Author Khalil Osiris urges people to harness the power of their minds and break down mental barriers that prevent them from living in the now.
Jailed for the second time at age 25, Khalil Osiris began a journey of self-transformation. After his release 15 years later, he worked on social programs to help others stay out of prison. He also shares his path to inner peace and purpose as an inspirational speaker, coach, and author of the guidebook A Freedom That Comes from Within.
You’ve said anger was what landed you in jail. How did you let that go?
I spent much of my youth being angry and blaming “the system” for the injustices I saw around me. My turning point was the realization that, no matter what I believe is wrong with the world, I have the power to choose my response to it.
I discovered the meaning of [Holocaust survivor] Viktor Frankl’s piercing observation, “Everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
How did you pursue that?
Freedom is a process of looking inward and engaging in deep questioning. This process isn’t so much about discovering yourself in the context of your circumstances or personal history, but about your ability to create yourself in the moment—in the Now—through the infinite power of your thoughts and choices.
Freedom is a choice. To sustain your freedom, you have to choose it daily, sometimes moment-by-moment, in every situation.
Where would one start asking “deep inner questions,” as you call them?
Start with questions about what you love or feel passionate about or want to improve about yourself. Start with what you think you know about your beliefs and personal relationships. The point is to start and make a commitment to continuing the process.
Journaling was a powerful practice for you. Any advice?
I encourage people to use journaling as an effective way to deepen their understanding of others as well as themselves. The personal benefits of journaling lie in the process of being self-reflective and open to discovering your power to change your life from the inside-out.
You write about the importance of “silence and stillness.”
Silence and stillness was, and is, my meditation and mindfulness practice. It’s my way of examining the core of my life from an inward perspective. It’s the heart of my existential practice of deep questioning.
What were the hardest things for you on your journey of self-discovery?
My biggest barrier was my self-limiting thoughts and beliefs. My harshest realization was that I was incarcerated long before I was arrested. I’ve come to believe that everyone, regardless of their history, is in a prison of some sort, whether they realize it or not.
By seeing clearly the prisons we construct through doubts, fears, and limiting beliefs, we can begin to transform our thoughts, our lives, and our world.
Any help from behavioral health specialists along the way?
One of my mentors in prison was a behavioral health counselor. We had many robust conversations about the meaning of mental well-being in a normalized violent environment.
How can people living with depression and anxiety implement your philosophies?
People living in “biological prisons” need to identify their internal strengths and practice using them in way that enhances their sense of self-determination. For example, if a person is on psychotropic medication, we would need to focus on enhancing their sense of autonomy and responsibility for taking their meds. By so doing, that person will develop a visceral understanding of how freedom and responsibility are inseparable.
What about hope?
Hope is as essential to good mental health and spiritual well-being as air is to our physical existence. It’s the elixir of life. Hope inspires us to see and transform our deepest suffering into a monument of the best that we are.
Printed as “Back Chat: Khalil Osiris,” Summer 2019
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