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Forgiving the Unforgivable: My prison reckoning

When I first met my “enemy,” I recognized him instantly. Then I leaned within inches of his face to hear his apology

BY TOM HUDGENS, episode 3 (of 5) — It took a half-hour to drive to Chesterson Unit, the prison in Huntsville, Texas that has housed my sister’s killer, John Black,* for thirty years.

Rick Warr, the mediator with the Criminal Justice department, picked me up at my hotel. We drove through the main entrance, past cornfields and cattle, and eventually reached the sprawling prison buildings, all made of yellow brick.

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Forgiving the Unforgivable: Getting to know my sister’s killer

I asked for complete honesty — however painful he thought it might be for me.

BY TOM HUDGENS, episode 4 (of 5)Not that long ago, I would never have believed that I would be here: Sitting face to face with John Black, the man who raped and killed my sister in 1978, chatting with him about his life.*

He apologized and asked for my forgiveness. And now it was time for me to put my lengthy spiritual preparation — which led me to this prison outside Huntsville, Texas — to practice.

I thanked John Black for reading his letter to me, for agreeing to meet, and asked him to be totally honest, even if he thought the truth might be painful or offensive.

I told him that I was speaking on no one’s behalf but my own, and that I was not trying to see if “justice had been served.” Rather, I wanted to have open communication, compassion and understanding.

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Forgiving the Unforgivable: The moment of truth

‘I can accept what happened,’ I told my sister’s killer. ‘Today, in this moment, I can wish you well’

BY TOM HUDGENS, final episodeWhen you took my sister’s life, I told the killer himself as we sat in a stark room in a Texas prison, there were, amazingly, seven people who considered her a best friend.

John Black,* who is 30 years into a life sentence, had told me about his life, with the honesty I had asked for. Now I was telling him about his victim, who was taken from the world when she was 22 and I was just 9.

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The Great Toaster Lesson

How a prayer circle, and a kitchen fire, led to a powerful Aha! Moment

BY SUEANN JACKSON-LAND — Every other Saturday morning my friend Kim picks me up to join the Elgin Street Mission Breakfast Club, a group comprised of  women who serve food at a local soup kitchen. Our captain is Debbie, an energetic woman I like to describe via her shoes: Keds sneakers colored with Sharpies into left and right rainbows.

Kim, I met at church. She is one of those people who keeps her Christian faith private, although her spirit is always at work. That she didn’t try to coerce me into a volunteer effort made me want to do it all the more.

This past Saturday, only my second time participating, I immediately went to my cereal pouring job because that’s what I knew how to do. I was pouring when our toaster lady, Barb, asked me if I thought the industrial-sized block of hard yellow stuff was butter or margarine?

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PHOTO CONTEST winners appear in new slideshow, “Meditation Junkies”

A dude doing a headstand in Times Square and a woman striking a tree pose in the ocean. Meet our meditation junkies!

For the latest Soul’s Code photo contest we asked readers to submit photos of themselves doing their spiritual thing — yoga, pilates, meditation, whatever — anywhere but where we’d expect to typically see them. We received scores of terrific entries — a guy perched atop a hotel banister, a couple poised along the ridge of a canyon — so cool, that we were called to feature our favorites in a new Soul’s Code slideshow, Meditation Junkies.

We chose two winners, and we’ll send both a $50 gift certificate to SoundsTrue, a sort of iTunes for spirituality.

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A peak experience in a roofless world

An astrologer who is also an expert in astronomy wrote a meditation after sleeping outside his California home many nights to seek relief from Indian Summer temperatures

“It started out as an escape from the stuffiness and heat in our solar-cooked house,” says the author. “Then it became more like a vision quest.”

BY HUNTER REYNOLDS — Roofless World

There’s nothing romantic or liberating about it—
this cowering in a sleeping bag watching the twinkling menace collapsing the screen tent
of who I think I am.

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Photo Contest: YOGA, aisle 9; PILATES, domestic departures; MEDITATION, wherever

Have a chance to be featured in a Soul’s Code slideshow. The prize, other than Web glory, is a $50 giftcard to www.soundstrue.com

Does the notion of striking a tree pose in the beverage aisle of your local supermarket seem downright ordinary? Then read on.

Here at Soul’s Code, we want to see photos of you doing your mind-body spiritual thing — yoga, meditation, pilates, Tai Chai and so on — anywhere but where we’d expect.

The yoga studio? Forget it. Try the boarding gate at the airport.

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“I Me Wed”: Making it Through the Day (and Night)

This poetic affirmation is beautiful for those moments when you are feeling down about yourself, or whatever . . .We ALL have days like that!

SPECIAL TO SOUL’S CODE, ROB BREZSNY —I first wrote these in a book called, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings. Since then, they’ve become an online viral hit and we’re blessed to share them with the Soul’s Code community.

This text is a sacrament with a spiritual spin: it invites you to make a contract to “marry yourself” — that is, allow a complete intimacy with your day-to-day experience, and essence:

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You and your “Moon Centers”

We have 11 Moon Centers in our body, and we dwell in each one for 2 1/2 days. Every woman’s rotation pattern is unique, and stays with her for life

BEING THERE: EMMA — We have moon centers! This was news to me.

And it arrived at a workshop in Espanola, New Mexico at the Sadhana Solstice Retreat. The revelation: just how attuned our female bodies are to the rhythms of the moon.

I had always known our general sensitivity to the tides in terms of our menstrual cycles, but I didn’t have a full understanding of the beautiful pattern we move through physically and energetically every 27.5 days.

We have 11 Moon Centers in our body, and we dwell in each one for 2 1/2 days. Every woman’s rotation pattern is unique, and stays the same her entire life. This seems to be fairly basic and essential info about our Being. Yet what do we learn in school? Hardly anything about our own essence, it seems.

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The top 20 things I’ve learned working in a homeless shelter

GUEST COLUMN: MORGAN STANEK

I wrote this after my first day of work at a homeless shelter in Hamilton, ON, a steel-plant city in Canada. It’s an overwhelming job that provides endless opportunities for me to learn about myself, and others.

Our society has a hierarchy, and its currency is called expertise and knowledge. Homeless people are at the bottom of the pyramid because we believe they display neither of those qualities. It’s nonsensical, from a spiritual perspective. These individuals have deeper experiences than many of us who have conformed. Why? Maybe they’ve peered so deeply into the abyss, that it opened them up, humbled them up — or totally transformed them. Here’s what they’ve taught me:

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