five years after I initially got here in ‘81, instead of how many people I’ve now helped, how many more people I could have hurt, how much more pain I could have inflicted. So how can I blame me for being here 31 years after I was blessed to write Finding Freedom and met Pema (Chodron) and Rinpoche. How can I say 31 years has been a total waste when, it hasn’t. I know as a Buddhist how scared I am to look at the things I’ve done and that actually shows growth, a progression from one place to another, but I don’t know how to deal with these 31 years. Seriously, I don’t know how to put them into perspective. I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of letters from people who’ve written me. They’ve said so many different things man. I had a prison guards son write me and say, “I know what it’s like to be in prison because my father has been a guard in prisons and every time he came home, he beat the hell out of me. So if he could do that to me, I know what guards can do to those of you in prison.”

Then there’s those who write that have a great sense of Buddhism and share the wisdom of the Dharma. So I live between both of those things man, the good and the bad. It’s been31 years Chris and I want to get out of here yesterday. I want to get out of here today. I want to get out of here tomorrow, but that’s so separated from what I try to do for myself and for other people today, like the guy next to me or the guy four cells down. I see a lot of silly stuff too, you know? But that’s the human connection, that’s what doesn’t make me better than the next person. I love having the ability to say I wrote those books but they don’t mean I’m some damn saint. It doesn’t mean I don’t curse. It doesn’t mean that I don’t eat candy bars or watch stupid TV shows, it just means that I had a sense of truth that I wrote about through Finding Freedom and That Bird Has My Wings, so that for me counts for 31 years. There may be one or two years I forgot about, and that hurts because you should never forget about even yesterday. It’s been a blessing, the kind of blessing that takes poverty out of a neighborhood and people can smile and live with that, or the little boy who doesn’t have the soccer ball yet can kick a can and share the same smile. I find that in many ways, being here has made me that little boy. I’m able to look at so many bad things but actually smile at them and know that I can’t deny myself to be that way. Life in here for 31 years has been really interesting man.

TIS: Sure, it’s obvious you’ve more than made the best of your 31 years there. I mean, you impacted friggin Pema Chodron (laughing,) a woman who’s also been an amazing teacher for so many people, myself included. I mean she even came out to visit you right?

JJM: Yeah, she usually comes out maybe twice a year to visit.


TIS: Wow man, that’s amazing. I remember listening to one of her audio books years ago and she talked about you, and your book, and I was captivated. The funny thing is that even though I forgot to follow up on getting Finding Freedom at that time, the universe still collaborated and had a stranger give it to me in rehab, funny how things work out. So speaking of Pema, I’m curious about how the two of you first connected?

JJM: Well for me, Pema is the type of gentle person who I love in so many ways. There are times I don’t see her as a teacher, times where I see her as a mother, you know? She laughs in a way that the common person laughs and I love that I have the opportunity to live in that space with her. She actually married Kathrin and I, she did our marriage ceremony, so I have that sort of close relationship with her. As for how we first met though, man, I don’t remember exactly. I think she was giving a teaching in Sonoma maybe, and someone gave her a copy of Finding Freedom so she read it and asked one of the people who work with her to write me and ever since then, we’ve been really close and she’s taught me a lot. She’s given me so much perspective and so many teachings. She’s just a beautiful person. I have to laugh a lot of the time at how blessed I am to know her as a person and not just a teacher. It’s great to know her when she’s eating a candy bar, because she does eat candy bars (laughing) and that’s cool for me. She’s definitely like a mom to me too man, especially when I’m not doing my practice. When she recognizes I’m not doing my practices, she comes down on me man, she can be strict and authoritative and she puts me back in my place. So she’s really serious in that area and I love how she gives me the caring discipline that she does. I wish I’d had that 30 years ago, but I have it now and I’m blessed by her, and so many other people. I’m starting to feel blessed by talking to you man and how you’re helping me, it means a lot.

TIS: Well thanks man for the kind words about me. I’m more than happy to do whatever I can for you.

{Call 8 – 12/21/12}

TIS: So we were talking about Pema and what a bi influence she’s been in your life. I’m curious who else you’ve found to be inspirational in the way of authors as well as the books that you’ve found strength from in the time you’ve been there.

