Every Tuesday for over a year, I taught two meditation classes at a nearby medium security facility. The men were always open, appreciative, honest and occasionally raw. This combination made for a sacred circle that allowed for our most authentic selves to show up.
For most of my life, however, I had the voice in my head that was ALWAYS judging, mostly me. As Anne LaMott quips, "My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I try not to enter alone". Even yoga alone was not enough to raise my awareness of my negative thought patterns. It wasn't until I began practicing seated, silent meditation following my breath with the intention that the shift occurrred. First and foremost, I began writing poetry ( meditation opens your creative channel and helps you better utilize your right-brain) and found that to be another extraordinary tool for further healing.
Not all "sits" were obviously fruitful nor were they all peaceful. That is not the point. The point is to practice awareness of the mind without judging it. Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation that focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body. This can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.(1)
This eventually carries over into everyday life and that is where the magic really happens. There is very little story-telling any longer and when one can be present to Life, open to finding that joy and miracles are everywhere.
The spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I like to quip that I haven't always been this nice. More importantly, the men at the FCI would share that they found they were more hopeful, less reactive and having healthier, problem-solving conversations with their loved ones back home.
There is a swath of our culture who is not going to listen to someone in monks' robes, but they are paying attention to scientific evidence," says Richard J. Davidson, founder and chair of the Center for Consciousness. Because whatever goes on happening within us, is not only within us, it affects people who are close by. To meditate with these incarcerated people, just to sit silently with them, one will be pulled more and more towards our own intrinsic potentiality.
1. Vipassana website Dhamma.org