After leaving the trap (a trap is a security space where one door closes behind the volunteers and another door opens in front of us leading inside the prison walls, electrified wire and guard towers) the remotely actuated door opens to a pathway lined by yellow, red and and multi-colored tulips. The smell of fresh cut grass mingles with the cool fresh air and the sky is patched with threatening dark clouds occasionally revealing bright blue sky. I arrive at my destination, “the battle room” where our meditation class is held. There are eight of us and I take a broom and clean the floor. A couple of the inmates remove some chairs, set up the portable shrine, arrange the meditation cushions and distribute the chants.
We do the Shambhala AM chants and sit for 15 minutes. Then a get well card is passed around for another meditation volunteer that just had a knee replacement. We discuss whether or not I can take the card outside the prison walls and give it to our friend. We decide that it is against the prison regulations and that if I got caught, I would loose my right to ever visit the prison again. So, they will keep the card and wait until that volunteer returns and then give it to him.
We talked about “letting go”. I read a lovely passage that a great Tibetan buddhist master wrote about the nature of mind. How when we grasp at our thoughts they become solid concepts that are like frozen water. How through the practice of meditation we can allow our thoughts to come and go without clinging to them and how that is like allowing our concepts to thaw and become like flowing water. We talked about how being in the present moment with mindful awareness provides us with a spacious perspective that is relaxing and peaceful, which allows up to let go. And we talked about how we are also tested by the demands and obstacles of of our post-meditation lives. We talked about how prison life is a great challenge and the guys expressed their appreciation and good fortune to have meditation practice as part of their prison life. We talked about how circumstances, whether hard or easy, pleasant or painful, is an opportunity to practice awareness, kindness and compassion. And we talked about how taking direct responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and actions is another way of saying we are willing to Let Go of our ingrained habitual patterns.
We meditated for 10 minutes contemplating the “letting go” state of mind. We ended with the dedication of merit chants.
We’re getting ready to move from the “battle room” to a new space in another building (the battle room is below the chapel that has amplified church music that is quite distracting for our practice). The new practice space is completely quiet and will no doubt aid our meditation practice.