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Our class at women’s today started out with a hiccup. “I’m not feeling good” she said looking towards her feet “I don’t think I can stay.” Her eyes were far gone from the moment which our incredibly skilled facilitator Rebecca noticed and proceeded to take one to connect with her feelings. She then asked her “Can you stay and just try to hold your space here with us?” Thinking for a second, she shook her head towards those same feet and then towards the sky — took (and held) her seat for the class that followed.

And what followed was a lot. There were many little explosions in which we all saw the possibility of holding ones seat in a very real way – of being empowered to get Above the Line and recognize the power we hold therein.

The class opened with what would seem normally like a simple question: “How was your week?” – it’s one of the questions that one can never really know or predict where it’s going to land. It is a prison after-all.

“Well, Cindy (a participant in our PoF class last Spring) died last week – the medical staff here are so under trained. They knew what was happening with her and they just let her die.” This is the 3rd death in 3 months that I am personally aware of (from those attending our classes).

Phew. So, yea. Okay.

Well, to that Rebecca responded by expressing remorse and opened a space for those in the room who wanted to speak to her life and how it impacted them: “She was kind”, “Caring”, “When I first got in here I was crying all the time and she’d come to check in on me – she was the only nice person in here.” This continued for a while and then we offered a silent meditation for her passage.

We then broke and did some movement. The women seemed to really appreciate the lightness and movement of the “Crow” QiGong we did. It certainly helped shift the energy.

And so begins the Empowerment unit. “What is Power?” she asks

“Money!”, “Authority”, “Something that is outside of myself”, “Anger”, “Control”, “Men!”

Rebecca then goes on to make a clear distinction between power-over and power-with.“One main difference between power and emPOWERment, is that I’m holding my power but it doesn’t take away from yours” – a POWERful distinction. She asked us to think back to a time that we felt powerless. Well, given the fact that we are a room full of women and a room full of women in a prison, lots emerged.

“Well, being in prison nothing other then being powerless. Someone can come in my room at any time and tell me that I have to take my clothes off and do a strip search – they tell me what to wear, how to use the bathroom, what time I go to sleep – We have no power in here.”

“DCYF is coming in to see me today – someone called them on my mom, said she was beating my kids up” (all four of them…12, 8, 6 and 2) “and I feel really powerless about that” With tears falling from her chin she looked up at Rebecca who asked her if she could take a breath with her. We all took a breath with her.

“Now, can you think of a time you felt in your power?” Some women in the room opened up sharing how passing their GED test allowed them to feel empowered, “being a mom!” said one with several shaking their heads in agreement. There was, for a moment, light beaming in the room. Amazing display of how when we get into our strength, we are not only getting Above the Line, we are also doing ourselves a favor – we are feeling our worth – our innate Basic Goodness. Yes! We are worthy.

It was so deeply touching to look around the room during the “raising confidence” mediation and see tender and chapped hands holding their hearts while Rebecca repeated the phrase “I am good…I am basically good and worthy..”

Life on the outside is hard enough..I can’t imagine living behind those razor wires knowing my children might be taken away from the only person I know. I can hardly imagine having someone storm in on me and tell me to take my clothes off. And remembering what it was like to be told what clothes I could wear, didn’t feel empowering. At all. As I’m sure none of this does.

Thankfully, class ended on a high note…with page 56 in our PoF book. The section noted ways we can begin to feel empowered…words like “Gratitude”, “Confidence” “Forgiveness” and “Radical Responsibility” filled the air. This was the women voices committing to something to work with this week.

I called this blog Courage because Courage is the ability to confront fearpaindangeruncertainty, or intimidation  – and that is exactly what those women are doing.

We’ll see what explodes into next week.

Thanks for reading,


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