By Ron B. – prisoner
For me I think the main difficulty in practicing zazen (or any type of meditation) in prison is lack of feedback. All the information I have has come from books, if I have a problem or question all I can do is go through the books again, where as if I were on the outside I could join a Zen center or meditation group and receive guidance and feedback from qualified instructors.
The other two main problems I’ve had are dealing with the noise and atmosphere. I find it almost impossible to meditate during the day due to the noise level, I plan to keep working on my focus and concentration until I can transcend the noise, but I prefer to wait until late at night when the noise level drops.
The other thing is atmosphere, its effects have been subtle but I have noticed it’s more difficult to focus and harder to get into deep meditation in different atmospheres. I’ve never ran across anything about this in any of my books, so I’m not sure if it’s a common thing or just me. I’ve done meditations in several different prison environments; disciplinary segregation (the Hole), maximum and medium security prisons. Some of these environments have an intense, charged and negative atmosphere about them that I find harder to reach inner stillness in, whereas at the Medium security prison where the atmosphere was more relaxed it was easier. Meditation has also been a major asset in dealing with stress and anger. I used to have a problem with what you could call ‘explosive’ anger.
Something would happen or a situation would arise in which I would become instantly angry and would react without thinking, generally getting myself into trouble. Since I’ve been doing daily meditations I’ve noticed I’m more relaxed and less stressed in day-to-day life, and when I’m presented with a situation now days, I may still become angry but I don’t react spontaneously and get myself into trouble. Then as soon as possible I do what I call my ‘radiator’ meditation. I visualize my anger radiating outward until I am calm, relaxed and thinking rationally.