A Matter of Life and Death: Mitchell Willoughby

Mitchell WilloughbyI have found myself reflecting on the enso symbol, and its meaning of enlightenment and imperfection, when I think of contributor Mitchell Willoughby. Mitchell has been on death row for 30 years in a Kentucky State Penitentiary (for a drug deal gone wrong ending in three deaths) and he has rebuilt his life through Buddhism.

Mitchell writes ,”I literally had to take my life apart and rebuild it to see who I am. I had no one left to face except myself.”

He transformed himself through his practice and he is not afraid to die. He fully recognises the reality of impermanence as well as taking care of others. His contribution is moving and real and I feel privileged to have been in contact with him.

“Only when you can really see the harm that you have done to yourself and stop blaming everyone else for all your problems can you see the avalanche of heartache that you have caused others.”

Why did I contact Mitchell? Once the book began to take shape, I realised there was a need to include contributors who were involved with death in some way, however unusual. I contacted Ven. Robina Courtin, an Australian Buddhist nun whom I knew from my last book, who works with prisoners in America.

Her response was immediate: write to Mitchell. Robina kindly sent me the film Chasing Buddha, which includes footage of a visit to Mitchell and others, as well as a phone interview with him. The interview was stirring and inspiring with both Robina and Mitchell’s humanity shining through. His contribution can be found here.

You can also watch a YouTube video with his mother’s thoughts, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNzuEzuNTEU.

 

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