I have been accused of being too soft on the kids that come to yoga in JDC. By soft it was explained to me that I think of these kids as having hope--which yes I do! I do not believe that because they made a mistake based on the lack of life skills that they posessed at the time of their mistake. Now please don't get me wrong, I'm not here to tell you that these kids are all angels that were wronged by the system--there are kids in jail tonight who deserve to be there, but even in their mistake I believe that their life does not have to be a series of mistakes based on their self worth being thrown away like the wrapper in their pocket when they were booked. I wish I could have all of you with me when I teach in the jail--believe me you are all there in spirit--because you would see the faces of these kids when they get the pose they have been working on or when they get the reason that we begin with Open to Grace--when in the minute their face lights up they understand that if they open to something bigger than themselves their heart begins to fill up again and they are able to find the hope that had been hiding for so long.
We talked today in the girls class about what the girls feel is their most challneging pose--and I was ready for plank, down dog, pigeon, etc. But in their sweetness the girls explained that their most challenging pose is Savasana--that the minute the eye pillows go on, their mind turns on. I have asked this question of which pose is the most challenging, and every time it ends up being Savasana--we worked with the breath today to try and move the elevator of their minds into their heart. One girl began to cry--sob--in class, she had been in before and left for a couple months and was booked last night. When she left the jail she had a dream of joining Job Corps--she was excited and really wanted to go--Job Corps is the nation's largest and most comprehensive residential education and job training program for at-risk youth, ages 16 through 24. Job Corps combines classroom, practical, and work-based learning experiences to prepare youth for stable, long-term, high-paying jobs. Last night she was arrested for disturbing the peace and is in jeopardy of Job Corps not accepting her. The girls in the class were not supportive of her, mostly because they are not getting out soon and really don't care--but the more we spoke about it, the more it became evident that the girls did care, they were defensive about the idea of this happening to them--it is easy to re-offend and return to jail, it is hard to keep yourself held in balance and not return to jail.
I brought up the idea of responsiblity, and if I could bring one thing into jail with me every time it is the power of personal responsiblity--the ability to understand personal responsiblity is what brings hope to the lost children in jail. Because their families don't hold them accountable, these kids have never felt a sense of personal responsiblity--the mantra in jail is that "it is not my fault." Every sentence begins with "it is not my fault ----that I'm poor and cannot afford a good lawyer, that my parents want me to stay in jail because they are going to rehab, that the police caught up with me and I was smoking, that the guards in here hate me and make fun of me." I posed the idea that for the next week what if instead of saying "it's not my fault" how about posing the question to yourself of "what can I do today that can make a positive difference in my life?" Of course the girls thought I was crazy--that just thinking of a way to be positive cannot make a difference---it is maddening to me that no one has ever given these kids a positive reinforcement--and in that moment I explained that not only am I hoping that they find a positive way to make a difference, I want to know about it and next week the theme will be what the girls come up with. I suddenly changed for the crazy lady to someone who took an interest, and then they were off, talking amongst themselves, talking about ways they could make changes, and there it was the elephant in the room............................hope!