YOUTH IN FOCUS: I am in jail and feel very depressed and sad. What can I do to make my life better?  

Inmate, Thimphu 

Well, the first step is to fully accept that you are in jail. At the moment you might be mentally struggling against being locked up. This is natural. But to overcome frustration and depression, it is important to admit mistakes and to accept that there will be consequences.  This is as true for me as it is for you.

In the morning say something like this to yourself: “Ok, I messed up. I caused pain for others and accept that I am now experiencing the consequences of my action. This time will pass, but in the mean-time I will strive to make the experience a positive one.”

This may sound difficult  to implement, and so here is some practical ideas. Maintain a discipline – keep yourself, your bed and personal belongings clean and tidy. Don’t do this as a cold, military discipline, however, but out of respect to your fellow inmates. No-body wants to share a room with a sloppy guy who smells bad and has a permanently long face, right?

Be mindful of others and aware of their needs. If someone is feeling depressed, for example, offer them your support. If someone lacks warm clothes, share yours with them. Spend some time each day to read and draw.

Also, you can become a little crazy and transform your entire day into something cool and amazing. If you have to clean the toilets, for example, think something like this before you start: “May who ever use this toilet be happy.” Now if you really want to be smart, while cleaning the toilet think about the dirt. Not long ago it was cooked food and before that it was a vegetable that grew through a combination of sunlight, rain and soil. Think how everything is connected in this way and how it is constantly changing. After finishing, send out any good feeling to all beings with the wish that their minds be cleaned of ignorance. You can do the same if you are cooking, cleaning or anything. In this way, you can transform your entire day into something cool, positive and a little crazy.

Maybe this story will also help: In a former life the Buddha lived in a kind of jail. Together with another guy, he had to pull heavy carts along a burning hot tunnel. One day, his partner was struggling and so he requested that he pull the cart alone so that his partner could rest. His malik was so angry that he beat him to death. However, because he had fully accepted his situation and had a compassionate thought for others, he was reborn in a pleasant environment. Slowly, he became Buddha. Maybe this story can be your inspiration.

Your time in jail will soon pass, but while there try to make it a positive experience that will make you a mentally richer, wiser and more compassionate person.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

Email to for any queries


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