Updated: May 26, 2020
When the guys at juvie asked why I haven’t been there for the past month, I told them I have been travelling the world. It’s probably not likely, at least statistically, that many of these guys will get a chance to see other countries and travel to faraway places, but I firmly believe that for each one of them it is a definite possibility. I tried to tell them this, that if they want to travel someday, they will be able to. I want to let them know that pretty much any dream they dream now can absolutely come true. One guy replied by asking me if I got any “boom-boom” in my weeks away, and I figured it was a good time to get into some meditation.
We had three new guys this week so I started off with the being still meditation. “Do whatever you want” I told them, “just don’t move at all.” They managed the challenge for about five seconds until one got uncomfortable and started looking around and another burst out laughing. As we went to start again, the guy who couldn’t control his laughing asked if he could put his head on his desk, which I thought was a good idea, and we made it through the minute. There was a little twitch at around 40 seconds, but I wasn’t going to get that tough.
A minute is a very short amount of time, but it is long enough for someone new to meditation to come up against their mind. It is amazing for them to realize that sitting still for a minute is actually a feat, and to experience their whizzing minds bang like flying birds into the glass wall of stillness. So this worked as a way into talking about meditation. We talked about working out and the looping thoughts that keep us awake, and the things we’ve done when we weren’t really in control of ourselves.
We moved into about five minutes of meditation. I introduced the practice of feeling the breath coming in and out in the body. And the practice of forgetting about the breath completely, and then bringing oneself back to it. It seems to me that half of meditation is feeling the breath, and the other half is getting distracted by everything else, letting the distractions come and go, and coming back to the breath. I asked the laughing guy, who had been to the group once before, a few months prior, if he had meditated at all since the last time I saw him. “No,” he told me, “but I have breathed plenty.” While I hope that the guys get into practicing more outside of class, I am encouraged that at least the idea of the link between meditation and breath had stuck for him.
We moved from meditation into a few yoga positions. As we balanced in tree pose, the words of Path of Freedom facilitator and yoga teacher John Gillard came to my mind: “falling off balance and coming out of the pose is just as much a part of it as staying balanced.” So it is for yoga, for meditation, and for life. I hope for the guys in there, for myself, and for all of us, that we can begin to see our fallings off as just as much a part of it as our moments of balance. And with that understanding, keep coming back to center, rooting into the earth, and spreading our branches high.