Reply by Paul McIvor on July 16, 2008 at 8:38am (reply is migrated from a closed group on this site)
For those who haven't (yet) been tormented by me, I'm Paul McIvor in Toronto, Canada. I've been a volunteer with PDN for I think 6 years and the rather grandly named 'Buddhist volunteer' attached to Maplehurst CC here in Ontario. I count a long correspondence with an inmate in Pelican Bay (right through to his release) as one of the inspiring moments of my life.
I am doing my MA in religion through distance learning at the University of South Africa. The focus is on the volunteer experience - looking at how and why people volunteer through organizations like PDN. My approach is a hybrid of qualitative and quantitative research. It's more like the anthropology of religion if you like. The plan is to do in-depth interviews with about 10 volunteers and then develop a questionnaire based on that work. I hope to have something to share with folks here in the late fall.
Comment by Bonnie Shoultz on April 14, 2008 at 8:35pm(reply is migrated from a closed group on this site)
A Dharma sister and I recently began a service (zazen, chanting, kinhin, reading/discussion) at Auburn Correctional Facility in Auburn NY--this is a maximum security facility, and to come to the service the men must have registered as Buddhists. A man can come as a guest three times before having to change religious registration. I'd love to hear more from both Dr. Alan Marlatt and Dr. Tom O'Conner. My friend and I have offered to help Auburn start a non-religious meditation program to which anyone could come, but I don't know whether they'll want to go that far; they're just getting used to us. I wonder whether Dr. O'Conner or the group mentioned by Kobai Scott Whitney might be able to help our Dept. of Corrections to understand the issues. We've had two-four men at each service, and just began in mid-March. I've been told more would come to a non-denominational meditation program, because they wouldn't have relinquish their other religious affiliations (a Quaker came as a guest, for example).
I sponsor three programs in the Texas system and have a Lojong correspondence course, through Project Clear Light, that will earn a Buddhist inmate a free mala upon completion. For some time it has been necessary for an inmate to be Buddhist to come to our weekly sessions. Once a month it was open for guests. However, since Texas has come under the ACA guidelines it is no longer necessary to be Buddhist to attend either with or without a lay-in. If someone wants to participate, they can just come to the session, if they want to get a lay-in so that there is no hassle getting off the pod, then they send me a note and I enter them on the list. This has worked pretty well without having to go through all of the paperwork for a travel card change.
Comment by Genko Blackman on April 15, 2008 at 4:43pm(reply is migrated from a closed group on this site)
I've been doing a non-denominational meditation group at a facility in Washington state to support the 12-step programs (the 11th step calls for prayer and meditation as a way to deepen contact with the higher power) and have had quite a number of non-Buddhists attend.
We have the whole range of folks, from experienced meditators looking for a quiet supportive place to sit to absolute beginners for whom it is a victory to stay put for ten breaths.
We meet for 1 1/2 hours at a time, and aim for about half of that in meditation and the other half in discussion and instruction.
My name is Neil Cohen, I am executive director of Naljor Prison Dharma Service. Through this service, we provide a selection of Buddhist Dharma teachings, a 29-page Resource Directory for Prisoners, and the Personal Development Sponsorship Program to men and women in prison throughout the USA. We are actively looking to increase our team of sponsors for the Personal Development Sponsorship Program. Through this program, we connect a person on the outside with an incarcerated person inside, to help support their personal and spiritual development and continuing education when they have no family or friends to assist them in making a better life for themselves. If you are interested please contact me or you may view more information about this excellent sponsorship program at www.naljorprisondharmaservice.org.
My name is Michal. I am from Israel.
I volunteer in prison. I guide a meditation group for two years.
In addition to that, I organize meditation groups in 13 more prisons, and I hope in the near future to open meditation groups for prison guards. My volunteers are from different practices: Tibetan Buddhism, Thich nhat hahn, Theravada.
The prisoners who come to the group are not Buddhist. We teach scholar Dharma. It is one of the subjects that we discus a lot among the volunteers. For me it is very clear that in prison in Israel we can not teach Buddhism and if will do so many hearts and minds will closed at the place to be open if they will hear scholar Dharma.
I am employed with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and have been teaching meditation at the prison to federal inmate since 1995 with my teacher. We focused on bringing in Gnosis until approximately 1999. We had facilitated many courses, beginning and advanced meditation courses and a 3 day meditation retreat. Then my teacher left to live in Oregon. I was very sick at the time, but the Vipassana Support Institute teachers taught during that time and I taught during the week. My friend Dan Millstein, from Visions for Prison was coming in weekly and assisted in teaching meditation classes and taught at the meditation retreat. From 2000 to 2006, we had many teachers come in from Marianne Williamson, Noah Levine, Bo Lozoff, nuns from the Kdampa tradition, Agape, etc....from laughter yoga, reiki, tai chi, course of miracles, spanish meditation, dream yoga, etc....then in 2006 I became a certified Kundalini Yoga and Meditation (KY) teacher and I have been teaching KY along with meditations the past two years. We have meditation and kundalini yoga and other meditation teachers come in Monday through Friday. Friday evenings are usually an array of teachers who come, it is wonderful. Teachings on Zen, Vipassana, Buddhism, Esoteric Christianity, you name it, we are all Pure Soul!
Discovered PDN earlier today via an eMail from Tricycle Magazine. I've been looking for something like this for quite a while. I've been a practising Buddhist almost all my adult life, some Tibetan practice but now mostly Theravada.
For the past three or four years I've been corresponding regularly with a friend in an Australian prison with four more years to go.
I first met this friend nearly 40 years ago while in Australia. After total since until about 10 years he turned up unexpectedly, although briefly, here in Toronto, Canada. The foundation of our correspondence is the personal connection. We've actually met several times. By slow stages he's come somewhat to terms with his situation. It is his nature to be extremely cautious about anything touching on inner work, anything that might be viewed as "flakey." Moving him forward is very gradual. He's not ready for any books. I've also discovered there are no programs remotely like the PDN in Victoria, Australia and that he cannot receive books or subscribe to publications. However I've been able to forward pamphlets and similar in letters.
There are two things membership in the site might do for me:
1. A reference point with others who are in regular correspondence with prisoners.
2. Provide him with alternative voices to hear, voices without the personal connection we have.
I am also interested in volunteering to write to other prisoners. I'd appreciate hearing more about that process.
My name is Paulina.
I found this Prison Dharma through Bookmooch.com (a book trading site).
A few months ago I won a contest held by another book trader on Bookmooch, and part of the prize was a donation of 10 books to the charity of my choice. I chose this one from about 10 others that were listed on the Bookmooch site.
I've always loved to correspond, and was interested in the prison pen pal program.
But I have some reservations, which I'll post in the pen pal discussion group...
While I don't have any specific experiences in prison dharma, I am very interested in learning about it from every angle.
Currently I work for a domestic violence agency and volunteer at the homeless shelter and our local needle exchange. Through these experiences, I know that I need to be playing more of a role in prison activism. This need came full circle after spending 2008 working on successful political campaigns and putting an added amount of energy in registering and re-registering former felons and the homeless to vote.
I am very interested in participating in the Integral Peacemaker Training at the Peacemaker Institute and thought the PDN Community would be a great place for me to start.