Very often, we are the judge, the jury and the guards creating the prison of our own purpose or essence. This essence is simply who were are designed to be (some call it soul). It can not be harmed, but it can be placed in the protective (or constrictive) custody of our well honed personality or the patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours we adopt. This personality might be likened to a space suit (at least Earth suit?) of our body, built for our soul to dance in. It reminds me of the old tale.
Once there was a young Sufi who was captured by the police and falsely accused of theft. Despite his protests of innocence he was convicted and sentenced to three years in jail. His guards were assigned to keep him enclosed night and day, preventing him from using his full range of skills. He was a skilled metal smith and could make the most wonderful of trinkets, tools and talents.
He had a loving wife who visited him every day, who pleaded with the Caliph to allow the Sufi to have a prayer mat. This was a legitimate and lawful request which was permitted by the overly strict, but well meaning King.
A kindly man, the Sufi spoke with the impoverished guards, who by the nature of their limitations had been compelled to guard the prisoner and stay in the compound 24-7. They were prisoners too, just with TV to watch, wine to drink and girlfriend’s to see. They had simply fashioned distractions to cope.
The Sufi just had his prayer mat, his dedicated focus and prayer. Three times a day he would unroll the carpet, then kneeling and bowing down, he would pray. Weeks and months passed in this manner.
Then, befriending the guards, he persuaded them to bring in tin and the Sufi crafted trinkets, tools and talents, which the guards sold and shared the profits of. With new wealth the guards realised they too were trapped by the prisoner and could not spend their wealth freely. The Sufi just prayed, kneeling and putting his forehead to the carpet, three times a day.
One day the intricate pattern of the carpet’s weaving caught his notice. There was something unusual about it. Still, day after day, he prayed and gradually the intricate detail of the carpet began to make sense to him. As the days passed and he continued to pray, the pattern resolved until one day it was clear to him. The pattern in the weaving was the design of the lock on his prison door. Using his new knowledge he fashioned a key from tin and escaped to the arms of his wife.
Freed and wealthier, the Guards lived happily ever after.