Meditation

Winter Feast for the Soul Prison In-Reach

Winter Feast for the Soul Prison In-Reach Program (www.winterfeastforthesoul.com) is dedicated to creating a global community through a shared 40-day commitment to a daily spiritual practice of meditation or prayer. The 40-day period runs from Jan. 15 – Feb 23.

In 2009 a small Buddhist Sangha in Boise, Idaho brought Winter Feast brochures to the local men‘s incarceration center, where they were teaching meditation. 10 prisoners signed up for the Winter Feast that year. This started us thinking about how we could support incarcerated individuals with finding inner peace by developing a spiritual practice. Since then, we have expanded our outreach through a journal for prisoners known as Freedom Inside and individual coaching. Our outreach program now includes about 50 volunteer spiritual practitioners or coaches who correspond regularly with prisoners who would like support with their spiritual practices during the Feast and year-round.

Maya Davila

The Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team

For almost ten years,  Ananda Marga volunteer Steven Landau has run a weekly yoga program at Wake Correctional Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.   This voluntary two hour class includes Ananda Marga instruction on yoga postures, philosophy, kirtan, and meditation.  Once a month, the prisoners are even treated to a vegetarian meal.  Many participants have responded positively to the classes, reporting less aggression and higher levels of relaxation and physical well being.

In 2008, Landau reported findings in a study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy correlating regular attendance of prison yoga classes with a much lower rate of re-incarceration.  190 inmates of varying race and religious beliefs attended at least one class, and 54 of those returned several times, attending at least four classes.  Of the released men who frequented classes, only four (8%) were subsequently re-incarcerated, compared to the 28  men (25%) of  the non-frequenting group who found themselves back in prison within 2-3 years.

Joined a growing number of volunteers, the program has expanded to six jails and prisons for both men and women across the state of North Carolina, with plans to expand even further and reach inmates at every correctional facility in the state.

These findings suggest that yoga can be taught safely in correctional facilities, and that offenders can use these classes to better themselves physically and seek out a more peaceful and relaxed life. Those who utilize this program lessen their chances of falling victim to what is often a cycle of repeat offending and multiple visits to prison.

Steven Landau

A small group of volunteers who serve as Buddhist Chaplains in the Los Angeles County Jails and the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

Gary Koan Janka
Attica Prison Group

Our group at Attica is a non-sectarian meditation group, meeting every Thursday night for about 2 hours of meditation and a little period for Questions & Discussion afterward. The group was originally started years ago, then languished after a few years. Recently there had been much interest in some of the inmates to re-establish the group, and the Attica Chaplains were considering doing so and leading it themselves, even though they were untrained in meditation (to show how powerful inmates’ were becoming!). Just at that juncture, I was given a contact to the former leader, who then directed me to the Chaplain been the original Volunteer Advisor for him. I called her immediately, and was joyously received! The inmates, the Advisor, and of course, I too, were all overjoyed to have found one another just at the right moment!

I have been a member of the Rochester Zen Center for some 40 years, and sitting with the inmates has challenged and deepened my own practice, as well as giving me an opportunity to give something back to the Dharma after so many years of receiving the teaching freely given.

Dwain Wilder- Prison Dharma Desk, Rochester Zen Center

Weekly meditation classes are taught by volunteers at the Suffolk County House of Corrections (the Boston county jail). Drawing from the meditation traditions of Buddhism, mindfulness, yoga, and the martial arts, the program has been successful. Richard Geller has taught since 1996, and Janine Marra since 2010.

Richard Geller/Janine Marra

Tampa Bay prison meditation projects affiliated with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship  (There is no BBF prison work, but the Tampa Bay BPF website does have a recently updated prison information page:

http://www.floridanastuff.com/BPF/bpfmtg.htm

Prisons Served: Hardee Correctional Inst, Bowling Green FL – Sponsored by Southern Palm Zen Group, Boca Raton FL (http://floridazen.com/prison/). Three other volunteers also regularly visit with this group – usually one volunteer each week.
Avon Park Correctional Institution, Avon Park FL, Sponsored by Hokori Zen Center, Lakeland (http://www.hokorizencenter.org/).  One other volunteer also visits. One or both of us visit monthly.

Rick Ferris, Frank Tedesco

Comienzos is an educational, therapeutic program serving men and women who are incarcerated at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. We teach the skills and cultivate the awareness that is needed for men and women to live in freedom.

Our classes include:

* Learning and Practice in Nonviolent Communication, as developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg;
* Meditative practices, including seated meditation, T’ai Chi Chih, and yoga; and,
* 12 Step Recovery

Robert Cliff Wilkie

For the past ten years, Heart Mountain Prison Project (HMPP), a qualified 501(c)(3), has provided non-denominational meditation and yoga classes at six prisons and juvenile facilities throughout New Mexico.

Meditation and awareness classes at 5 adult prisons in NM. Classes at the Santa Fe juvenile detention facility include yoga, Native American drumming, and theater games. Weekly meditation classes and weekend workshops at adult prisons.

Prisons Served: currently at 2 facilities: medium security in Santa Rose, NM and the Santa Fe Youth Authority. Plans to expand to more facilities.

Doug Booth

Lalitamba Mandiram offers outreach programs in places where people are in transition, searching for a way back to the heart. Our workshops have served thousands in hospitals, shelters, prisons, and spiritual centers of various faiths. Yoga, meditation, and sacred music are universal ways to rediscover ourselves.

The temple is affiliated with the URI-UN Council and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Our offerings are inspired by the selfless example and unconditional love of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi.

We are a non-demonitational group at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago. We meet once a week for an hour. We practice Mindfulness Meditation (Vipassana) and follow some of the protocol of MBSR, and Prison Mindfulness Institute. I am most interested in being in contact with other groups which are trying to introduce meditation into Correctional facilities, without the mantle of Buddhism.

Scott Chambers
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