listening inside

You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

We can have skills training in mindfulness so that we are using our attention to perceive something in the present moment. This perception is not so latent by fears or projections into the future, or old habits, and then I can actually stir loving-kindness or compassion in skills training too, which can be sort of provocative, I found.Sharon Salzberg

Our shared work in the prison is about writing and expressing but it is also about listening. Silence, space, nothingness, are often set in opposition to sound, form, something-ness. The latter is often considered the more real components of our experience. We emphasize the writing in writing not the page, margins, space between the letters that make it possible for the writing to be read. We undervalue the breaths between sentences that make it possible for words to be heard and understood.

By being silent, creating space, we allow room for others. We make it possible for others to become more of themselves. What’s more is that we may also offer that space to ourselves, going into spaces of silence to hear ourselves, to recognize ourselves and become more ourselves. This is the provocative, mindful, inner-mother space described in the quotes above. We practice this in our silent writing time, in the silence while others are reading, silence as we fill out soul cards at the end of each group.

We also practice this in readback lines. As one writer reads her work, the others write down lines that resonate with them. At the end of our group, we ring a bell, then all share the lines we wrote down. The group calls out each line, one-by-one, as we feel moved and, in the process, we create an improvisational poem of our shared words. This is a favorite activity because it not only demonstrates that each writer was heard but requires us to listen to one another in sharing. It is a shared mindfulness practice where we find rhythm in each other’s voices, hearing in each other’s words. This week, we acknowledged that mindfulness is a practice we name now, but have already been doing through our writing and the quality of our listening.

Below is a the work of a writer who creates space for himself on the page. He outlines his discoveries in the poem he wrote this week:

The Person I’ve Wanted

I am becoming the person I’ve wanted
open, free, reaching for strength
something that’s been
frozen for so long unable to think
overcoming obstacles that
stand in the way, that make you
put up a fight

I am becoming someone
masculine, tall and proud
unafraid to show what’s underneath
my feminism, my softness

Hidden by fears
by society, now
in the part of ignorance
a greater sensation
of intrigue, mystery
a sense of purpose
not only with myself
but the sense of
structure with others

Strong-willed, beautiful
nothing is so dull
I know what I am

Finding what may be
of struggle of nature
emotions of breaths
one’s core belief

I am now the one I’ve
wanted to be
leaving the agony, the stress behind
of this ever-changing life

I found me
just in time
released and new
the same person
a new mind
all in one
a final sense of
who I am


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