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Buddhist Pathways News  Summer 2016

BRINGING THE CORE TEACHINGS OF THE BUDDHA INTO CALIFORNIA PRISONS
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2016 Buddhist Pathways Prison Project Retreat & Training Report

Held at a New Venue with Record Attendence

by Walt Opie, BP3 Retreat Committee Chair & Executive Director


Pictured are (L to R): Jacques Verduin, Glenn Hill and Rondell Webb. 

The 2016 BP3 retreat was held for the first time at the Insight Retreat Center in Santa Cruz this July, which felt like a perfect fit for our group. We had a record number of people attend the retreat this year, with a total of 37 including our facilitator Jacques Verduin, founder of the Insight Prison Project, Insight-Out and GRIP (Guiding Rage Into Power) at San Quentin and now several other prisons.
 
This year’s retreat offered many highlights, but none were more inspiring than three special guests (and former prisoners) who came and shared their hard-earned wisdom with the group: Rondell Webb, Richard Poma, and Glenn Hill (who joined us on Friday only). Richard’s wife Susan Murphy also attended and offered her unique perspective as “the wife of a former lifer” (which is how she referred to herself). Among our attendees, we welcomed a new group of volunteers from the San Quentin Buddha Dharma Sangha, including Maryann O’Sullivan, Jun Hamamoto, Tyger Blair and Tamar Enoch. We were also happy to have with us Jared Rudolph, Executive Director of the Prisoner Reentry Network. And there were volunteers present who serve a large number of the prisons and jails that BP3 reaches including Pelican Bay, Solano, New Folsom, Sacramento, Ironwood, Salinas Valley, Corcoran, Duel Vocational, Santa Cruz and others.
 
The retreat began for early arrivals on Thursday night with a pizza and salad supper, followed by sitting and walking meditation practice upstairs. The rest of the group arrived on Friday morning. We started with a welcome session and introductions. Walt Opie was introduced as BP3’s new Executive Director, and Brett Wheeler was acknowledged as the new Board Chair. We also thanked both Michael Paddy (former Board Chair, not in attendance) and Dave Judd for their dedicated service on the Board. Both have recently stepped down. And perhaps most importantly, we honored BP3 founder Diane Wilde for her incredible service to our organization over the past 12 years. Diane is going to continue as a volunteer teacher and board member, but she is slowly stepping back from running the organization almost single-handedly. We gave her a stained glass Buddha sculpture as a small token of our appreciation.
 
During the next session, Jacques offered his thoughts and suggestions around self-care for prison volunteers based on over 20 years of experience. He also led us in an exercise called “Passing the Hat” where each of us wrote on a piece of paper what our challenges are around self-care. We then shared in small groups around this issue, riffing off of each other’s entries randomly selected from the “hat” (plastic cup). This was a nice way to begin the retreat as it helped build a sense of camaraderie and community early on.


When I saw him, it was like, ‘People can change!’


After lunch we were honored to hear the personal stories of Glenn, Rondell and Richard. At one point during this panel discussion, Jacques turned to Rondell and Glenn, and said to them, “You guys kind of ran into each other here (at the BP3 retreat), is that right? What’s the story here?”
 
They both smiled knowingly. “The story is that I’ve been knowing Glenn since I was, like, 18 years old,” Rondell said. “We’ve been through San Quentin in the early ‘80s when it was real rough and crazy and violent, and you know, we just supported each other and we were each other’s friends. He got me into situations and he got me out of situations (laughs). That’s the nice way to put it.”
 
Glenn nodded in agreement and indicated it went both ways. Then Jacques asked, “So how long had you not seen each other?”
 
“Since around ‘86, I think,” Rondell said, looking at Glenn, who agreed it was since 1986. Everyone kind of gasped collectively as we realized that’s 30 years ago.

“I was shocked to see him in here,” Glenn said. “When I saw him, it was like, ‘People can change!’ I never thought I would see him in here (at a Buddhist retreat center).”
 
“And vice-versa,” Rondell added. “We were young and we were impressionable. And we were, you know, characters. We were really…”
 
“Confused,” Glenn interjected.
 
