Home | Features | Inspiration | Reflections | Profiles | Resources | All articles | Back Issues | About Cafh | About Seeds
Site Search


:: Quotes

"The Dalai Lama once said that he cherishes his enemies, the Chinese in particular, because they teach him compassion. I need to see if that really works across the board, if prisoners can cherish their enemies and the people who threaten them, or if this is just an abstract principle when it is applied to all the people in the world"

 


:: More articles

A Time to Listen

Common Ground

Weaving the Fabric of Relationship

Perspective: It's a Funny Thing



» All articles


Home » Features » An Interview with Doug Booth

Finding Freedom on the Inside
by Sally Sommer




Do you think that the heart of the teachings that you're talking about here is universal, or is it specific only to Buddhism?

Only the particular meditation techniques are unique to Buddhism, though even they are probably shared by various aspects of Christian and Jewish mysticism. There is a prescribed methodology for opening and awakening that the Buddha taught, and I draw upon that. But ultimately it's the same stuff that Father Keating, a Trappist monk, teaches across the country in his "Centering Prayer." It's really a matter of quieting the mind, bringing awareness to your mind/body experience, letting the revelations and insights arise in that non-discursive, non-rational mind-space that forms in meditation, and then bringing as much heart and compassion to yourself as possible. Then you can begin to see who you are and what obstacles prevent you from opening and connecting with people and with your own life.

After all this time teaching, what do you get out of this?

It's like a litmus test for me. On one level, I really need to test the Buddha's teachings in one of the most severe contexts. The Dalai Lama once said that he cherishes his enemies, the Chinese in particular, because they teach him compassion. I need to see if that really works across the board, if prisoners can cherish their enemies and the people who threaten them, or if this is just an abstract principle when it is applied to all the people in the world. On another level, I just love going in there and talking with the guys, exploring my own pain and my own truths, and being with them-they're so close to the edge. They don't have enough time or interest to look at meditation practice as an intellectual process or as a philosophy. It's a matter of utmost importance that they get some peace of mind, or someone's going to get hurt-themselves or someone else. I really thrive on their sense of urgency. And I learn a great deal, too, when someone doesn't understand what I'm doing and starts laughing. I get to see my control issues arise and how I deal with them, to understand the pain they bring to me and then to see other ways of working with them.

What do you envision for the Upaya Prison Project's Future?

Oh, we have a lot of plans, and we're trying to get funding to implement them. We want to expand the meditation classes to all nine prison facilities in New Mexico. That means training more teachers as well. Just a side point: some prisoners in Florence, Arizona, have been begging for teachers to help them with a meditation practice they're doing on their own. So a couple of us are going to try to go to Arizona.

Prisoner recidivism averages about 75 percent in the U.S., but studies have shown that meditation programs in prison have significantly reduced it. For example, a King County, Washington, study showed recidivism fell by 25 percent.

We'd like to slow down the "revolving door" even further with a comprehensive, post-release program that would include individual mentoring for every released prisoner and continuing meditation classes in Albuquerque. We've already asked one of our teachers, a former inmate, to teach classes in Albuquerque. Right now, two of us counsel former inmates we've gotten to know through classes inside. They need a lot of help to get and keep jobs, find a place to live, stay off drugs, relate to their families, and keep up their meditation practices.

We'd also like to see a prison hospice formed, with the prisoners as the main caregivers. Terminally ill people get shipped out away from their friends and are often left without support. As I said earlier, the men at Grants are learning to be caregivers.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I think the program has been remarkably consistent. The Buddha taught that meditation is a means to relieve suffering, and so far he's right-no matter where you take your practice. I think that when we teach with an attitude of acceptance and understanding, openness and forgiveness, whether we're teaching Buddhism or Christianity, healing will take place. This is just one method of doing it.



[1] [2] [3] [4]




Copyright © 2002-2017 Cafh Foundation. All rights reserved.