“Little did I know that I was about to enter the most transformational phase of my life.”

In 1996, I found myself in the most extraordinary position.

I was incarcerated in a US Federal Prison—a first time offender jailed for a white collar offense. While I was found guilty by a jury of my peers, if you had asked me at the time I was offending “do you realize you are committing crimes that could imprison you for years?” my answer would have been “No.”

In all my life, with all its ups and downs, not in a thousand years, would I have ever seen myself as being or becoming a prisoner, a person who could be classified as dispossessed. Yet here I was, imprisoned—one of over 2 million people incarcerated in the USA—sharing life with murderers, rapists, drug dealers, mafia and other offenders of every race and creed. Judges, lawyers, teachers, politicians, businessmen, clergy and others of every occupation imaginable.

All of us stripped of all that we thought we were.

All of us by definition—dispossessed.

Little did I know that I was about to enter the most transformational phase of my life and that my inner and outer worlds were about to be transformed for the better—forever.

The unconditional love given to me by my family, loved ones and spiritual teachers both inside the prison and outside, connected me to the love inside myself in a way that I had never known. Daily spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, chanting, yoga, study and journal writing deepened this profound experience and unleashed a torrent of love and compassion for my fellow human being.

To begin with, I saw myself as superior, one who didn’t belong there, but I quickly saw that each prisoner was a human being, an individual, with a life and a story; a member of society, a fellow traveler in the journey of life.

To society, each was a worthless prisoner, not worthy of love. But to others they were fathers, brothers, sons, mothers, sisters, daughters—each a loved and treasured member of a family.

I realized:

• That in truth, no man is higher or lower than another.

• That no family can hang this sign outside their house
— No problems in this house.

• That life is fickle and can turn on a dime—that today’s judge may become tomorrow’s offender and that any offender can redeem himself.

• That it often (but not necessarily) takes (what appears to be) a life disaster, or life crisis, to stop a person in their tracks and wake them up from the deep sleep of their life as it was.

• That it is possible to draw a line in the sands of your life and step over it to become all you were born to become.

• That it is possible for anyone, in any circumstance to have an epiphany, an awakening, of the magnitude experienced by Helen Keller which she described as being like “the sun dropping into a frozen winter world.”

I knew this to be true because I was experiencing it within myself and I was watching it happen, not with everyone, but with many others—time and again.

The Birth of Everyman Foundation

Fort Dix Correctional Institution
—October 1999

Twisted, I’ll be straight
Hollowed out, I’ll be full

Tao Te Ching 22