“Yeah, confused, and part of the system,” agreed Rondell. “And what I mean by part of the system is when you are in an environment like, mainly San Quentin and Old Folsom back in the day, when you are a part of that system, you become that system. You’re not just in prison, but you’re in prison. By you being in prison you mentally and physically adapt, and you take on characteristics that aren’t really you. You change… Even though I harmed another human being—that was out of stupidity. But when I went into prison, I was harming people because it was the way of life in prison. And that was another reason why I wanted to change my life because my emotions were all messed up, my thoughts were all messed up, my feelings were all messed up. My way of dealing with human beings was all messed up. So I had to come to terms with, ‘Is this really you? Is this really who your grandmother raised you to be?’ You know, because my grandmother raised me to be a loving human being.”
 
This was a deeply moving and inspiring exchange. All three formerly incarcerated men shared from the heart and really made the retreat much richer thanks to their open and honest participation. We had a very useful Q&A session with these three men, as well. At one point someone asked, “As people on the outside going in, how can we improve? Is there one thing that you wish that volunteers would know about your life inside that would improve our work and our service to the people that we’re serving?”
 
Richard said, “Well, you’re already doing it. You’re here listening. So I would say when you go in, really, truly listen to what someone is saying… Pay attention, and also hold people accountable, as well.  ”
 
On Friday evening we had a fascinating presentation by Jared Rudolph on the history of prisons in California (see sidebar on Reentry). We then ended early.


(L to R): Melanie Dabill, Paula Arrowsmith-Jones and Mimsie Farrar

The schedule for Saturday was changed to include a session on building sangha in prison facilitated by Jacques that we didn’t get to on Friday afternoon. (Our apologies go to Tony Bernhard who had been scheduled to offer a presentation at that time.) Jacques offered many useful ideas around this. He said he often asks the group he is meeting with: “Is everything all right with you and your family?” Or he asks, “Is there anyone in your family you would like us to pray for?” He said this humanizes everyone and reminds them, as the Navajo saying goes that he likes to quote, “A criminal is someone who acts as if they have no relatives.” Often sangha members will share something about their family once they are invited to do so.
 
Another saying Jacques offered that he uses in GRIP was: “Please do the work so your past doesn’t become someone else’s future.” He added that, “The art of working with people is getting them ready to do the work.” And Jacques shared the story of Warlock, a San Quentin GRIP participant who had the now-famous revelation during a session, “I get it! Hurt people hurt people. And healed people heal people.” We ended this session with a blessing cord ritual based on the one first introduced by Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock. The key line is, “What does the blessing or protection cord protect us from?” And the response made by a famous Tibetan teacher was, “Well, it protects you from yourself, of course.”    

During the second half of Saturday morning, Jacques shared powerful video clips from the GRIP program in action at San Quentin. One of the videos showed a GRIP “tribe” member reading what is called a “Letter of Unfinished Business” to his abusive father or stepfather. Another clip showed a woman volunteer sharing her personal story with a GRIP tribe about being the victim of violent crime in her own family. These clips were emotionally raw and powerful reminders of the strong emotions people work with in prison, starting with intense shame. Jacques has said part of his philosophy is disclosure. “Disclosure gets the demons out in the open,” he said at one point privately, which begins the healing process. This was very evident as we watched these video clips.
 
After lunch on Saturday, Ellen Furnari and Walt Opie started a discussion around acknowledging difference or diversity in our prison sanghas, including differences of race, gender, class, power, education, sexual orientation, and how we acknowledge and address this in our teaching and sharing. This was a poignant time to discuss this given the Orlando massacre one month before, and the constant news reports of shootings of unarmed black men, as well as retaliatory attacks on police officers just two days earlier. Unfortunately, there was not enough time in the schedule on this retreat to adequately address this subject, and we agreed to spend more time on it next year. A volunteer with deep experience in this area encouraged us to stay with the discomfort and difficulty of this discussion and suggested in the future we might want to read the same chapter of a book like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness beforehand and then discuss it as a way to open the dialogue.

We spent the rest of Saturday on issues around Reentry (see sidebar article here for more details), and ended the day with a viewing of the documentary film The Return by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway. The film chronicles the lives of several California prisoners who are released and face an uncertain future.

On Sunday morning we began with a Story Circle introduced by Walt. We broke into dyads and each person shared a story on the theme of generosity. Then a mic was placed in the center of the room, and there was an invitation to share a story with the whole group one at a time. This was a sweet way to begin our last day together.

