Monday, September 5, 2011

Meditation helps inmates reach 'natural awareness'

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle. There are more and more of these meditation programs for inmate being employed around the country - and in every instance that I have heard of the results have been very positive. Rehabilitation vs punishment - for these men, and many others like them, the choice seems obvious.

Meditation helps inmates reach 'natural awareness'

Saturday, September 3, 2011

BEAUMONT - 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 their attire was anything but exotic.

They are inmates at Beaumont's Mark Stiles state prison; their duds, functional prison whites. And, under Conrad's gentle guidance, they were here to meditate.

Now in its eighth year, the weekly program offered through the prison chaplain's office, is designed to help prisoners, some guilty of the most heinous offenses, achieve "natural awareness."

"Meditation," Conrad said, "is not about creating a certain state. It's just an opportunity to be present to whatever is going on. Sometimes that's quiet and peaceful, other times the mind is going 100 mph." Such awareness can help the individual "become who they truly are - innately good and wise and compassionate."

"How has this changed me?" said John Harrup, 39, of Magnolia, who has been part of the class since its inception. "I was a different person when I came in here. It has taught me to be more patient, how to deal with people. In laymen's terms, how to communicate better, how to understand another person's viewpoint, to realize that my way is not always the right way."

Read the whole article.

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