I stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts prior to my visit to the maximum security prison. I ordered a small black coffee and then noticed beside the cash register a plastic cup filled with those mini round ball donuts, aka “munchkins”. They were a variety pack of chocolate, jelly filled, cinnamon, and glazed little buggers. They seemed to look up at me and say “please buy me and eat me”(am I projecting?)… and so I did. I ate them as mindfully as possible 😉
I passed through the prison’s security search with flying colors. I’m now a familiar face at this prison and there is usually a natural and friendly verbal and nonverbal exchange between the correction officers and me. I was escorted through the long, stark, and lonely hallways that lead to the prison chapel where the meditation class is held. I arrived prior to the inmates and so set up the meditation cushions in a large circle. When the inmates arrived we joyfully greeted each other and I could see the interest and anticipation on their faces. We started with fifteen minutes of meditation practice followed by a “check-in” which gives the inmates an opportunity to share experiences, raise questions about their practice, or share whatever else may be on their minds.
Next I introduced the Drama Triangle (DT) dynamic. The DT is comprised of three negative habitual ways of relating with people and situations. The three styles of relating are as the “victim”, the “persecutor”, and the “rescuer”. We all often spin around in each of these modes of habitual thinking and behavior. If you want to learn more about this DT triad you can go online and google “Drama Triangle” or “David Karpman” who developed this concept. Studying the DT is a powerful method to help us become aware of the habitual, mechanical, and destructive ways in which we relate when we are not fully aware of our thoughts, feeling, and actions. We role-played the DT with three guys who each chose one of the DT roles. This was very instructive and great fun! One important point that we learned was that the situation and the individual’s relationship to the situation often shifts, as does the DT roles of the persecutor, rescuer, and victim. We also discovered that the more aware we become of our shifting thoughts, feelings, and perceptions the greater the chance there is for us to step off the dreaded drama triangle.
Finally, one of the guys asked if we could meditate and chant a mantra! You see, this class is a mixture of the Path of Freedom curriculum (developed by Prison Mindfulness Institute) and a Buddhist meditation class. So, we ended with chanting the sound AH. AH is a primordial sound that some say is an expression of our basic unconditioned state of being. It is the first sound that an infant makes and is later combined with dHA and mHA. It is also the last sound we make at death with the exhalation of our last breath. We chanted AH for five minutes and a correction officer entered the chapel notifying us that our time was up.
We are all getting to know each other (for better or worse) quite well, and our relationships are less contrived. Our friendship is more open, honest, and genuine which is a true blessing.