Jacques led our final full session of the retreat, but Rondell preempted him early on by asking if he could go around the circle and give each person a hug—a proposal that was very enthusiastically received by everyone (see photo above). Then Jacques asked Diane to read an email for a second time from a former prison sangha member named Amanda who has been released. (You can read this email here.) 
 
We closed with a lovely ritual led by Jacques involving passing small white stones around from person to person in a circle so that each of us held every stone. Overall, it was a beautiful retreat with an incredible group of prison volunteers and advocates. We hope to return to IRC next year. We look forward to seeing you again there if not sooner!

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The First Precept (Book Excerpt)
by Diane Wilde, BP3 Founder
I strive to practice not killing or harming other living beings.

Most religions have a commandment or admonition not to kill human beings. Buddhism has a different perspective regarding killing or harming. The practice of non-harming is extended to all sentient beings—not just humans. As the Buddha reminds us, “All living beings love life and wish to be happy.” This training asks us to eliminate any desire to harm any living being, and instead to replace the desire to cause harm with a feeling of compassion—karuna in Pali. The more we practice this, the greater the compassion we cultivate. The more compassion we cultivate, the sweeter life becomes. We begin to see the law of karma in action.

Cultivating compassion is a new concept for many inmate sangha members. Being kind and extending compassion are not virtues that win accolades in a prison setting. In our groups, we spend a great deal of time talking about compassion, analyzing and reflecting on this emotive state, and discussing the real concern by inmates of appearing “weak.” Compassion in prison is a complicated emotion, not normally exhibited except in a safe environment. Not too long ago, a group of men at CSP-Solano said they wished they could all be housed together. Then they could practice kindness freely and meditate without the usual prison insanity. Perhaps some day!

This first precept is the nexus of the other five precepts. The remaining four address the harm, as well as the cultivation of skillful action, in all aspects of our daily life. How we speak, listen, succumb to sensual desire; how honest or dishonest we are; how we respond to addictions and craving... all are part of training with the Five Precepts. All come under the umbrella of the training of non-harming to ourselves and others through thought, word and deed.

In prison, harming and having been harmed are facts of life. Many inmates in our Buddhist groups have suffocating guilt and remorse over the harm they have caused. In fact, if they are not willing to be completely honest about the harm they have caused, as well as the harm done to them, they soon abandon the effort to learn meditation and mindful living entirely. Looking critically at one’s actions in body, speech and mind is an act of bravery, especially in prison. Mindfulness practice asks us to look at the times we wished to cause harm with unflinching honesty. This investigation through meditation, reflection and discussion ultimately results in a release of the endless thought-cycles of guilt, sadness and shame. This is when we realize that we do have control. We can turn habitual reactivity in thought, word and deed into a healthy response.

(The following is an example of a discussion that took place in one prison group when working with the First Precept. I’ve changed the name of the inmate involved.)

“I’d like to bust his face!”

After reciting our service, as is our practice, we go over the precepts one by one. We often ask for prison sangha members to share their practice with the precepts during that week. The First Precept usually gets the most attention. A few years ago, a prisoner named “Jack”—a large, burly African-American man with an imposing presence—described an incident in the yard when an adversary began taunting him. Apparently this ridicule had been going on for quite a while, and Jack habitually reacted with anger and veiled threats of retaliation. For months, we had heard about the antics out in the “yard” and Jack’s frustration. Jack had been working with the precepts for a few months. He told us things had changed when he saw he actually welcomed a chance to see how he could use his training in this continually frustrating situation.

He described what took place to our sangha: “I wanted to punch the guy. I wanted to bust his face. I really hated this guy... He always looked for ways to make my life miserable, and I thought, ‘One more time and I am going to let this S.O.B. have it.’ So, he and his crew started up again with the shit. Saying stuff that always gets me angry. Instead of yelling back, I decided to notice what my body was doing. I felt my heart beating faster and my breath getting real short and fast. My head felt like it was being squeezed. My hands were in fists. My mind felt hot. Then I remembered something we talked about in sangha. ‘Who is suffering here?’ That guy wasn’t. He was talking trash and feeling he had me and showing off in front of the others. I was the one suffering ‘cause I was so mad, and I was causing it. I took a deep breath and walked away. I could tell that S.O.B. was disappointed. His big deal entertainment for the day didn’t happen. Now I wonder if he is even going to bother with me anymore.”

Jack saw from his own experience how he was creating his own karma by being completely present in that moment and determining for himself how to respond, rather than react. He later said that his nemesis had moved on to another unfortunate victim of his cruelty.

