#579. How to Meditate in Hell | Jarvis Jay Masters
Today we have a truly incredible episode about how to meditate in hell. You’re going to meet a man named Jarvis Jay Masters, who I interviewed from his cell on death row at San Quentin prison in California. Any of us who meditate do our best to apply it to life’s ups and downs — but this person has been applying it in some truly extreme circumstances.
Jarvis has now spent more than three decades on death row, including more than two decades in solitary confinement. Shortly after Jarvis’s death sentence, he became interested in Buddhism, and started developing a rigorous practice under the tutelage of a Tibetan lama, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. Jarvis has now written and published two books about his life, Finding Freedom and That Bird Has My Wings. Both feature forewords by the renowned meditation teacher Pema Chödrön, who has been on this show, and his second book was endorsed by the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu and also by Oprah Winfrey, who selected the book for her famous book club last year.
Jarvis’s current appeal sits before a federal judge as we speak. A decision on his future could be reached any day.
Heads up there are frank discussions of suicide and domestic violence in this conversation.
In this episode we talk about:
- His childhood
- His road to prison
- How he unlearned traditional (and harmful) aspects of masculinity
- How he began to write, and the impact that had on him and his standing in the prison
- How he meditates in a noisy prison
- The details of his meditation practice
- His off-the-cushion practice of ‘engaged Buddhism’ with his fellow inmates
- How he prepares for the possibility of release–and for the possibility of execution
- How he defines freedom
Where to find Jarvis Jay Masters online:
- That Bird Has My Wings
- The Buddhist on Death Row: How One Man Found Life in the Darkest Place
- Finding Freedom: How Death Row Broke and Opened My Heart
Other Resources Mentioned: