One of the best experiences one has on “sabbatical” is learning about service to others with humility. Similar to the Benedictine rule, life in the “monastery” called prison is very similar, except there are not a lot of Gregorian chants from the brothers. Rap and hip hop are heard a lot more than chanting. But true to a real monastery no one is exempt from performing the mundane tasks of life. Vanity and ego have no place in our modern “monasteries.”
One learns that if you have a special talent, cutting hair, teaching a second language, or short order cooking it should be used for the benefit of others, but there is no place for vanity in prison, the man who cleans the toilets is held in equal esteem to the man who cleans the warden’s office. Through such lack of hierarchy one learns that humility unlocks the universe and that the pursuit of material gain and recognition destroys life.
Ask yourself during meditation whether putting yourself at the center isn’t in fact isolating. Hasn’t some of your greatest experiences in this life been when you abandoned all sense of self and served someone else? Humility put us in touch with that true self we search so very hard for and yet is always present.