from KC Walpole:
Today was the first day of our third MBSR retreat. At one point this afternoon, there were 57 ladies on the mats and in total silence. About 2/3ds of the room had never sat a retreat and the room was silent and still. The number is truly strange because Lowell CI has a high turnover rate because of its function as an initial entry point for female inmates in North Florida that are farmed out to other prisons once spaces occur.
As impressive as the numbers were is as impressive their conduct was. Being as it was the first day, we had to turn our lunch count in early and we added 5 meals for those we figured would show up. Well, we ended up five meals short and no sooner was the shortage realized than people shared their lunches so many ended up on half rations. Now in the world of food this may not be a big thing but the willingness of those that had to share with those that did not have was nothing less than an example to be emulated by many on the outside.
Being as we came in after a 3 day week-end and had a very high percentage of new people, the ones that had been around set a very but very good example of getting things done and help the new people on the 10,000 details that go into a retreat that about 40 had never sat. for a couple of hours there were about 15 that had to sit on a cushion without a mat while we were finding paperwork to bring in the extra mats in my truck. They got their cushions and sat on the tile with no questions. Just did it. I have sat an awful lot of retreats both in and out of prison and I have to say that considering everything, this is one of the best starts I have yet to see.
Got about 25 interviews and the questions were good and when my turn came for questions the answers were with a great deal of animation. It was a good thing I had a scratch pad because there was a lot of individualistic homework and no way will I remember the tasks for the second round. Most got the distinction between the witness and the thinker but were unable to take the next step. Most were smokers and to a one, they had a wonderful opportunity to watch the cravings arise and then be able to watch and experience them. They got one smoke at lunch and one in the afternoon.
My only regret is that we will not have 10 days with them. That is the way it is today. Know I wish each and every one of you well. Do good and take care.
Yours in the Dharma
Kinloch C. Walpole
Gateless Gate Zen Center
Web Site: http://gatelessgate.org