I wanted to share a touching event that happened in the inmates meditation group a few weeks ago, when one of the inmates was guiding the meditation.
D. was part of the meditation group from its very first days. At first he was very quiet, and shared nothing. But he faithfully arrived to all the meditation sessions, and with time he opened up a little to the rest of us.
After a while he suddenly stopped arriving to the sessions. Before going into the meditation hall I would stroll around the department and say hello to everybody, and when I saw D. I would encourage him to join the session, and he would refuse. A while later he did come to one session, and when it ended, said that he had forgotten how good meditation was for him, and that now he saw that the times when one doesn’t feel like practicing and joining the group are actually the times when practicing is most important. After that, he began arriving regularly, sharing more and more often, and practicing with zeal.
Throughout my time of volunteering in that jail, I made sure to watch the inmates with an eye that keeps it in mind that each and every one of them might, one day, become my own teacher. I wanted to give the inmates a space not only for practicing but also for holding the group, instructing the meditation themselves. Being in an empowered place, a place of giving.
I put down meditation instructions, printed them and handed them out to the inmates, so that they could also practice when I wasn’t there. On each of my visits, I encouraged a different group member to give one guided meditation during the meeting. Most of the time they didn’t even use the printed instructions. With the group’s permission, and in response to a wish they had expressed, I reached an agreement with the head of the department that they would have, twice a week, a time slot on the daily schedule for practicing on their own, without my presence.
After half a year I left the place because I had moved to another town, and the volunteer who took my place told me how the story unfolded:
“D. is now one of the regular and dominant members of the group, and it was touching for me to read about the process he went through with the difficulties he had had when he began to practice.
“Duringmy welcome meeting with the group, on which the former volunteer was also present, the group told me that the inmates used to guide some of the meditations during the meetings. On the following meetings I repeatedly invited group members to guide the meditation, but it was clear they didn’t feel comfortable enough with me as yet, and so I didn’t push it.
“Once we had come to know each other better, there came a meeting when D. said he would like to guide a meditation next week. He arrived at the following session with the printed instructions, and guided it in a professional and confident manner. D. was given very good feedback by other group members and by myself, and it was evident that the experience was meaningful and empowering for him.”