Went to maximum security prison yesterday for the weekly group. Only there for about 3 hours, but time seemed irrelevant. What was relevant, was the insight, wisdom and life experience shared by those present for the meditation class.
Issues of anger, grief, revenge, and killing came to surface and how people have dealt with those feelings and actions in the past and how they understand and see them and themselves, now.
Take a breath, pause, observe what you are experiencing moment to moment (physically, emotionally & mentally) and name or label it. Then, if you choose (and having a “choice” is key) to then take wise, skillful action or not, it is more likely that you will not be reacting out of conditioning or pain, but with consciousness and compassion. That is the essence of what we and those in the group are discovering.
Our words and actions are important and have effects, but the intentions and awareness behind, before or with them are even more vital.
The strength and courage of the men in this group to be willing to step outside the known, to look at themselves honestly and to convey what they are seeing is liberating, artful and inspiring. Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke about not judging one by their outer appearances, but by the character of their character and humanity.
Nobody attending this weekly group pretends that they are now beyond their past and have permanently changed for the good (including the facilitators), nor excused themselves or blamed their incarceration on others. They have taken responsibility for their actions and the consequences. They have begun to personally understand the pain and loss they have inflicted on others, but have also come to realize that the “others” are in fact part of themselves and that harm to another is also harming one’s self.
Practicing meditation and self-reflection and observation in a prison setting takes a lot of guts. Practicing meditation and mindfulness in our daily lives wherever our bodies are, takes vigilance, consistency and continual fine-tuning. I hope those of us on the outside continue to practice with as much bravery and sustained effort as these men who are temporarily living within prison walls.