I Spent 6 Months In AThai Prison For Shoplifting Here’s How It Changed My Life.

I left my house in Olympia, Washington, in January 2018 to carry out a two-year international journey I hoped would assist me to find more about the world and, consequently, myself. I had actually simply separated a terrific male– and the similarly terrific life that included him– after being wed for 6 years.

I left whatever I understood– and anything I could not suit a 60-liter knapsack– due to the fact that I recognized my real course was to take a trip by myself and share my understanding of yoga and holistic health. I reserved a ticket to my very first location, Thailand, and as I flew towards my brand-new life, I had lots of faith in the unidentified and I relied on that I was honoring my real course. Little did I understand that a person risky choice would significantly alter my point of view on whatever I believed I understood about myself and who I am.

It was 2:00 in the afternoon on a Friday throughout the very first week of my experience and I remained in Pai, a busy hippie traveler center situated in northernThailand I went into a store I had not observed prior to throughout my 4 days in the area. Its entrance was covered with a dynamic silk fabric and its interior exposed racks stacked with handcrafted fashion jewelry and leather items. The display screens were stunning and certainly tended to with excellent care.

I keep in mind the next minutes with outright clearness. The owner sat with his back to me at his desk, which was positioned specifically in the middle of the store. I was the only consumer and, while searching, my eyes fell on a perfectly handcrafted leather fanny pack studded with laborite and citrate. I liked it and I selected it up off the rack and put it in my bag. I state this delicately, however my stomach stumbles at the memory. I matured taking little things– apples and single rolls of bathroom tissue– as I originated from a bad house and I was often starving and required to go without basic enjoyments (and even needs) as a kid. The require to make it through quickly became a vice that continued into my adult years. I would take makeup from Walmart simply out of practice, however this was very first time I ‘d taken from an individually owned store.

His query about what remained in my bag took simply a 2nd, his retrieval of the fanny pack took another and after that I saw an appearance of shock flash throughout his face. He got my wrist and in simply those 3 seconds my future moved drastically.

The owner turned his head, completely registered my remaining existence, and stood. One take a look at me and he appeared to understand precisely what I had actually done. His query about what remained in my bag took simply a 2nd, his retrieval of the fanny pack took another and after that I saw an appearance of shock flash throughout his face. He got my wrist and in simply those 3 seconds my future moved drastically.

The authorities were called, together with all of the owner’s household and the owners of surrounding stores– Thailand approves neighborhood therefore there were a great deal of individuals present in the after-effects of my theft. I was given the nearby police headquarters a couple of miles away where my mugshot and finger prints were taken. I was recommended by the detaining policeman to plead guilty– and I did– because I was captured in the act and due to the fact that he declared I would allegedly deal with just a little fine and be totally free to pursue being held for simply 2 days.

He lied. I invested the night at the police headquarters in an unclean cell with 2 other females who had actually been detained for apparently smuggling methamphetamine over the Myanmar border. The next early morning I was required to a little courtroom where I appeared without an attorney and I was sentenced to 6 months in a jail in the close-by town ofMae Hong Son After being sentenced, I was declined the right to an attorney, a call to my household, or a chance to pay bail. I was just permitted a regional call to a good friend from Oregon who I reconnected with while we were both taking a trip throughPai She connected to my ex-husband, who called the U.S. consulate and did all he perhaps might to get me out ofThailand But he was not able to assist in any method besides remaining in contact with the consulate and keeping my pals and household upgraded about my wellness.

So I was imprisoned for 6 months for taking $200 worth of product. Perhaps that appears severe to some individuals– and perhaps it does not appear severe sufficient to others– however, regardless, in Thailand the magnitude of a lawbreaker’s penalty is based upon the ethical worth of the criminal offense and in a Buddhist nation, taking is a huge offer.

The cell in the Pai police headquarters where Semrau was held for 5 days prior to being moved to the jail inMae Hong Son

Before I was moved to the jail, I was horrified and I hoped my time there would not be as horrendous as I pictured it would be. I expected intolerably filthy living conditions, lice and regular disease, sharing area with unsafe wrongdoers, a total absence of interaction with my enjoyed ones, inedible food, a language barrier and the requirement to rapidly grow thick skin. Upon getting to the jail 5 days after I was detained, I was alleviated to find just a portion of my worries became my truth.

During my 6 months in jail, I was housed with 79 other non-violent females who were practically all there for criminal activities connected to meth– smoking cigarettes it, dealing it or smuggling it. I stitched flower embroidery on t-shirts for 9 hours every day– a job needed of all of the prisoners. I consumed the exact same meal of pork soup and rice every day. I showered with all of the other prisoners every afternoon utilizing a little plastic bowl I dipped in a long trench of water while using a self-stitched shower gown. I slept shoulder to carry with the other females while pushing a single folded blanket positioned the tough concrete flooring with severe lighting blasting through my closed eyelids. I was dealt with relatively and I was provided great deals of area, as I was the only immigrant there and regularly misinterpreted by the other females in the jail.

I rapidly acknowledged that every day in jail passed precisely like the one prior to it and my life ended up being stagnant. After my positive “this isn’t so bad” technique I hold on to throughout my very first week faded, I chose I required to focus my psychological energy on self-development and I made the area for workout, yoga and meditation in my brand-new regimen.

I discovered 4 books in English on Buddhist meditation in the jail’s dirty library and I feasted on each of them 3 times. The books explained the practice of Vipassana, likewise referred to as mindfulness meditation– or the viewing and understanding of the mind– which can allegedly assist eliminate suffering by getting rid of desire. As I remained in jail for taking, which is, when you consider it, an item of greed and desire, I chose to devote my time to integrating Vipassana in my life. I had actually practiced meditation often times prior to I took a trip to Thailand, however I ‘d just feel a sense of calm and lightness and internal peaceful for a brief time prior to it left me. As I practiced meditation in jail, I found I had the ability to go much deeper due to the fact that I was so desperate to discover peace.

Semrau on a hike to the "White Buddha" in Pai. This photo was taken two days before she was arrested.

Semrau on a walking to the “White Buddha” inPai This picture was taken 2 days prior to she was detained.

Soon after I devoted myself to an everyday meditation practice, my understanding of “self” entirely moved. I quickly pertained to think that there is no such thing as suffering in today minute. It just exists when we consider the past and the future– or with the desiring, evaluating and stressing that typically accompanies thinking of them. I recognized that the source of my numerous previous issues was greed– my biggest expression of desire.

I had actually invested a lot of my life desiring more and I pertained to comprehend that my desire took numerous types consisting of gluttony, selfishness and a consistent frustration with the abundance that I currently had. I started to journal about my meditation practice and the concerns I had about who I was and how I had actually lived my life prior to getting detained.

Day 15 of 180. A couple of concerns that appeared throughout my early morning meditation today: Why is it that I’m self-centered? Why exists such resistance to my providing when I understand it brings me a lot happiness? Why do I lie, compulsively, making a presence that I have not lived– and would not wish to live? Why do I take, when I’ve constantly had enough? Why is it so hard for me to provide, when that is my most substantial function? It feels excellent to compose these things, to confess to their presence. I lie. I take. I take. These are the important things I want to shed.

After a couple of weeks, I felt calmer, less upset and even less desperate for my time in jail time to pass. I pertained to comprehend that it does not matter where my body is– suffering and joy exist just in the mind. Realizing this assisted me restore my liberty, if not physically, then a minimum of internally. I could, for the very first time in my life, take advantage of my memory bank, into every minute I had actually lived prior to. I might close my eyes and be on top of a mountain I had actually checked out in the Annapurna variety in Nepal or snuggled because hammock on the San Juan island where I had actually enjoyed whales play in front of me. My body remained in jail, sweating and uneasy, however my mind was in other places and my heart was with all of my enjoyed ones.

Mentally taking a trip to my best-loved minutes in my life assisted me remain sane as I served my sentence. I practiced meditation every day, no matter what interruptions I dealt with. I practiced yoga, even if just a few sun salutations, every day, no matter how little area I had or the uncomfortable corners I packed my body into so I didn’t kick anybody in the face.

I constantly attempted to advance. I counted my thankfulness and practiced love and compassion to keep the tension of being secured in a foreign jail at bay. Still, it didn’t constantly work. On my 42nd day in jail I composed the following in my journal:

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, I am fed, rested, dressed, with area to extend my spirit and exercise my body, yet I’m unhappy and long for more– more food, individuals, experience, liberty– due to the consistent chattering of the mind and its symptoms of the feelings and desires that defile and mess the mind. Why must the mind desire? I would be content in this basic presence if not for the mind.

I understood that a person day my sentence would be served and I ‘d be released, I simply needed to hang on. As time passed I started to discover thankfulness for even the tiniest things, for the simpleness of living in small amounts and for just how much even worse life might have been throughout those 6 months in jail.

I discovered how harming an extreme quantity of greed and desire can be– not simply for myself, however for individuals I had actually taken from or harmed in other methods throughout my life– and how unneeded they are for real abundance.

I started to teach English to a few of the other prisoners in exchange for Thai massage lessons and I taught yoga on the weekends. I discovered to speakThai I discovered how harming an extreme quantity of greed and desire can be– not simply for myself, however for individuals I had actually taken from or harmed in other methods throughout my life– and how unneeded they are for real abundance. I found out about the parts of myself that I do not like and how to deal with altering them. I found how to soothe my mind and I pertained to comprehend that karma is genuine and need to really be appreciated in order to live an efficient life.

During my 6 months in jail, I typically dreamed about the day I ‘d be launched and what I would do when I was totally free. In the start, my musings were filled with the food I would consume, the locations I would go and individuals I would be reunited with– all extremely sensible things to daydream about when you’re secured countless miles far from the conveniences of house. But, as I continued to serve my sentence, I started to comprehend there is much more to life than those things and guaranteed myself to be grateful for what I had, no matter how little it may appear at any given minute, and to rebalance my karmic bank by returning whenever I could.

I was launched from jail on July 24 and deported securely back to America over a nine-day journey. Since getting back, I have actually continued my journey of recovery myself– and whenever possible, others– through practicing and mentor yoga and meditation. I now have much more thankfulness for the basic things in life and not just have I stopped shoplifting, I attempt to constantly keep just what I require– and absolutely nothing more.

I think that my time in jail offered me the chance and area to learn more about myself and do the work to clear what didn’t serve me. My sentence was really a simply karmic effect, it was appropriately been worthy of and I am taking what I gained from those incredible 6 months and utilizing all of it to make the most out of the rest of my life.

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