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Lions Roar : July 2015
YEARS AGO, I worked as a volunteer on Death Row and maximum security in the prison system of New Mexico. During this time, I developed a curriculum for mental train- ing for “guests of the correction system.” It was a twenty- week program, which included meditation, ethics, and communication. One of the lessons was on loving-kindness meditation. On the morning we were to do metta practice, a new person was brought in, in cuffs, to the chapel where “class” was held. He was a huge, rough looking fellow, with a pock- marked face and shaved head. On the back of his head was tattooed “Aryan Brotherhood.” I took one look at him, and thought it might be better to change the lesson for the day. The guard uncuffed him, left the chapel, and soon appeared in the glass guard-box that could only be entered from out- side the room. Meditation in Action First-Person Stories of Waking Up on the Spot We began with a check-in. Our new prisoner said noth- ing, glowering from the sidelines. As we did some stretching, he remained cold and stiff. I then began the mental training portion of the instruction, suggesting to the “guests” that they could have eyes open or closed, depending on what they felt comfortable with. My eyes were wide open. I began the meditation, asking everyone to settle into the body and recall someone who had really suffered. I then slowly recited metta phrases such as “May you be safe, may you be peaceful...” Not a minute into this part of the program, the new prisoner jumped up to his full height, his face red with anger, and began to shout: “You f***** b****! You don’t know what you’re f*** talking about!” The rant, and the expletives, continued. I saw the guard exit the guard-box, and knew he was head- ing into the chapel to de-escalate the situation. I caught my May We Be Safe JOAN HALIFAX recalls a lesson that won’t be forgotten. SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2015 66