It never ceases to fail; there are these moments when I’m sitting in a prison class where something opens up and it becomes glaringly apparent just how much this material is actually sinking in. It might be a reflection during our forgiveness class about the shared insanity and desire of trying to forgive the person who molested you —– or as it were yesterday, simply looking around the room and recognizing all the women meditating.
When we first started out this semester, it was all we could do to get the women to still enough to hear a word or two, let alone some key concepts from our Path of Freedom curriculum. But I have to say, over the course of three months, I’ve seen a significant shift in the settling of dust, if you will. Call it building trust, or learning to settle the mind — either way, some significant shift seem to have happened over these several months. One of main lessons I have taken from this semester, is learning how to show up in a way where we are actually meeting these women where they are. Kate (our most valiant and all accomplishing executive director) really paved the way, showing us how we can show up with an agenda, AND how we have to be ready (and able!) to drop it at a moments notice and offer what is needed — a skill, I’m SURE takes tremendous practice.
I’ve really noticed how these women (some which have taken the Path of Freedom class several times) have a certain kind of bravery and courage, not only to sit with the potential possibility of forgiveness or the willingness to look at creative ways of dealing with conflict, but also the bravery and courage it takes to simply sit and watch our breath, while in prison. I mean, really. I’m sure it’s not an easy place to be, let alone work with ones mind. Being on the outside is hard enough….
So with that said, going into these women’s units these past few months has really given rise to a deeper sense of hope. Just when we think that someone might be beyond change, maybe they’ll surprise us and sit still for several moments, without shaking their legs or twirling their hair…. OR maybe they’ll speak about wanting to find that place of forgiveness, even amongst their rage and pain, in their hearts for some of the most heinous of crimes.
We often reflect upon how prison is not only a place for the tainted, the criminal, the broken, the poor, the neglected; but how it is a place containing many people wanting to change…As was stated by the men in our Path of Freedom Video, prison can (and is) a place where people don’t just learn how to be a better criminal, but can (and do) learn how to better a person, that which I am witnessing week after week.
I’m honored to be part of the team going in to help support and evolve my own and others emotional reliance, social, emotional awareness and intelligence, deep listening skills, conflict resolution and communication skills —- all which is grounded in the practice of mindfulness & mediation. It’s a profound path of transformation, as many of you who are going in understand.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time, Francesca Nardelli Part of the PoF Team in RI