By Annie Won, Path of Freedom graduate, July 9, 2013
We had about 35 min to meet with the two prisoners. We checked in with the two prisoners. The first prisoner was his usual pleasant self and the second was eager to “get in some discussion.” I began with about 5 min of sitting meditation, getting a sense of feeling the breath in our whole body, then 10 min of vinyasa yoga (emphasis on grounding and heart-opening). The other volunteer led 10 min of a focused meditation and we had a 15 min discussion focused on the questions in the end of the chapter, where we went around in a circle discussing our feelings on our respective questions (so in that regard, the men did not have to reveal their obstacles per se but rather what came up for them in confronting them.
The prisoner mentioned that he was prone to endless mindchatter and was working on keeping it at bay, to which I reassured him as normal and glad to hear. The other prisoner found meditation difficult, especially sitting on the cushions with a bad back. I offered some suggestions (ex. sitting in a chair which would offer back support), and the other volunteer emphasized good posture either way. The prisoner said that he had trouble coming up with his obstacles then teared up as he detailed how his Native American tradition requires that he pray with tobacco and that he was in for life and forbidden to have his tobacco, and it was very upsetting to him. The other prisoner and I then gently asked him whether he had said what he had been meaning to say, and that perhaps we could see a bit into what he’d already said. The prisoner was having trouble putting his “obstacle” into words. Our group offered that perhaps the obstacle was internal and external — external prison system, internal conflict of having a practice despite the circumstances. The other prisoner then mentioned how he had been going to every other religious offering at the prison, hoping to make something his own in the absence of something that was really his. I then mentioned that our meditative practice could easily be non-sectarian and could benefit him in providing some comfort to his situation. The volunteer offered the Native American tale of the two wolves — feed the good or bad wolf. It is your choice. The prisoner then mentioned that it seems impossible to meditate in a prison environment with so much external conflict every moment of the day. I offered the suggestion one breath before the next moment, if not only to experience what it feels like to experience what your role is, where everyone else’s role is, and what that whole puzzle looks like, and how it all demands your piece of the puzzle to play — but you don’t have to. Either way, that one breath, a moment’s time of reflection, before the action.
The CO then called movement and we adjourned. The volunteers and I believe the prisoners will be back, or at least we hope so. And hopefully the other guys, who were on lockdown 2 weeks ago will also show up.