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Jarvis noticed sounds he’d lived with but never heard: the scrape of a food cart’s wheels along the corridor, the jangling rhythm of keys and handcuffs clanging off the belts of guards who passed his cell, the scurry of a mouse, and the babel of radio stations tuned to country, metal, and blues, wailing preachers and NPR. That heightened awareness filtered into his meditation. He noticed his surroundings: feelings, noises, smells. But even more intensely, he felt a new world of sensation inside his body. He discovered the tightness in his belly, the alternating tautness and slack of his lungs, the stress that throbbed in his temples, the pulsing weight of anxiety in his chest. When he described those sensations to Melody, she said he was discovering mindfulness, a form of meditation. “You become fully present in the moment. Experience it. When your mind wanders, return to your body, what you sense outside and inside you, and breathe.”

The Buddhist on Death Row