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A Letter from BP3's NEW Executive Director

by Walt Opie, BP3 Executive Director

At this time, BP3 is growing and reaching out to offer simple and direct Buddhist teachings and a sense of community (or sangha) to more incarcerated people than ever before. As a result, we’ve created the new role of Executive Director (half-time) that I now fill. Assuming we are successful with our fundraising efforts in the near future, this position could potentially become full-time within the next year. I see this job as a continuation of what our founder Diane Wilde began and has carried on her shoulders for over a decade. We would not be where we are today without Diane’s superhuman efforts. Fortunately, she will continue to contribute in myriad ways, I know. Of course, many others have contributed to BP3 along the way, as well, so I don’t mean to minimize those generous and heartfelt efforts either. We need all the help we can get to sustain this often challenging, yet vital and rewarding prison dharma work.
 
It seems important to divulge here that we have recently lost some of our major funding, through no fault of BP3. In fact, here is what we were told by a representative of the grant foundation, perhaps as a way to let us down gently: “To be clear, this decision does not reflect our estimation of BP3’s work. On the contrary, we are all big fans, and appreciate the community-based spirit and success you all have achieved, not to mention the way BP3 accomplishes an enormous amount with very limited funds. The decision was entirely a result of adjusting our grants budget and program to fit with our projections for 2017 and into the future. So unfortunately we’re in the position where we have to stop funding some wonderful work, including BP3.” We are very grateful for the tremendous support we have received from this and other foundations as well as individual donors over the years.
 
I include this information because we are now at a point where we need to step up our fundraising game. We will be looking for new grants and donations to fill the void. And we are already in the process of putting together a new Development Committee to help us address this important issue. If you are interested in getting involved on this committee, please contact me directly at waltopie.bp3@gmail.com. And if you would like to make a fully tax deductible donation of any amount to BP3, we welcome that, too. We tend to operate on a shoestring budget, but we do require a certain level of support nonetheless.
 
To give you a little bit of my background, I spent seven years on staff at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin on the Communications team. I’m also a graduate of the Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leaders’ program, as well as the Sati Center Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. I started with BP3 as a volunteer at CSP-Solano a couple of years ago and continue to volunteer there on a regular basis. In January of this year, I accepted an invitation to join the BP3 Board, and that led to this new opportunity as Executive Director.
 
Another of my passions is working with people in recovery from alcoholism and other addictions by leading an ongoing Dharma and Recovery sitting group in Berkeley, where I live with my wife Sarah Entine and our dog Pop-Eye.
 
Finally, I look forward to supporting the incredible work all of you—our amazing volunteers—do on a regular basis in prisons and jails throughout California. Once, at the end of a day of silent meditation at CSP-Solano, a member of our prison sangha there spontaneously said, “I assume you (meaning we the volunteers) do this work because you want to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Well, let me tell you—you are making a difference in people’s lives!” He said it with such gusto that it is something I will never forget. And I echo that sentiment back to all of you.

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The Cost of BP3

by Kit Kirkpatrick, Editor 

We perform Buddhist services in 13 California prisons. What is the cost of this service? When a new prison asks for Buddhist services, what are they asking for? Where does the money come from? BP3 Treasurer Lori Divine gave us some estimates on the cost of performing Buddhist services in prison. Many of these costs are currently born by the volunteers themselves in mileage, and on meditation and study materials, for example. The ultimate cost of establishing a prison sangha depends on the number of volunteers, visits, distance and other factors. Here are some of the cost factors:

  • $25   3 yoga mats  
  • $50   Zafu cushion  
  • $75   Yoga mat, zafu, study materials  
  • $100   Mileage reimbursement for volunteer at remote prison such as Corcoran or High Desert  
  • $150   10-15 books for inmates such as Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness    
  • $200   Supplies to set up sangha--zafus, yoga mats, alter, books  
  • $250   Travel costs for former inmate to travel to annual BP3 retreat, or scholarship for one volunteer to attend  
  • $300   Food for inmates for one day retreat  
  • $500   Mileage for volunteer for sangha for a year  
  • $750   Teacher honorarium for one day retreat  
  • $1,150   Full cost of one day retreat including food, teacher, mileage, supplies

BP3 is funded by donations and grants. We’ve received grants from the Kalliopeia Foundation and the CDCR which have enabled us to offer in-prison daylongs, pay mileage, and open new Sanghas. We expect to increase the number of prisons we serve over the next few years, and will eagerly seek new channels of funding, in addition to meeting the requirements of our current grantors. 