JJM: Oh man, I’ve gotten a lot from my wife and her book. She wrote a book that talks about how we come into this world and what that means for an infant child, for it to feel love even when its eyes are closed. It’s called Welcome to the World: a birth blessing and when I read it, it really helps me understand what a birth of a child is like. It’s like, you know when kids start reading, how big those letters are? You have to write a big “a” for them to see it.

TIS: Yeah, right.

JJM: Well, it’s like that. There’s a big picture in understanding the birth of a child and how that child is nurtured, as well as what you nourish from the child yourself. I look at how the babies grown into an infant that’s grown into a child and it shows that a birth of a child, it’s just the beginning of something big, and I honestly think they need to be welcomed to the world. It’s definitely one of the most gentle books I have and that I love. I also love all of Thich Nhat Hanh’s stuff, and of course, Pema’s. As for a favorite author, seriously, in a weird way, it’s Joseph Campbell. I love his writing. I feel like he was a real leader to the world. He represented so much understanding that we need to have in our classrooms. I think he taught in a college and I tear up thinking about not having been in the college room that man taught in. He’s an amazing person to me, I can listen to him all day because he just makes so much sense. A lot of us don’t realize how much common sense we really need to understand things in life. Someone in family, I forgot who it was, but he said to me once, “Big books make you ig’nant.” I don’t know how exactly to say he was right, and I still trip off of that saying, but it’s so true and at the same time, defies logic and what we believe the meaning of progression is in our world.

TIS: Oh yeah man, absolutely. Books are wonderful guides and signposts, but that’s it. One of my favorite sayings from A Course in Miracles is, “Words are but symbols of symbols, they are thus twice removed from reality.”

JJM: Right, but yeah man, it’s just something about the way he said “ig’nant” in that country accent, and it came from someone who hadn’t read a lot but had experienced a lot of people who have (laughing.)

TIS: That’s seriously funny (laughing.)

JJM: It really was, he just came out with it from nowhere and he said it like it was a profound truth, which it kinda was. (Laughing) I looked at him, and I thought about it, and it just made sense to me. I learn from people too man, people are really big books. There’s also a lot of stuff I’ll read, like a sentence, or a chapter from a random book that impacts me, but it’s stuff that doesn’t have a big name to it. I love Alice Walker’s stuff. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is also a great book. I love when I read books that really talk to me. I’ve never been interested in people who have big plaques on their wall, like when you walk into an office and the person has all these awards and stuff on the wall. I felt intimidated by them, like they had something I didn’t have, and that those things on the wall, they usually made that person feel like they were more important than me. So I feel that same way when I read books. The author doesn’t have to be famous or have won any awards. I don’t think you need to be famous to write a great book.

TIS: Let’s hope not for my sake (laughing.)

{Call 9- 1/9/13}

TIS: So what is it about Buddhism that appeals to you?

JJM: Well it quiets the mind, which is something I like anyways, so I immediately had that connection. I think that’s why it attracts a lot of those who deal with addiction too. For me though, I’m out there trying to show Buddhism in a more active way. And it’s like what you’re doing with your book Chris, Watch It Burn, it’s not a simply do mantra or sit for 8 hours and no one moves or sneezes or gets up. It’s about being out there and being active in that dharma and that’s where I’m at. I’m always active. I don’t always have the right thing to say, but that’s a practice too. How do we learn how to say what we want to say in a very sincere way. So that’s how I experience Buddhism myself and how I know that what I do has some benefit to other folks.


TIS: Yes, I definitely appreciate and can relate to the action sentiment of that for sure. So we spoke previously about the group Death Penalty Focus whom you felt used by as they petitioned California’s use of the death penalty saying one thing to you, the inmates, about where they stood on the subject and then something completely different to the public about how they think death row inmates have it better than general population inmates. What we didn’t really get to talk about though was the death penalty itself. I mean, death row has been your reality for many years now and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Things like, do feel like the use of its ever justified or, what you think a productive, alternative solution to it is and so forth.

