Through intimate letters, interviews, and stories, this narrative reveals the impact that a life-changing retreat had on a group of inmates at the highest level maximum-security state prison in Alabama. The 38 participants in the first-ever intensive, silent 10-day program inside the walls of a corrections facility—many serving life sentences without parole—detail the range of their experiences, the depth of their understanding of the Buddha’s teachings gained by direct experience, and their setbacks and successes. During the Vipassana meditation program, they face the past and their miseries and emerge with a sense of peace and purpose. This compelling story shows the capacity for commitment, self-examination, renewal, and hope within a dismal penal system and a wider culture that demonizes prisoners.
Adult/High School-Vipassana is an ancient nondenominational meditation technique that was revived by Gotama the Buddha 2600 years ago. These letters are a testament to the power that this practice has had on the lives of a handful of men in a high-security prison in Alabama. Many of them are serving life sentences, and all of them have struggled to find peace with themselves. The course has worked wonders for prisoners in India, where it was developed. For 10 days, the men meditated with three teachers, isolated from the rest of the prison population. They began by focusing on their own breath as a way of breaking down the barrier between mind and body. Out of the silence of meditation came an awareness that was transformative for these troubled men and that has lasted for years, even in the midst of the anguish of daily prison life. Teens in trouble or at risk would certainly find this book illuminating. So, too, would those trying to fathom how to lead a sane and peaceful life in a world that can be hard to comprehend. This book offers a chance to develop an understanding of how we can share a commonality with something as simple and as vital as a breath.-Will Marston, Berkeley Public Library, CA