Through the Winter Feast for the Soul prison outreach program, we are trying out Path of Freedom as a correspondence course for people in prison who could not otherwise access the program. The guys who are currently enrolled are from very diverse backgrounds but many of them are currently in ad seg (solitary/SHU) or have been in solitary for long stretches of time (8+ years) in the recent past. Despite the incredible challenges they are all persisting beautifully in engaging with the material and wonderfully honest and direct when they disagree, have questions, or don’t understand something.
Although we originally hoped that the guys would be able to move through it at approximately the same pace for a virtual feeling of sangha, it has ended up being self-paced by necessity – a couple guys are getting out soon so wanted to move through the program more quickly so they can complete it before they get out; others have lost materials due to cell searches/seizures, or have been unable to send mail for periods of time due to lockdown.
At the halfway point participants are invited to write 3 statements of learning from the course thus far, and also 3 appreciations about the course. Below are a few comments that I wanted to share with PMI and with other facilitators. It was powerful to read these as some of the guys have been quite brief in the worksheets they are sending in, so it has been hard with some of them to know if the material is really speaking to them. But clearly the guys are getting a lot out of it.
Statements of learning from the course thus far:
I have learned that I really don’t want to let you all down. Nor myself.
I have learned that this POF course means more to me than I initially thought it would.
To take calmness and breath when a problem comes up.
It’s all in my hands.
Meditation is very healthy to control the monkey-mind.
I have learned that it’s good to articulate your thoughts in writing.
Appreciations about the course:
I appreciate the door of change this course opens for me.
I appreciate that POF allows me to look at myself and my actions from a different perspective.
I appreciate that POF gives me direct feedback to help solidify my understanding.
I appreciate my mindfulness practice and the knowledge & insight I’ve received.
The new learning techniques.
I appreciate the opportunity for change.
Thanks so much to Carter, Kate and Fleet for all your work to develop this program. What a wonderful offering, not only for the guys taking the program but for the facilitators too. It is a cliche to say I’m receiving so much more from volunteering than I’m giving, but honestly I do feel totally blown away by the relationships with these guys and with the other facilitators. This sangha is so precious.