The power of meditation: finding inner freedom
The body is locked up in prison. The mind and soul need not be. Thousands of incarcerated citizens across the country are using their incarceration to initiate an inner journey. They travel to a place of greater joy, peace and freedom. You are invited to join.
In 2002, hundreds of people who actively support contemplative work in prisons and prisons came together to share our stories at a conference on “Prison and Transformation.” We wanted to find ways to better serve prisoners, their families, crime victims and prison staff. We believe incarceration can be more than just serving time, wasting time, killing time. It can be a precious time for inner change.
Incarcerated men and women joined by sending letters about their contemplative practices. They describe the liberating effects it has had on their lives. Their stories are as diverse as their spiritual orientations: Buddhist, Christian, Native American, Muslim, Jewish, and atheist. What they all have in common is a commitment to an inward journey. They seek peace with themselves and the world around them.
The techniques they have used are simple and usually involve sitting in silence. Focus. Relaxing. Listen. Breathe with attention. Rest in prayer. Creating time and space to do nothing, but to be. Such simple practices have helped those inside and outside of prison find the freedom within. They describe letting go of what seemed like the “big problems in life,” and the anger and self-loathing that can drive us apart. They feel connected to the ultimate Power, however one defines it, that gives us life, love and joy.
We hope this encourages you to personally experiment with sitting in silence. Change starts with you, one moment, one breath at a time. Change always happens in the now, not in the past or the future.
You may also be able to find or start a contemplative group in your institution. This is an inward journey, but it certainly helps to have companions.
To help, we’ve included some letters from incarcerated citizens and an extensive list of resources for those seeking information, help, and support in developing a meditative practice. Don’t hesitate to contact one or more of these groups. This web page contains a link to a sheet that describes a helpful meditation exercise (Freedom Breath) that you can use right away to feel freer. You can download our full brochure.
As you begin your journey, remember that love and energy surrounds you!
Letters from detained citizens (pdf)
Breath of Freedom (PDF)
Brochure on the bridge project (pdf)