synthesis – part 2

As mentioned in the previous post, we created visual mosaics after our writing last session. The invitation was to consider placing the visual within a large circle to indicate the sense of the moment, as a mandala does.

Our materials were simple: torn pieces of bright-colored magazine pictures of landscapes, animals, sunsets, black-and-white trees — plus shreds of bright tissue papers. It is always surprising to see the range of products from similar materials, as well as the variation in feeling that can be created from such simple materials.

The few images below capture some of the intensity and mood variations around the table that night. Please do enjoy them.

whole of chaos


credit – arik baltinester

Last week we planned a theme around ‘wholeness.’ Must have had an inkling of what was to transpire after chow the night before group. To wit, the unannounced and immediate emptying of Echo unit, dispersing the women to Houses 1 and 2, and a few to Bravo.

A number of our writers had been living in Echo. But aside from that, this kind of dramatic change shakes up everyone. Creates a ripple effect. New balance of power in each unit. New roommates. New squabbles. The reawakening of old issues. And above all, the ongoing reminder that nothing inside is secure. Not where you’ll be sleeping at night. Not with whom  you’ll be sharing a meal or shower. Not even, in some cases involving moves, whether you’ll have your few allowed possessions with you again.

Needless to say, the chaos of that dramatic change in the status quo led to an evening of extreme unsettledness. We had women dropping in without signing up, perplexed at the patient explanation that everyone needs to sign up ahead of time. It’s part of learning personal accountability, which we take very seriously. Then there were the couples who felt the need to see one another, to reassure themselves they were still OK despite the seismic shifts swirling around them. And there were others who merely sought release from the stress, needing to giggle, mock, blame, and otherwise let off steam. Which also means there were regular writers who felt the need to leave a group that was quickly unraveling like the chaos that had so recently preceded it.

Fortunately, as is the case with a well-crafted container Continue reading

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.”