Empowerment in Gothenburg, Sweden

Yesterday we held class number 8 with the group. The two new guys came back, as well as almost all of the steady participants. Last time the guard who was with us asked for a copy of the workbook, and this week he was back again for class commenting on how great the introduction to the workbook is. When we asked about their intention for this class one of the participants said he wanted to take the next step and that he had already read this weeks chapter. He also shared that he is doing 5 minutes of practice a day, in the evenings when he is alone. “Otherwise there is too much going on here to be able to focus”. Another participant said that he is not really a meditation guy, since he is more of a person who likes to move and do physical activities. But on the other hand he is curious and still wanting to figure out what this is all about. Finally, our most devoted participant had finished reading a book we donated by Jon Kabat-Zinn. During the check-in he shyly asked if anyone else in the class wanted it, he recommended it. I was touched by his gentle generosity.

Pake then led a ten minute meditation guiding them through the Raising Confidence that is also in the cell-practice for this week. When we got to the point of radiating out and sharing this confidence with others, two of the more restless participants moved and let go of their meditation posture. My interpretation was that they reacted somehow to the theme of being able or wanting to give and share with others. When Pake mentioned that this is just like a sun, radiating effortlessly, somehow the tension (that I felt) in the room shifted.

The theme of the Empowerment triangle became a great opportunity to recap the Drama-triangle, which most of them had missed. When Pake asked which role they most easily slipped into, a long victim story about the schedule being changed for the outdoor breaks came up. One participant went into several longish stories during the class, about the prison system and how all administrators and politicians are corrupted: thus really going into drama. But during one story he himself suggested that there were ways to get the information he was lacking, by asking for it. Pake pointed out that this was an act of taking radical responsibility and co-creating.

One of the new guys who listens very intently, leaning forward, said: isn’t there a risk with going into the victim role? Then you loose your power. This was a perfect bridge into a very good and clear discussion about power-over or power-with and self-power/empowerment. The co-creator image was a helpful way to talk about always being able to chose at least something, if nothing else: our attitude. Pake repeated several times that there is always a choice, and the participants seemed to ponder this carefully. The image of a hook that is bated and how we go for it also seemed to hit home. One guy remarked that he didn’t understand why some people created dramas and that he usually just watches on. This helped to make it clear that a drama for one person is nothing to another, also illustrating how the circumstances are neutral. The new attentive guy said that practicing self-observing is much easier here in prison, because life outside is usually too hectic. This was also great material to talk about seeing possibilities and making the best out of what is.

At the end they agreed that deep inside there is a part of us that is silent, beyond dramas, and we meditated in Noble Silence. A reminder of the connection between a still and silent body and a silent mind helped them to sit quite still for five minutes. The silence in the room felt pretty glorious to me! As usual I was thankful for the opportunity to be there and practice together.

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