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Exploring the Reentry Pathway During the Retreat

by Brett Wheeler, BP3 Board Chairperson

“Pathway” is one of the three P's in BP3. And this year’s retreat took a closer look at what is really happening on the prison pathway for the increasing number of former prison inmates. For many years, we have focused on the grim fact of an exploding prison population and the moral, political, and spiritual wound of living in a country with 22 percent of the world’s prisoners in its borders. This year, we turned our attention to the striking corollary of these numbers: the fact that, according to the Department of Justice, over 13,000 prisoners are released from state and federal prison in the U.S. every week; and of the more than 128,000 people housed in CDCR facilities at this moment, 90 percent of them will be released back to their communities, including some 40,000 this year.
 
During three panels on day two of our retreat, we learned about the pressing need for assistance in the process of integration and orientation, and support for those thousands of people seeking to reintegrate in the “free” world outside prison walls. We were fortunate to be joined by Jared Rudolph, founder of the Prisoner Reentry Network. Jared has been key in directly assisting and advocating for former prisoners leaving the California system. He guided us through the history of California’s public and private prison industry, from the makeshift early days on barges in San Francisco Bay, to the political and economic behemoth encompassing 33+ facilities today.
  
We learned that former inmates coming out of that system face a daunting task of negotiating a world that, for many lifers especially, has dramatically changed. Finding a job, housing, and a relatively stable social network is hard enough for those of us with credit reports and resumes. It can be nearly impossible for those without a car, computer, birth certificate, or coherent biography. Yet these are the essential foundations for life outside. We heard, both from the former inmates attending the retreat and from those working in reentry, that these material needs are the prerequisites for safety and stability. Outside prison walls, having a job (or even a career), stable housing, transportation, and a phone must come before the spiritual and emotional work and healing that are the heart of the Buddhist practice we’re doing inside the walls.


By engaging with the reentry process, BP3 can continue to shake up images of “us and them.”


So what can we do? What role does BP3 have in helping with the transition? And what does our mission look like when we include the needs of our Sangha members living out here? These were the questions that inspired several hours of brainstorming, reflecting, and hardheaded reality checks. Our conversation brought four areas into focus: First, as a network of groups, we can become direct providers of resource materials to prisoners as they prepare to leave and after they have left prison. Second, as private citizens, some of us will want to advocate for changes in policy and to educate politicians and administrators, and help direct resources to places where change is already happening. Third, we are extremely well positioned to support the integration of those returning from prison into existing sanghas and to help educate these sanghas on the lessons they can learn from deep practice of our prison practitioners. Fourth, as “dreamers,” some of us began imagining the possibility of providing transitional housing in a model of sustainable living—a “redemption ranch” where former inmates would put their skills to work creating and staffing a farm—part business, part dharma village.
 
In short, the challenges are enormous, and BP3, its volunteers, and inmate Sangha members have a lot to contribute. We can potentially make a dramatic difference in the lives of people leaving prison and the lives of our communities if we can both be practical and integrative. Sangha members in prison have the potential to be teachers and healers if they can find a solid footing once they leave. By engaging with the reentry process, BP3 can continue to shake up images of “us and them.” We can aid in the building of community among former inmates after they leave. We can provide resources and be part of the information conduit for those prisoners, especially lifers, who are leaving prison with deep practices that need material security to make their practice thrive. We can work with our existing sanghas throughout California to educate them about the potential of the many deep practitioners who will be joining their communities. 
 
As we take some of these steps, more questions will come up about the scope of our mission and of the resources needed to expand. But in these few hours together at the retreat, we saw how involved we already are. We committed to creating resource materials for our sanghas. We learned from one another about prison to college pipelines we are already involved in. BP3 plans to support one of the first intensive meditation retreats next year for formerly incarcerated people. We aspired to be part of a healed and healing community in the city and on the farm. There’s a lot of work and planning that will continue. But we did a lot to clear the “Pathway” of BP3 and got excited about our part in a world that includes both sides of the gray prison walls.
 

Prison Sangha Letters


Adjustments by Amanda B. 

