As some of you know, I have been practicing on and walking down the Shambhala Path since beginning my work with Kate Crisp (our incredibly wise and dedicated executive director) and founder of PMI, Fleet Maull almost two years ago. It is a path which is quite extraordinary and yet ordinary at the same time. One of my favorite sayings from this path, or at least one that sticks with me, is a statement appreciated by the master of a man who courageously brought these teachings to the west. The saying goes:
And, so I’d like to explore it a bit more. I suppose you might be wondering how this could possibly relate to a blog about working in prisons? I’m trying here, so stay with me and let’s see how and if it works out in the end!
Sitting in the women’s Path of Freedom class yesterday morning for the first time in months, I saw just how deeply our connection to emotions are. There was not one male in the room, so it was a completely raw and unfiltered experience of being with other women. There were tears and excitement, confusion and anger, needs and desire. There was a lot of energy moving around and the women didn’t seem to have any sort of strainer in which to filter these feelings that were arising – other then what we we teaching through our unit on the Drama triangle.
Flash forward a few hours and there I find myself: sitting, in a freezing cold room without heat, in the men’s minimum prison at the ACI – just a couple of buildings from the women’s medium security unit, yet seemingly, lifetimes of experiences away from the other. The men, in this particular class anyway, seem to be a lot less engaged and/ or interested then in comparison to the women’s unit. They just kind of sat there…staring into space. Maybe a form of enlightenment? Or were they checking out? At one point one of our facilitators asked a very specific question to the 22 men sitting in that room. “Where have you found yourself being a victim this week?” He had to ask it several times, before one of the guys finally checked back in, mirroring the rest of the room by saying “I’m sorry, I was totally check out, can you repeat the question again?”
Okay, so there’s some background to further explore this quote…women are crazy and men are stupid. I notice that emotions can lean towards crazy (AND stupid) making in both men and women, unless they are skillfully shepherded – namely what we call Emotional Intelligence and have integrated into our Path of Freedom curriculum. So, perhaps it’s not a woman / man thing here after all – sure, we women seem to have easier access to our tears and sadness (“crazy”) and men seem to have mastered the act of checking out and dis-engaging (“stupid”), but according to Daniel Goleman (see emotional intelligence link above) we both actually house the ability to have equal access to our emotional intelligence, just in different ways. Ways, that left unchecked, often appear as “crazy” (crying at the drop of a dime) or “stupid” (checking out and ignoring things) – yet the beauty of this is that, when skillfully managed, we women tend to have a quicker route to empathy and men seem to have a faster route to managing stress. Hmmmm. Maybe we’re not crazy after all. Or stupid.
It seems, that with the right training, we can integrate ourselves with more intelligence. Thank goodness for the handy training we call the Path of Freedom!
Again, another day in which I go home with the belief that I am working for the right organization.
Thanks for reading!
Until Next Time,