"We have all made mistakes" -Teaching Mindfulness in Prisons

By: Buddhistdoor Date: 2016-04-22

Born in Hong Kong and based in Chilliwack, British Columbia, since 1994, Venerable Yin Kit Sik (also known as Sister Jessie) ordained as a Buddhist nun in Hong Kong in 1992 following a successful career as a podiatrist. Having begun teaching meditation in 2003she started going in to prisons and now teaches mindfulness meditation to inmates on a regular basis. Buddhistdoor caught up with Ven. Yin Kit on a recent visit to Hong Kong.

Buddhistdoor: Why did you decide to work with prison inmates?

Ven. Yin Kit: It just came up. I was invited by a psychiatric nurse to go in to prison to teach a self-care program to inmates who are healthy to look after inmates who are physically sick. I thought the best self-care was developing self-awareness, so I started teaching them mindfulness meditation. After we finished the initial two-year program, there was a request from inmates for me to keep going in. Those who had taken classes from me felt that it was very helpful—that they could calm themselves down, be less stressed, less reactive.

BD: How often do you go in?

VYK: I started going in once a month during the day, but the inmates said it was too little. Also, during the day they run all sorts of other programs for inmates, like anger management, and also they have designated jobs. So during the day hardly anybody can come to the meditation. Then a free slot appeared in the chapel on Thursday evening, so we started every Thursday.

BD: It’s interesting that you hold it in the chapel. Is it considered a religious activity?

VYK: No. I didn’t really want to do it in the chapel, but I didn’t have access to any program rooms after office hours. But it’s a neutral place and quite nice, nobody’s there, and it’s a place for respect, so I thought it could be quite conducive.

To read more of this interview with Venerable Yin Kit Sik by Buddhistdoor, click here.

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