Updated: May 26, 2020
“I’m cool now – 65 degrees and Sunny. Chance of showers later on you know – I mean you never know what’s coming up next right?” I love getting to learn from the guys in Juvie. I learn something each week, but is particularly cool when I learn something about what I am supposed to be facilitating. We start all our classes with weather reports – describing how we are feeling, in weather language. While last week someone said they are snowing hot neon green blizzard snow, normally people say sunny, cloudy, windy, foggy… with some room for playfulness.
It is a nice exercise because we can honestly inquire into what is real for us, and then share it openly, but masked by a simple metaphor that makes it possible for folks to share who wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable talking about their real feelings. “I’m good man,” or “Feeling cool, calm, and collected,” are responses I hear alot in the men’s prison when we don’t use the weather words. This week though, a young guy in class got to the core of the exercise – we don’t know what tomorrow or even an hour from now may bring, and it isn’t really up to us to control or even predict. But we can be whatever we are now – sunny, rainy, neon blizzarding…
One guy was fresh from court this week, where he had sat all day, not been seen, and had only “astronaut food” to eat. So he was herded into class with his ration of two individual packages of sugar cereal, a carton of milk, and a package of oreos. Not so nutritious, in my opinion. I told him to meditate on the food he was eating, the taste, texture, feeling of eating. I had a laptop this week, so I opened up the eleven second video of Lebron James meditating and put it in the circle of chairs with us. I told them if he can meditate surrounded by thousands of screaming fans, they can do it while their friend slurps cereal (intentionally loudly, it seemed to me) It was not easy for them – lots of laughing – but I think they got my point.
I played a short clip from Real Talk – an amazing project done a few years back by The Mind-Body Awareness Project, and Stronghold sound, focusing on the topic of Who Am I? The audio asks them “Who are you?” and “What do you care about most?” tough questions for anyone, but well worth reflecting on, especially for these guys, who have plenty of time to reflect. We then did a little writing, where I asked them to find a quiet spot in the room and write some answers to these questions – the first things that popped into their mind. This is a much simpler exercise than the Who Am I? process that we do with adults
Francesca ended class with a breathing exercise, and then a couple minutes of yoga. The yoga was unplanned, but when one of our guys said “Is the difference between meditation and yoga just that yoga is only for women?” we felt compelled to do some warrior poses. We left laughing, as usual.
P.S. For all the folks out there working doing, or interested in doing, meditation with youth in tough circumstances – we are beginning our study group October 1st! In our first meeting we will be introducing ourselves, our backgrounds, and our current work. Prison Mindfulness Director Vivienne Kate Crisp will be facilitating, and we can look forward to hearing about the different amazing, creative programs you all have worked on for the benefit of youth across the globe! Going forward, each monthly meeting will have a different facilitator, leading a discussion around a particular topic relevant to Mindfulness & Youth. I am most excited for this first meeting though, for you to get introduced to each other and inspired by the strength of the movement that we are all a part of! I will post a link to the meeting on the site, but if you are interested, please comment below, and I will add you to the email list.