Updated: Apr 21
Report by PMI Founder Fleet Maull: This was the Tibetan Buddhist Sunday at the prison. We did the Buddhist chants and then sat for about 20 minutes. There were 8 guys present. 7 of them are members of the Theravadin group. One is a member of the Tibetan group, and two consider themselves Zen Buddhists.
I spoke about the Lojong practice, a Tibetan mind training practice. “Leaning into” our experience is a key principle in Lojong's practice. I talked about the experience and focused on the suffering side of the experience. Both physical and psychological. Kind of a flash of our painful experience and our personal story or drama.
Then talked about Bearing Witness to our experience, which includes our emotions and dramas. A kind of acknowledgment and gentle attention to our suffering and confusion. Then we discussed Relaxing with our stories and emotions, giving them lots of room to settle naturally. Not trying to fix them or ignore them, but let them be as they are. And finally, learning to accept our experience as it is. This led to a discussion including the understanding that others also suffer and we all share this experience. How can we feel sympathy and connection to others whose experience is similar to ours?
We talked a bit about Tonglen practice (a Tibetan practice of exchanging oneself for others) but did not have enough time to practice it. During the next class, we may try practicing some tonglen. During our conversation, a couple of slogans (helpful short phases that support our mind training during our daily routine) naturally arose related to what we were talking about, which I elucidated upon.
One inmate gave an analogy of “Leaning In,” which I liked. He was a downhill skier. He said that skiing down a steep mountain with very bumpy terrain, we incline to lean backward because of our speed and hesitation because the snow mounds are constantly rising very quickly. But Leaning In is much more appropriate because you have more control of your skis and are able to make quick adjustments and turns from side to side around the snow mounds. He said it requires some fearlessness to go against one's habitual inclination to lean back. I liked that analogy!! I asked him if I could use it in my future talks. We had a brief funny discussion about copyrights, and he finally relented 🙂
Overall the discussion was lively, engaged, and joyful, with some suffering and hesitation included along the way.