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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 77 they say they find our sessions powerful and enlightening. the cacophony in the corridor sounds like a distant, angry river as we sit on meditation cushions our mentors have donated. we form a circle, facing a collection of battery-operated candles and a vase of plastic flowers. in the beginning, the flowers were real and the overhead fluorescent lights were turned off. one of our friends brought us baby carrots or grapes or raisins—pre- cious ambrosia to us—and we’d do eating meditations. but that didn’t last. the food was banned and the lights were turned back on. in the dim flicker of candles, we might plot escape; the raisins could be smuggled out under our tongues to brew cell “hooch.” the flowers? who knows. but now they’re fake. there are many prison rules with no apparent point. Visitors can’t wear clothing with corporate logos, such as adidas or nike. no sitting on the grass in the exercise yard. no lending or bor- rowing. luckily, they haven’t figured out how to ban caring, a regular component in this jury-rigged sangha of ours. “i thought i’d kill myself when i first got here,” Joli tells us. “then it dawned on me: this is an amazing time right here, right now. i haven’t felt this alive and safe in years!” she pauses and beams. “Go figure.” Her remarks elicit a collective laugh over the paradox of not simply surviving, but thriving in a place where suffering is stan- dard operating procedure. “Final downwaRd moVement! “ Final downwaRd moVement!” two hours of meditation, readings, and yoga, and it’s a wrap. ending a day here is always more satisfying than beginning one. in post-meditation bliss, after chasing our version of satori for nearly two hours, re-entry into the high-pitched gridlock lurk- ing outside our sangha’s steel door feels as though we’re cruising over an l.a. freeway using environmentally friendly jet-packs. “check out the sky,” Joli says as we spill into the yard, heading for our units to be counted and locked in for the night. we all look up. Framingham is the country’s oldest prison for women, erected on a bucolic piece of farmland in 1847. were it not wrapped in razor wire and covered with cement, this place would be a gor- geous piece of real estate, encircled by grand maples and offering splendid dusks and dawns. “whoa!” we gasp as a shooting star blazes across the sky. “Know what that was?” Joli asks us. “an angel bomb,” says one. “the tear of our watchful goddess,” says another. “one of the thousands of souls who were here before us,” says a third. my turn. it comes with crystalline lucidity. “liberation. Right here. Right now.” ♦ PiPPin Ross was recently released from prison. she and her husband, Phil Austin, collaborated on the forthcoming book, crash course: a Re- porter’s Journey into Prison.