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Through the Eyes of Inmates…Stories of Compassion & Mindfulness – Week 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Compassion It, we envision a day where compassion is practiced by every person, for every person, on every day. When we say every person, we mean EVERY person…including inmates.

Thanks to partnerships with the nonprofits Brilliance Inside and the Prison Yoga Project, we’re honored and thrilled that this year’s 30-Day Compassion It Challenge includes inmates from one of the yards at RJ Donovan Correctional Facility. We’re meeting with a small group of Donovan inmates each week in order to take a deeper dive into mindfulness, compassion, and self-compassion. By sharing the inmates’ stories and reflections of mindfulness and compassion with you each week, and by sharing your stories of compassion with them, we hope to begin to bridge the vast gap that exists between those on the inside and the rest of us on the outside.

We gave the inmates paper Compassion It wristbands to remind them to make compassion a priority each day. They voluntarily joined the challenge as a way to cultivate compassion and create a more peaceful environment within themselves, within the prison walls, and beyond. This challenge offers inmates the opportunity to give back and make amends for the crimes they committed.

Story #1 – Compassion

Written by: Anonymous Inmate

When I was young, I was put into seven foster homes. It was difficult enough to have to go through the pain and hurt by myself. Every time that I reached out for help, I would be punished for going behind their backs (the family).

One day when I ran away from one of the homes, I wandered around and really didn’t know where I was going, but I knew that I had to get away.

A little while later, a stranger asked me if I needed help, and I told them yes and we sat and talked for quite some time. I told him what happened and he brought me to some friends of his, a family, and they let me stay with them. They did everything they could to help me stay with them, at which time I ended up staying with them for some time.

The reason for this story is to say that that was the first time I felt compassion and real love from someone. Ever since then I want to do my very best to help whomever I can.

 

Story #2 – Mindfulness Week 1

Written by: Anonymous Inmate #2

As I separate the now or present from my projections of the future, I begin to let go of self, ego, and pride. I stop grasping for what I feel I need in this life and focus on how I can make it better for those around me. I’ve created a lot of pain and suffering in the past. Due to this I must do what I can to be mindful of how I affect those around me.

I created a visual while meditating that helps with my mindfulness. I visualize I’m sitting in a room, and in that room is a table with a candle on it. In my mind I still that flame from moving as long as I can. See, when I think of a candle I see the flame flickering, I try to stop the flame from flickering, and in doing this my mind is completely focused. I noticed when my mind is not focused, that the flame begins to flicker.

This flame also represents the fire inside me, the fire that drives me to be a better person and make the world around me a better place to live.

It’s harder to have compassion if you’re not mindful. For example, the other day one of my cellies asked me when I was going back to the cell block if I could grab a medical form off his bunk and bring it on my way back out. See, transportation was waiting for me to get my blue shirt and come back so they could take me to an outside oncologist appointment. So when my cellie asked me to grab the form, I was in a hurry and distracted, therefore I forgot to grab the form. See, if I would have been more mindful, I wouldn’t have forgotten to do what he asked.

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6 Comments

  1. Lynne on October 6, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    what a wonderful project, with a group that is so often written off .
    Blessings on all that are working with this effort-inmates and teachers.

    • Compassion It Team on October 16, 2017 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks so much, Lynne, for taking the time to write such a kind comment. We feel fortunate to be doing this work!
      -Sara

  2. Brittany Griswold on October 10, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I think the work you are doing with inmates is so inspiring. I studied corrections and recidivism while pursuing my Master’s degree and it would be great if there were more programs like this to help inmates. It seems like programs like this could be really effective in helping inmates live more peaceful, productive lives once they are released and reduce recidivism. Great work!

    • Compassion It Team on October 16, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write this, Brittany! We are grateful that Donovan Correctional Facility gave us the opportunity to bring these practices to the inmates. Hopefully this is just the beginning…
      -Sara

  3. Wanda on November 14, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I would love to see a program like this started in Canada. I have a son who has been incarcerated almost 14 years and I have found there is not alot of compassion within and programs to help open up their hearts to new possibilities. How can this be done?

    • Compassion It Team on November 15, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      Hi Wanda! Thanks so much for reaching out. I’ll email you now to get a conversation started.
      – Sara Schairer

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