program expanding!

This week, we started writing with the segregated transition unit, thus adding a second weekly writing circle to our offerings inside. It was especially heartwarming to enter that locked unit to collect the women shortly after 4 p.m. and to be greeted by a group of eager writers – half of them from the general population who had written with us before; and an equal number completely new to us.

Understandably, women new to our circles tend to feel a bit shy, initially opting not to share their words even though they unhesitatingly write along with the rest of us. Yet what always seems to happen is a near-immediate recognition of the depth of what we do. Respect for our practices and one another – neither of which is a general operating principle inside prison – emanates from the group within a remarkably short time. And is reflected in the comments we routinely share with one another following our 90 minutes together. As an example, in response to ‘what worked/what didn’t work during our time together,’ we received the following comments this week from the new women:

I’m new to this group and it was good to hear the women express themselves in different ways other than hurtful, hateful ways.

I loved the poetry and the centeredness of the room atmosphere.

I liked the way this group went, a lot of very powerful words which I related with on a personal level.

Thanks for coming every chance you can.

the value of personal art

From time to time we augment our writing circles inside prison with art-making. These mini-projects take many forms; yet, however simple, they have one feature in common. Art in any form allows women to access feelings that often sit deeper than words, even deeper than conscious awareness of their existence. Almost universally, sharing the artwork around the circle at the end of our time together permits an ‘aha’ connection. The experience has taught the woman something about her inner process or her world view. And more often than not, this ‘aha’ leads to a new understanding of what is needed, now.

The mandala below, completed by NL during a recent session, places into focus the whole of her intentions in response to this prompt: ” A mandala is a sacred circle containing an image or message of wholeness for your life – to inspire you, to live by. Use words that feel strong and true, that remind you of the possibilities of living a whole life, neither in the box nor given entirely up to fate.”