It’s the first day of the rest of my life… for the last 14 years it was all I could dream of or imagine when I (would) close my eyes. My freedom has finally arrived. However it’s nothing I would have imagined it would be like. I went in (to prison) at the age of 16, and I'm being released at 30. It has not been easy. Not to be a pessimist—life is beautiful. I see the free sky, breathe free air, see free trees. That is beauty. The struggle of learning to drive, learning to open a bank account, and learning to be an adult free woman has overwhelmed me on many a day. The expectation is high for me to get it right, figure it out and go! It’s defeating and demeaning when I'm scolded or told, “Why do I do that!” I am to do it this way or that. My loved ones do not realize how this knocks me down inside. My family has yet to completely adjust to the new me… and at times have told me they are still getting to know me. Wow, right?!! I do often feel alone… disconnected... sad. Like a piece of me didn't make it out of there. Or it’s lost somewhere. There is no one who can understand this feeling.

I take refuge in the dharma, in the practice. I feel what I feel then I no longer have an attachment to it. I've been told by family and friends this is cold of me. I disagree. Why hold on to an emotion, thought, or an event that clouds and tortures my mind? I feel how I feel when I feel it! Boy is that a mouthful! The way I exist in this newfound world… is the way I existed in my incarcerated world. I just BE. I BE exactly what and who I am in every moment. If I'm happy, sad, glad, or mad I'm going to BE that. I cannot change the past or predict the future. I cannot change anyone's opinion of me or make them understand my emotions or perception. Amidst the chaos and frustration if I just BE... I see the beauty of every moment. So to all who struggle in the moment… Please just BE.

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Dharma Steps by Cole B.

(This is excerpted from a longer letter about meeting his Zen teacher in prison.)

I am in recovery from thirty years as a drug abuser and alcoholic. I remember when I told my story, my whole story, to “Su Co” (a Vietnamese term meaning teacher) for the first time. Instead of judgment or pity, I received compassion and love. I cannot measure how much this single act of compassion affected me. I began to sit with all the stuff I’d been using dope to avoid thinking about. Piece by piece I let go of my clinging and attachments to stuff like feeling sorry for myself, shame and self-doubt, anger, and finally, fear. I was afraid of being who I was.

In Soto Zen practice, a lot of time and effort is spent on the cushion “just sitting.” The discipline of focusing my ADHD addled mind into some semblance of order became a lifelong practice. Zazen remains the foundation of my practice to this day, some seventeen years later. I’d like to say that the practice has grown easier over the years. I’d also like to say that I never argue with my cushion, and that I always put forth Right Effort. I’d like to say those things, and some others, but I’m pretty sure telling lies isn’t part of the whole Right Speech thing.

Su Co instilled in me a passion for embracing other traditions. She took care to ensure that our sangha was exposed to many different ways of practicing, and that we didn’t pick up any sectarian biases. When I transferred to San Quentin in 2009 I walked into a highly structured Zendo sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center… I figured there was a lesson in there somewhere so I pressed onward.

I relapsed on prescription painkillers not long after transferring to San Quentin and I abandoned my practice for a time. When I shook the dope and found true recovery, my walking stick was my practice and zazen.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to experience many spiritual traditions, not all have been Buddhist. I find a palpable connection to something greater than myself inside a Native American inipi, a sweatlodge. I learned a great deal from two different Catholic priests, and I have friends of every faith tradition. I credit the practice, and the sanghas and teachers I’ve had along the way.

In Solano State Prison I continued to be blessed with diverse voices when the Buddhist Pathways Prison Project (BP3) showed up. The sangha in Solano has grown from a tiny discussion group in a side room in the chapel to a roomful of regular practitioners. The dharma teachers from BP3 bring their experience, strength, and compassion behind Solano’s fences; most of all, they bring themselves. The effect that their authenticity and presence brings cannot be measured.

It is now April 2016 and I’m slated to transfer to another facility to work as an Alcohol and Drug counselor. I recently graduated from a groundbreaking program that trains inmates to be certified addiction counselors.

What a change of circumstances. I am moved to tears when I consider the route my path has taken. For thirty-one of my forty-six years I have been locked up; three as a juvenile, and twenty-eight as an adult. 

I bow to all those who have helped me along the Way; gratitude is not a strong enough word.
 


Copyright © 2016  Buddhist Pathways Prison Project, Inc.,  All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Buddhist Pathways Prison Project, Inc.
PO Box 19375, Sacramento, CA 95819
 


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