Kate S. and I had been helping with a meditation class in a women’s jail for over a year when we took it over in October 2014 and began leading a Path of Freedom study group. This is our first experience teaching the POF curriculum and our first post to share our experiences.
We meet with 20-30 women each Friday afternoon for an hour to an hour and a half. We’ve fallen into a rhythm of taking two classes (two weeks) to work through each “session” from the workbook, with each class weaving short curriculum study & related exercises with several short meditation practices (sitting and walking). It is very experiential, avoiding long-winded lecturing on our part. We give two-part homework for participants to do between classes: 1) meditate for at least 5 minutes each day using any technique from the workbook, and 2) do a “cell practice” exercise from the lesson and write a 1-2 page reflection about it.
The meditation class was always popular, but women have been practically stampeding to get into our Path of Freedom class. Each week more women beg to be allowed in. The regulars keep thanking us for the class and many express that it is more concretely helpful than the other jail classes (anger management, life skills, etc). Not that these classes are not helpful. It’s that POF is somehow “different.” This Friday (yesterday), one woman said, “It keeps bringing us back to look at ourselves and how we contribute to our situation. Every week we have to look at ourselves.”
We’re seeing some amazing changes and growth, especially in the women who have been attending since the beginning, but also from a few who just joined us mid-curriculum. This week, a couple of women who were first time participants had gotten the reading assignment from their cell mates and did the homework on their own!
One of the most visible effects of the class is that a majority of the participants report that they are meditating on a regular daily or every other day basis since POF started. This contrasts with the previous year and a half of meditation class where virtually no one meditated on their own between classes.
Here is a touching little homework write-up from a woman who gave us permission to share it with you:
“My Future is Bright!”
“When I Meditate I Use My Mind as a tool for Releafe from pain anxiety and also frustration. By doing So I Alow myself the “Gap” of spase Between What My Action Should Be for the Current Issue. This Alows me to Be Able to see thing as they Are, as they should be and what they could Be. Which to me gives me a chance to make good choices for myself and anyone involved. This Is a very helpful skill One that should be used and practiced daily. I will use these skills from now on. It’s funny cause when I think of my whole experience of this year I would have to say It was for this reason. Just to get the skill of practice. And now I can make good choices for the future!”