As many of you know, Valley Insight has been supporting a monthly three hour sitting/study group at the NH State Correctional Facility in Berlin for the past nine years. The size of the group in any month varies as does the size of our more local sitting groups – with between 8 and 15 men each month. A few of the men in the group have been participating regularly for almost all of the nine years while some men are newer to the group and some more sporadic in attendance.
We recently got permission to photograph the group in the prison chapel, the room where we usually practice. Just as for most prison happenings, we were not given much advance notice that our request from several months before was being granted. Many, though not all, of our regular attenders were present. Long-term volunteer Barbara Woodard happened to not be there; nor was our newer volunteer Sara Goodman. Landon Hall and Doreen Schweizer were and are in some of the photos.
We thought the best way to share the photos with the greater Valley Insight community would be through the prison page on our web-site and will be uploading them there over the next few weeks. You can find the page at the following link: https://valleyinsight.org/prison-sangha.html.
The intention in taking and sharing these photos is to help establish a felt-sense of connection between the people in our Berlin sangha and the larger Valley Insight community. We have been personalizing this connection in recent months through having local sangha members sending Buddha-image notecards to individuals in the Berlin group, in an effort to acknowledge and actualize our shared journey towards freedom.
This past Saturday during our time with the men, we reflected on the roots of the word “conspiracy” as being “to breathe together,” and laughed as we considered ourselves as a practice group conspiring towards freedom in the heart of the Berlin prison.
We also reflected on the Dhammapada verse:
“As an elephant
Resolutely drags itself from the swamp,
Uplift yourself with the inspiration
Of cultivated attention.”
It can be hard to remember mindfulness and compassion in the midst of our daily life. May the men in these photos, so restricted and challenged in their daily life options, remind and inspire us in our practice and in the habit of mindfulness.
Peace and best wishes,