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 »
Most Americans got their last glimpse of Bob Ney in 2006 when the powerful Ohio representative resigned his office and left Washington to begin a 30-month term in federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va. A player in the Jack Abramoff scandal, Ney was a disgraced Republican with a drinking problem and an expanding waistline.
Today, he has been reborn as a sober and slimmed-down follower of the Dalai Lama and is studying meditation techniques with Tibetan monks at a Buddhist temple in India.
Ney is spending his days in Dharamsala, trying to master the Tibetan language and eagerly awaiting the return of the Dalai Lama and the chance to hear more of the exiled religious leader’s … Read more »
Prison inmates can find hope and healing through meditation and yoga, students at a local high school found out this week, in a presentation on the work of Sister Elaine MacInnes and her charity, Freeing the Human Spirit.
“Every day, 36,000 Canadians wake up in prison cells,” Cheryl Vanderburg, Freeing the Human Spirit’s program co-ordinator, told her teenage audience at Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School, Wednesday morning, Nov. 10.
“More than half the people in prison are victims of child abuse. The majority have unstable job history. Every day, I go into prisons and I see kids like yourselves. They’ve done something stupid and gotten caught.”
Vanderburg was a guest speaker during the high … Read more »
Bangladesh has introduced a meditation course for its jail inmates with prison officials saying the pioneering work at India’s Tihar jail prompted them to launch the service to reform prisoners.
“In the past three years of my experience as the prison chief, I saw same people are coming back to jail committing the same crime as our routine counselling service appeared to be of little use. They actually need spiritual and mental purification,” Inspector General of Prisons Brigadier General Mohammad Ashraful Islam Khan told PTI.
Khan, an army doctor with expertise in preventive medicine serving as the prison chief on deputation, said that he expected the course would help to rectify prisoners and prevent recurrence … Read more »
In a sense we all live in a prison, but a life of literal confinement can force us to confront our existential situation — and our need for change — with unflinching honesty.
As the subtitle indicates, this is a collection of writings; of the nine chapters comprising the body of this text five appear to be written while the author was still in prison. A sixth chapter appears to have been composed within two weeks of his release. The remaining three chapters recount the nature and experience of the author in relation to practicing the Buddha’s path.
… Read more »
Title: Dharma in Hell: The Prison Writings of Fleet Maull
Author: Fleet Maull
Laura Sygrove teaches downward dogs to downtrodden kids. The 33-year-old yoga instructor, certified in 2005 for clocking 800-plus hours of pretzelled enlightenment, is executive director of the New Leaf Yoga Foundation, which brings yoga and meditation to youth detention centres throughout southern Ontario. Ms. Sygrove spoke to the Post’s Nick Aveling about teaching young offenders to take a deep breath.
Q So you go to prison and teach kids yoga?
A Yeah, New Leaf goes into youth custody facilities. We also run a couple projects for youth outside of custody who have been identified as at-risk. It was founded by a group of us who are all yoga practitioners and teachers who ourselves have been … Read more »
For six years, I’ve been traveling up to the state prison for men in Concord New Hampshire, where I help, with other volunteers, to run a meditation and Buddhist study group. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and every visitor from outside the walls who has ever visited the group has come away feeling inspired. Our inmate practitioners live in very challenging circumstances, and meditation is their lifeline to sanity — therefore they practice with an intensity that puts many Buddhists “on the outside” to shame.
One of our inmates, Bob, makes malas — the Buddhist rosaries that people use when chanting mantras — and we’ve started selling them on our … Read more »
The qigong meditative class begins with instructor David Ezra asking the participants if they have any worries this week.
A burly man with tattoos running down his arms speaks up.
“Any little thing will set me off,” Sonny Mitchell says.
Ezra tells Mitchell to control his emotions and then instructs all the men in orange jumpsuits to stand in two rows of five or six. He turns on a portable CD player, which plays soothing melodies.
Several feet away, Deputy Frank Oathout, a guard at County Jail in Martinez, watches to ensure the inmates behave while they’re performing their slow movements and controlled breathing techniques.
Mitchell was arrested on suspicion of stealing a car and … Read more »
Prisoners in Myanmar jails, sometimes accompanied by warders and other prison staff, are studying meditation and Buddhist doctrine as more courses on Dhamma are being offered to inmates.
The first course, in 2008, took place at Insein prison and attracted 50 prisoners and was followed by a second course for younger prisoners.
In 2009, meditation courses were held for the first time at Tharyarwady prison in Bago Division. Four more have been conducted at Tharyarwady since then, while three courses have been held at Mandalay prison.
The instructors are provided by the Dhamma Joti Centre, on behalf of S N Goenka, a leading teacher of Vipassana (insight) meditation. The Vipassana method was preserved in Myanmar … Read more »
Participants in the popular weekly course at L.A. County’s Men’s Central facility say the techniques they learn for relaxation and self-control couldn’t be more useful in their environs.
“Eyes closed, heads down. Focus on your breathing.”
The men in the sanctuary obediently followed their Buddhist chaplain’s command, bowing their cleanly shaven heads and beginning their meditation exercises. A bell chime hung in the air before melting into silence.
Most of the men were new to the relaxation technique, seeking to add a little Zen to their lives. But the venue for this course was not a posh studio in Silver Lake or Santa Monica.
These men were trying to get in touch with their chi … Read more »