Meditation In Prison
“I was in prison and you came to see me” (Jesus, Mt 25:36)"
Christian Meditation is being taught in prison in many parts of the world. Those who bring the teaching to prisoners feel it is a special grace and privilege and prisoners report how powerfully it helps them to transform the negative and oppressive aspects of their life into a new liberty of spirit.
James Bishop, learned to meditate while in prison and became a Benedictine Oblate of the World Community. He has written a commentary on the Rule of St Benedict in the light of his experience of prison. It is entitled A Way in the Wilderness. He has also designed and runs a WCCM website for prisoners and those helping inmates with their spiritual journey.
Experience has shown that meditation in prison is more sustainable for inmates if it is introduced as part of a pre-existing program such as Bible studies or restorative spiritual programs. By sharing their prison meditation experiences and by encouraging the inmates to do the same, WCCM members can create a network that strengthens everyone’s personal meditation practice.
Words of Witness
From patients in a Canadian Correctional Facility that is a treatment center for those with mental health issues who have been brought to the practice of Christian meditation.
“I am a person that has high anxiety every day. Even with medication there still is a lot of anxiety that flows through my body. I always hoped I could find something that would help me. I used to try sleeping for a couple of hours; however, my anxiety was too high for sleep. I’ve been in jail now for 8 months and I am happy to say that since I have been meditating for the past two months it has had a huge impact on me. I am able to calm down when needed. I hope more people learn this.
“Before I begin to tell you what meditation has done for me I will tell you a bit about myself. I am 25 years old and am serving a fifteen month sentence for fraud and break and enters. This is my second time in jail; my first was when I was eighteen for an armed robbery. I was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison. Both times coming to jail has been because of a drug addiction and because I’ve never had faith in my life or the strength to believe things can be better.
Back to meditation. When I came to this place I made a few friends and they were already involved in chapel service and meditation group. They told me I should come along. I started going and sat there and took it in and it allowed me to feel relaxed and free. That twenty minutes of meditation and the silence gave me time to free my mind. The second time I went it started to make me feel spiritual , it’s like when the silence takes over it allows God to become a part of my life. It felt so wonderful to me to have meditation in my life that I began doing it alone in my room every day. Also along with meditation, prayer has become very important to me morning and night. Since I’ve started doing meditation and prayer I feel more in tune with myself.. I feel more in tune with myself more free from all the hurt and pain I’ve been through in my life. For that I am grateful to have been shown how to meditate.”
“Being introduced to Christian meditation was exactly what I expected it be as a beginner- strange and uncomfortable. I must confess that I had a very difficult time relaxing myself and submitting to the spirit of God as I repeated my prayer phrase Maranatha. On many occasions, I confess that one of my eyes would open to scan my surroundings, thinking what the heck did I get myself into?’ It’s been a number of months, and I am grateful that our chaplain’s persistence led to my joining the meditation group. Over time I’ve discovered that with practice and consistency meditation has become a very personal and important part of my well being. I’ve found it to be quite helpful to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord and then ask Him to quiet my mind and lead me in my meditation. My mind does wander but by simply returning to the mantra, I have essentially given myself wholly to Him. My practice has become rather spontaneous in some ways; when I feel my mind becoming too ‘busy’ I feel compelled to spend time in the stillness meditation requires. It has amazed me and inspired me how simple it is to just be still, be quiet and give myself up to Him. It is an effective and wonderful practice, I believe meditation requires submission and the practice has improved my emotional, mental , physical and spiritual health.”