Songs of Wholeness in Women’s Prison

Women'sPrisonProgramShall I write about their crimes? Their gross errors in judgment? Poor timing? Bad luck? Shall I tell stories of the children they cannot mother? The families left behind?   Perhaps I should write about their suffering, the trauma, the dysfunction that has, without exception, helped to land them here – sitting in this circle with me – behind bars. As I begin to teach, fluorescent lights hum, and from outside the door, sounds of shuffling feet and voices mix with the loud static discharge of handheld radios and the metallic rattle of keys.   The dissonance of sounds in this place, ubiquitous. Never a moment’s rest.

I sit in this circle every Friday with the women prisoners. In a make-shift classroom that serves as our yoga and mediation studio. Some are here for months, some for years, some for the rest of their lives.

There are, of course, stories to tell. Stories that turn me inside out to hear, that sometimes haunt for days. For today though, let me tell you, not about the horrors these women have endured, but about their smiles. The way they miss their babies and long for simple pleasures: toast, blankets, sunscreen, colorful socks even! I’ll tell you how we laugh, falling out of poses.  How we talk about life, about emotions and sensations. Let me tell you about how these women support each other, how they celebrate each small victory. How they call me sister, and, after time, share with me their inner resources – the places that comfort, the places that bring ease, the place where they know that they are ok.

EMBER prison

Listen now, and let me tell you that they are brave.  That they know strength.  Let me tell you how these women overcome tremendous fear to be with the quiet places, to sit with sensation. How these women overcome.

The women say we bring light into that dark place. I say we are mirrors reflecting the luminous light within THEM. In this prison space, as in every classroom that I teach, I serve only as a pointer. Again and again holding space for the student to recognize and feel the truth within. That silent knowing of their undeniable and profoundly healing wholeness.

So, today you won’t hear stories of their crimes, of their traumas, of their pain. Turn instead to hear their still-quiet songs, these songs of wholeness, streaming out from within.

Ember side angle

For Michele’s full bio, click here. For more information on the Yoga on High Foundation, which underwrites this program, click here. Join us Sunday, October 4 from 10:30-12:30 for 108 to Rehabilitate, a practice of 108 Sun Salutations to benefit the Yoga on High Foundation Prison Programs.