Last night was the first class of the season of our 16 week Path of Freedom (POF) course at MA prison. The class starts at 6:00 PM which means that I have to deal with the Boston rush hour traffic to get there. Without traffic it's a 20 minute journey. In rush hour traffic it's a bumper-to-bumper 45 minutes to 1 hour journey. Trust me, this is a great test of my patience and empathy towards the other drivers! I will try an alternate back road route next Thursday night.
Alan and I co-facilitated this class which is entitled "Training the Mind." There were 12 guys present. We reoriented the chairs into one large circle and went around the room to introduce ourselves. It appears to be a great group of guys and most of them already have a bit of familiarity with some form of meditation practice. Almost all of them appear to be eager to learn what POF has to offer them and are also eager to share their experience.
Alan introduced the notion of the Path of Freedom vs. Path of Trouble. Basically, these paths are differentiated by either our ability to cultivate mindfulness, choice and freedom in our lives or, alternately, getting lost in the mechanical reactions of stimulus/response behaviors that leads us down the slippery slope of lives full of trouble and conflict. Next, I listed on the blackboard several statements affirming our ability to make choices in our lives. Statements such as "I have choices," "I can choose to be responsible for my thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors," "I can choose to avoid things that cause trouble for myself and others" and several others. We explored these statements and then I asked everyone if they agreed that we have the ability to make choices in our lives. Everyone agreed that we have these choices, but we often lose our focus and therefore our ability to choose. This led to Alan's presentation of "mindfulness and meditation." Alan provided a comprehensive meditation instruction for the guys and then we meditated for about 10 minutes. Surprise!! Most of the guys were totally absorbed in the meditation practice. It was very exciting to discuss our experiences of this meditation session and how training our minds may become a discipline that could transform ourselves into people that could more consistently make mindful choices. Finally, I introduced the notion of "meditation in action." Our formal meditation practice is a way to introduce a meditative state of mind into all of our daily activities. I suggested that each of the guys choose one activity each day for a few minutes to practice meditation in action. Activities such as mindful teeth brushing, or mindful walking, or mindful eating etc. The homework assignment was to read the first chapter of the POF workbook "Training the Mind," meditation for at least 5 minutes a day, and practice a meditation in action technique for several minutes a day.
We're excited to start another Path of Freedom class at MCI MA! We're grateful for the opportunity to do the hard and rewarding work with the these inmates that may lead towards a more mindful, aware and empathic way of being for all of us.