Saturday, October 10, 2009
The Sound Of One Handcuff Clapping: Meditation In Prison
I've always thought that the inner mind is the ultimate retreat, something that nobody else can touch. It's very encouraging to see this happen- in of all places- a prison in Alabama. Here's the complete article from CNN:
RIVERDALE, Georgia (CNN) -- In his darkest moment, Kenneth Brown lost it all. His wife and kids, the housebroken dog, the vacation home on Cape Cod all vanished when he was sent to prison for an arson in 1996.
In 2007, the documentary "The Dhamma Brothers" explored Alabama's Vipassana program.
Trapped in his gloomy cell and serving a 20-year sentence that felt like an eternity, Brown, then 49, found himself stretched out on the floor. He was silent. His eyes were shut. His body did not move.
Brown, a man raised as a Baptist and taught to praise the Lord and fear the devil, was meditating.
"I try to focus on the space between two thoughts, because it prevents me from getting lost," said Brown, who discovered meditation, yoga and Buddhist teachings three months into his sentence.
"This helped me stay on track and get me through prison," he said.
Meditation can help the convicts find calmness in a prison culture ripe with violence and chaos. The practice provides them a chance to reflect on their crimes, wrestle through feelings of guilt and transform themselves during their rehabilitative journey, Buddhist experts say.
In the past five years, books like the "Prison Chaplaincy Guidelines for Zen Buddhism" and "Razor-Wire Dharma: A Buddhist Life in Prison" have emerged.
"This is transformative justice, as opposed to punitive," said Fleet Maull, founder of the Prison Dharma Network, one of the largest support networks helping inmates learn meditation and Buddhist teachings.
Some inmates, like Brown, may not label themselves official Buddhists, but they meditate, practice yoga and follow Buddhist principles on truth, responsibility and suffering.
The practice of meditation seeped into the heart of the Bible Belt in 2002. The Donaldson Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Alabama, was notorious for violence. But a group of male inmates, including several murderers, completed a Vipassana meditation retreat that required more than 100 hours of meditation in 10 days.
Brown, now 62, resides in Georgia to be near his family. He says he was wrongfully convicted of arson. In 2005, a Massachusetts appeals judge reduced his sentence from 20 years to nine.
His body was motionless, his eyes closed and the palms of his hands facing upward.
These days, Brown's practice of mediation helps him tackle the challenges of being unemployed with a felony record. The college graduate has been rejected from jobs catching stray dogs and cleaning hotel rooms.
But he's got a lot to be thankful for: His daughters, his grandchildren -- and meditation, he said.
"I finally feel at peace."
(D.R.)- This article really made me reflect on the power of introspective faith, our inner cosmology and the human spirit.
Here's a link to "The Prison Dharma Network"