The last day in prison is here. It was sad to say goodbye to some. Wondering how they will take forward the gift of these months we spent together in the workshops. I would have liked to stay in touch, but know very well that it is a goodbye for now( never mind the safety rules I undersigned, before I could come to the prison- not to tell any contact or personal information- well I screwed it a bit, because I told them much personal information- how I am suppose to make people trust me, if I cannot reveal myself and trust them?)
Thou I would be very moved to meet some of them after they come out(some in 6 years or more). There are many emotions, reflections, some disappointments and so much joy at the same time. We really can never guess what is the influence of our existence in this World, how our presence changes the way things are, how our actions influence they way things will be in near or far future. I wonder how this project will assist them to make more healthy choices for themselves and the World we are living in? Or will not. At least they had some good time stretching, talking, laughing. And for now, for me, it is just enough to make me happy and satisfied.
For me personally, it was a journey into the different World behind the prison fence. Into different hierarchy, behavior patterns, order. Almost like visiting another country, where you are trying to observe customs, but will never really understand, what it means to live there, be part of this culture. And then there is me, singing songs about love and addiction to joy, making them stretch in strange poses, bringing in initially non-understandable way of teaching(more or less what you call non-formal education), talking about that every moment is a possibility to create a new life.
I was very careful in bringing it in, in order not to scare people off. But after these months I felt that they have got some insight into my "culture" or "way of being", just like me in theirs. And then I requested them to doubt me, question me, because I don't represent the absolute truth and nothing does. Only deeply in our soul we will know what is the best, what is our current truth. And all I was asking them was to hear the voice of one's soul, one's heart. To bring in compassion and love for themselves, to regain trust in their own beauty and ability to do good, serve and be served.
We all are looking for the same thing, we are having very similar needs and we all want to live in a safe and enjoyable World. But the essence in building this safe and enjoyable World is everyone of us. Be it a businessmen, gardener, postmen, mother-to-be, grandpa at his eighties or prisoner. Recognizing that we want the same thing is very hopeful. Never mind that we are caught in our own misery and have done horrible things in past. Who has not? I have. You don't necessarily have to kill somebody not to contribute to the World that is peaceful and enjoyable. All you have to do is to hurt somebody with your chosen word that hurts. A lot. And thus, I think only then, when we will recognize that we all strive to survive and be happy, we will be able to open up many conversations on how to meet these needs for everybody, without throwing nuclear bombs or putting knife in somebody's chest.
I am very aware that World is more complicated and this sounds very naive. But I cannot see the peace in the World, when I keep abusing others around me, when I don't learn to create peaceful and enriching relations with others, when I pass indifferently avoiding beggars, trying not to see other things, I prefer not to see. But when I decide to live with integrity, recognizing my ow pain and pain that is present in the World, I seek for ways to enrich my life and ultimately- the World.
Many doubted what I did. Not understood and even condemned. Sometimes and indeed quite often, I overtook these doubts on my work in prison. But whenever I saw the smiles, heard the laughs, heard their stories, listened when they whispered me of their fears and glanced with one eye on them during the meditation, I could not doubt that my task has been fulfilled- to enrich the life of another, to serve, to get my dose of joy and pass it forward to you.
Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry. ~Lyman Abbott
Yesterday one of my most committed yoga students from prison leaned forward to me very close and whispered " It is very uncomfortable to say, but I often want to beat up people, just hit them in the face. Especially it gets complicated when I want to beat up my cell mates, because after the fight, I just cannot walk away, I have to keep living with them". Then we both laughed, because indeed it can be complicated situation if you constantly want to beat them up. And then we talked about some possibilities to put our reactions on pause and seek for the cause in our own needs being unsatisfied at that current moment, seeing alternative and more compassionate ways to satisfy them.
But at the same time, when I think back to out society outside the prison bars, how much we fear our anger, how much we fear all negative emotions, rather then thinking them as very positive signs of us being alive, being sensitive and aware of what is going on in ourselves. It might be not yet a conscious process, but still a process.
I would rather tend to believe that anger holds a lot of energy and transformation power, just like many other emotions, which can be described as negative. For me they are catalyst of change. It means that the person is not indifferent and willing to express themselves and their pain, in direct or very indirect ways. It means that there is passion for life, first sign of vitality and motivation to live. No surprise that I find this student to be very committed and motivated. Although bothering sometimes with her loud voice and side-behaviors.)
Prison is a very strange place, where probably also me would get mad at some point about everything around, sell-mates, guards, hypocrisy and my own self. There is constant risk of too much accumulated energies which we are sometimes unable to release without physical workout and mental break/ solitude. Thus for many prisoners attending yoga is escaping from the tension space into finding their own power to balance and transform. Thus I wish that all those practices- non-dogmatic yoga and meditation, non-violent communication, self-care and community service shall be in agendas of all prisoners, if they really want to rehabilitate a healthy individual. Indeed they should be into agenda into everyones life.
Thus for me anger can be a beautiful start from where we transform the lives of ourselves, strongly deciding upon guiding principles and values that matter the most. It can be great work still ahead of us, but seems like anger is a sign of our ability to be powerful enough to survive through these winds of change.
Stretch your body&transform your mind!
This Project is funded by Louis August Jonas Foundation, creating a holistic training experience for 50 young women from Ilguciems women prison and Maras Crisis center. Young women are learning simple peacemaking practices including yoga, non-violent communication, mindful awareness, conscientious social action and good-doing.