For over a decade, Sister Elaine MacInnes has struggled to raise enough funds to keep her small charity, which offers meditation and yoga to inmates, afloat.
Freeing the Human Spirit has faced an uphill battle since MacInnes first started it in 2001, when Ottawa bureaucrats initially told her there was no place for her in the correctional system.
MacInnes didn’t take no for an answer, creating her own spot in the prison system by contacting local prison officials and convincing them of the program’s merits one at a time. She and volunteers are quick to tout the program, saying it’s been able to expand …
I want to address the issue of compassion. Compassion has many faces. Some of them are fierce; some of them are wrathful; some of them are tender; some of them are wise. A line that the Dalai Lama once said, he said, “Love and compassion are necessities. They are not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” And I would suggest, it is not only humanity that won’t survive, but it is all species on the planet, as we’ve heard today. It is the big cats, and it’s the plankton.
Two weeks ago, I was in Bangalore in India. I was so privileged to be able to teach in a hospice on the outskirts of Bangalore. … Read more »
Vipassana—a form of meditation in which practitioners train themselves to observe bodily sensations without reacting to them—has a growing reputation for helping addicts. “I nearly walked out three times during my first course,” Alex, a former heroin user from England, tells The Fix. “It was so painful to observe all the negativity I had stored away inside me.” But the results were impressive: “Cravings do not effect me like they used to. If I have a craving, I just observe it and it passes away.” Vipassana teaches the mind not to react to the emotions and thoughts that result in harmful behavior; adherents …
Melissa Russo: Some of New York City’s angriest teens are learning the way to a more peaceful path with a little help from the Buddha.
Inside the Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center in Brownsville, the contrast between the street kids in their orange detention suits and the monks in their brown robes could not be more pronounced.
The group of monastics files into the facility, and they’re unlike anything these kids have seen in their neighborhood: soft-spoken, barefoot and bald.
“It was pretty interesting,” said one 15-year-old. “I didn’t think they were real.”
“When I saw them walk through the door, I was …
Lauren Villagran: Teenage boys shuffle into a cramped room. Wearing the same navy blue sweatpants and white undershirts, they sit cross-legged on yoga mats laid out on the floor. Thick scars on forearms and biceps are apparent as they stretch their hands to their knees and shut their eyes.
Yoga instructor – and ex-convict – Fredy Díaz Arista begins guiding a meditation aimed at relaxing the group of 10 young offenders. Among them and their peers, about 300 youth in this Mexico City jail, the crimes range from drug abuse to robbery, assault, and murder.
“How long can you stand yourselves with your…
Sanjeev Shivadekar: Meditation is the latest mantra which the state administration is keen on adopting to enhance efficiency in Mantralaya [the administrative headquarters of the state government of Maharashtra in South Mumbai].
At a recent meeting with senior bureaucrats, chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad advised babus to consider conducting vipassana and meditation courses to enhance the output of the administration. Gaikwad also recommended these techniques to the student community as well as a tool for prison reforms.
“Vipassana is a methodology that helps one gain control over the mind, which helps in increasing work efficiency. I start my day with meditation and it really…
Allan Turner (Houston Chronicle): Hung. Or gyen yul gyi nub jang tsam.
Barefooted, eyes closed in reverie, bodies folded into lotus position, the men in white chanted the ancient Seven Line Supplication to Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century.
As their voices swelled, their leader, Galveston artist Terry Conrad, swayed with the cadence. Pe ma gey sar dong pol la. Yam Tsen chog gi ngo drub nyey
This could have been a scene from a 1960’s love-in, with college-age acolytes – decked out in exotic garb – paying fervid homage to the wisdom of the East. But these men were not students, and…
Emmanuel Samoglou: A few weeks back, while Stephen Harper was on the hustings selling a tough-on-crime agenda, Sister Elaine MacInnes was in a Brampton prison hugging convicted criminals.
“I hugged them all,” the 87-year-old Catholic nun and Zen master says warmly, recalling her visit with about 50 inmates at the Ontario Correctional Institute, where she conducted a meditation class.
Sister Elaine — as she’s widely known — is the founding director of Freeing the Human Spirit (freeingspirit.com), a registered charity that provides yoga and meditation programs to inmates in provincial and federal correctional institutions in Southern Ontario. A Zen master of the Sanbo Kyodan, based in Kamakura, Japan, she spent 32 years in the East, … Read more »
One of the most frustrating things in my life is that for the last few months, because of a change in my wife’s work schedule, I haven’t been able to get up to the prison I’ve been teaching in for the last seven years. I miss the guys there. I regard them as part of my “sangha” (spiritual community). I have great respect for them as spiritual practitioners because of the sheer effort they have to make in order to remain sane and balanced in a very challenging environment. Not only do they stay sane and balanced, but some of them bring about huge changes in their lives. I regard many of them as friends.… Read more »
Deep in the Bible Belt, an ancient Eastern practice is taking root in the unlikeliest of places: Alabama’s highest security prison.
Behind a double electric fence and layers of locked doorways, Alabama’s most violent and mentally unstable prisoners are incarcerated in the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility outside Birmingham. Many of them are here to stay. The prison has 24 death row cells, and about a third of the approximately 1,500 prisoners are lifers with no chance of parole.
“You’re dealing with the worst offenses that have been committed by humans in the state of Alabama,” says Gary Hetzel, the warden at Donaldson.
The lockup has a history of inmate stabbings, deaths and suicides and … Read more »