Meditation Group leader Kathy Bailey writes of her experience of meditation in prison.
The Meditation Group at Beechworth Correctional Centre began 12 years ago as a voluntary programme within the “Programmes” framework that Corrections Victoria offer.
It continues as such.
The group is considered to be an arm of the town meditation group and we look forward to the time when the men can travel into Beechworth and join our town group.
The first step was an approach to the administration at B.C.C. with a proposal for a group within the prison. They agreed to trial the idea. We partner with B.C.C. in their efforts to work towards the men’s wellbeing now and in the post release assisting a reintegration in the Community.
The group has been meeting since then on a Monday at 4.30 pm. in the Multi-Faith chapel. The responses from the men regarding attending the Meditation group have been encouraging: “I feel relaxed, I feel at peace, I feel I can keep going, I can go another day, I want to do more”.
There hasn’t been any need for the custodial staff to be present. And, as yet, there hasn’t been anyone from the town group available on a Monday to be with us at B.C.C. This would be a wonderful opportunity for a future development.
At the weekly gathering we listen to the CD’s provided by Meditatio for 10-15 mins. then meditate for 25-30 mins.
Often, we will have a number of new meditators, (solidarity in numbers when embarking on something new). So we spend extra time explaining the elements of the practice then meditate for only 20 mins. There is a short time for personal responses. The men have some “duties” after 5.30pm. Another resource has been excerpts from the ‘Dear Friends’ letters from Fr. Laurence in the newsletter.
We have a poster size Icon of Christ that stands on a table at the front of the group. We sit in a circle and one participant takes the role of time- keeper and CD operator.
The chapel is away from the main buildings and overlooks magnificent views. The beauty and the sacredness of the space, the peaceful outlook to mountains, forest trees and high skies all contribute to our knowing we are gathered in the presence of the ‘Other”.
My early approach was formal and quite reserved. I have learned that this is not necessary. Now we always welcome each other with the kiss of peace, or a handshake amongst the men. (Not too sure what the staff think of this but I believe the tradition from the early Christian Communities is a valuable one; we leave our differences, conflicts, demands and annoyances aside and we are reconciled in the peace, love and hope of Christ’s presence.)
Initially, I felt the discipline of Silence and Stillness was a lot to ask of the participants when there were so many demands made by the ‘Corrections’ daily routine. I did feel uncomfortable as I was so early in my own learning of the practice. Gradually, we became a learning circle and meditation was a welcome time apart from those demands. The practice became an embrace.
I admire those men who courageously take the risk of stepping through that chapel door.
The response from the men has been both gratifying and humbling, so much respect is shown
for the stillness and the silence. There is a gratefulness for time to share the seeking for the goodness of oneself, the goodness of others and the goodness of God.
The grace and genuine concern for each other, of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist, is a bright shining light. This does not deny the many difficulties and harsh life problems they all must face but it certainly brings hope to tough circumstances.
There is a constant coming and going, new folk arrive and long-time group members go home. That’s the nature of our group.
It has been a true privilege to accompany the
men on our meditation path. They themselves are the path. You would be
very gratified to see how they approach the meditation time. I am always
grateful for their company each weekly meditation gathering.
Kathy Bailey 1/5/2018.
Approved by BCC Victoria 05/09/2019.
If you feel you would like to know more about meditation prisons, contact Meditatio by email: firstname.lastname@example.org