JJM: As an institution, capital punishment is evil and goes back to medieval times. It takes the worst of us and tries to make it better. It’s the idea that violence has one solution and that is to kill the person who committed the violent and heinous crimes. I’ve never thought that’s a solution though, I never have and I never will. Society often says about these people, “That asshole needs to get killed, he needs to get burned” and I live with many of the people that they’re talking about. In the late 70’s and early 80’s there were a lot of institutions that were for people who’d done the same things we have them on death row for today, somehow though, we’ve criminalized those behaviors. I believe the people we think are very violent and we see doing these crimes, they should be institutionalized, they should be in a hospital. For all intents and purposes, these people are fucked up, they have a lot of serious problems and they belong in a hospital.

Now, when you put these people on TV, and you criminalize their behavior, that really creates the reaction and perception people have when looking at them today and it then becomes easy for them to say they’re an evil person. But they wouldn’t be saying that if they’d never been on the television and instead, instituted in a mental hospital. But we’re not seeing the mental hospital patients. We’re seeing these behaviors criminalized, but there’s serious mental problems there. I don’t think you can identify certain behaviors as being more criminal than others because they’re not criminal behaviors, they’re mental problems. We see these horrible images on television and immediately put a label on that individual, saying he’s the same type of person as a fictional character in a movie and that’s not right. Let’s tell the truth here. You’re killing someone because you don’t want to put him in a hospital but rather, because you want to kill him.

{Call 10- 1/9/13}

TIS: So in close I wanted to ask, with all that you’ve been through, what are some of the greatest spiritual realizations, or life lessons you’ve had thus far, and how have they shaped your understanding of what this human experience is all about.

JJM: That’s something we’ll probably figure out in the last breath we take, what this is all about. For me personally, I believe that there’s a reason for what we go through in our lives, for what we suffer, gain and benefit as we come to experience—form our own sense of awareness―an appreciation for life. So for me, every time I wish something else in my life had happened, I’ve benefited from it not happening. What I mean is, I don’t know how Finding Freedom could have been written if I’d been released when I originally was supposed to. There’s so many things that happen to people, that happen to me, and we can look back and say I’m glad I didn’t do this or, I’m glad I did that or even, I’m glad I’m able to think about this. Those are the things that if they were any different, you or I may have had some other experiences. I wouldn’t have met my teacher or written Finding Freedom and That Bird Has My Wings and many other things, had I not been put on death row. That’s a strange thing to me and I’ll forever try to understand it. It’s something that will haunt me for the rest of my life—asking myself how I’m making sense of it.

So far, my conclusion is, why do I need to make sense of it? What am I doing with my life now and how about making sense of that. A lot of regrets become benefits and a lot of benefits become regrets. I don’t think this conversation would have happened if something else would have happened. If I hadn’t written my books, we wouldn’t be talking. So how do I try to appreciate writing those books and finding our connection being what it is today? It’s hard for me to try and figure this stuff out man and I keep coming to the conclusion where I ask myself, when I figure it out, what am I gonna do with it? When I figure it out, what do I plan on saying about it? It doesn’t matter and it does matter (laughing). So we spend all this time trying to make sense out of things but what about right now. What’s really important in your life that you’re trying to understand?  That’s something that keeps my wheels rolling though. It’s like hey man, I was able to talk to this guy because I’m here, I was able to talk to this person because I’m here, I’m able to write to someone because I’m here. I know it’ll be the same thing when I get out of here too. I’ve had the experience of being in prison and being on death row so I’ll be able to talk to people, help others and speak in classrooms. So all our benefits are motivations that we’re really inclined to try and live throughout our lives.


For More Information On Jarvis And His Case, Please Click HERE!

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.
  1. Janis Kobe says:

    Great interview with Jarvis. He is something wonderful!

  2. Lacey says:

    Is JJM still on death row?? Have you talked to him recently?

  3. […] book about happiness called Finding Freedom by Jarvis Jay Masters. There’s also a great interview with him which you might enjoy reading. If he can find freedom everyone […]

  4. […] needs when he gives up looking for happiness and ends up finding freedom. There’s also a great interview with him which you might enjoy […]

  5. Kathryn in AZ says:

    Chris, I found my way to here after starting to read Finding Freedom. Sensational phone excerpts, truly.
    I look forward to more reading in the upcoming books. As I mentioned, I’m working in a prison so I hope to pass it on.
    Sending warmth and much gratitude for your work and service.

  6. Paul says:

    great stuff to feed on and live by. thanks chris n’ jarvis. i also work in a jail and so cherish opportunity to capitalize on these teachings, etc..