On Saturday May 24th, in the Yard 1 Chapel at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility at Rock Mountain, 20 inmates and 4 volunteers from the Prison Meditation Project particpated in a day of mindfulness in celebration of the Buddha’s birth and enlightenment. The event was the culmination of months of planning and preparation by the PMP and the Chaplains at Donovan, a California State prison with 4800 prisoners located southeast of San Diego and in close proximity to the US-Mexico border. Previously, this day had been planned for April but was cancelled when an attack at another prison had caused a general lockdown of California prisons.
The Prison Meditation Project is sponsored by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the Sweetwater Zen Center and sends volunteers into the prison on 3 separate yards for 2 hour meditation programs two times a month on each yard. This was the first time that the group had been allowed to do a daylong event and so it was also the first time any of the inmates had an opportunity to experience an extended period of noble silence and mindfulness.
At the end of the day, the air inside the chapel was filled with gratitude and loving-kindness as the inmates and volunteers parted company with a commitment to continue on the path to awakening the Buddha within each of us.
Another day of mindfulness event is planned for next Saturday, May 31st, on Yard 3.