Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Alabama Prisoners Practice Meditation and Reflection
Deep in the Bible Belt, an ancient Eastern practice is taking root in the unlikeliest of places: Alabama's highest-security prison ...
"For the first three days, the only thing we do is sit and focus on our breath," Young says. "This is to still the mind and get the mind sharp."
"You'll start feeling little stuff moving all around on your body," Young says. "Some guys can't handle this; some guys scream."...
... It's a rude awakening for some prisoners, Vipassana teacher Carl Franz says.
"Everyone's mind is kind of a Pandora's box, and when you have 33 rather serious convicts facing their past and their own minds, their memories, their regrets, rough childhood, whatever, their crimes, lots of stuff comes up," Franz says. ...
... Dr. Ron Cavanaugh, treatment director for the Alabama Department of Corrections, says many inmates put their defenses up, denying responsibility for their crimes and blaming others. But the meditation practice, he says, chips away at those defense mechanisms.
"They have nobody to talk to," Cavanaugh says. "So there's nobody that they can deny stuff with or project everything with."
Cavanaugh says inmates who go through the course have a 20 percent reduction in disciplinary action. But it hasn't been an easy sell in Alabama, a state known for harsh punishment policies like chain gangs and hitching posts.
"The Dhamma Brothers" is a documentary that filmmaker Jenny Phillips made about the prison meditation program.