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Special Award
On Reiki in Prison

Interview With a Shining Star: Michelle Wilson, Our White Rose of Compassion Winner
* OPTIONS - Winter Issue #39 *

Next Step Project

MICHELLE is a person who trusts the gifts of "coincidence". She is the first Reiki Master to establish an ongoing program for a prison population.

Her efforts for healing and community empowerment led the ODBNS NEXT STEP Project to award her the WHITE ROSE OF COMPASSION Award.

Congratulations! Michelle!!!

ODBNS (One Degree Beyond Next Step): We are honored to meet you to talk about how you are bringing Reiki to work in the lives of people we understand you never guessed you would be teaching Reiki to!

MICHELLE: This whole prison project came as a gift from the Universe. I personally would have never contemplated stepping foot in a prison, had the idea been left up to me. I have experienced being held up at gun point in my former place of business and I have also been the victim of a physical assault outside my former apartment building (a lovely, luxury complex complete with security!!)

ODBNS: Tell us how it all started even though you were not expecting this at all.

MICHELLE: Well, last November I held a workshop at a local animal training facility. It was sparsely attended, but it didn't matter. The Universe knew what it was doing. At the end of the workshop, this slight little woman of (maybe) 90 pounds (this is Cathy Rigali) with, of all things, a Jack Russell Terrier, approached me with the idea of working with inmates.

ODBNS: How did you respond to her proposal?

MICHELLE: With absolutely no thought on my part, out of my mouth came "Sure, why not?" Within minutes I began to physically shake! I thought, "What in heavens' name have I just said?" And then I thought, "Maybe she'll forget about it." - So, the way I "got in" to this facility was through her. It wasn't something I considered prior to her asking if I would think about it.

ODBNS: What happened next?

MICHELLE: She called me in February and asked if I was still interested and I said "Sure!" So we set up a time for me to go out to the jail and she took me on a tour. She showed me just "Who was who" in the inmate population and explained that she was the Communicable Disease Coordinator at the jail

ODBNS: The "Communicable Disease Coordinator" . . .?

MICHELLE: Yes! In other words, it was her job to educate the men on communicable diseases, do HIV testing, and along the way, she liked to bring in speakers and people who had ideas and self help modalities that the men could incorporate into their lives, such as meditation, therapists, etc. She worked specifically with the "Life Skills" Program.

ODBNS: What is the Life Skills Program?

MICHELLE: This is a group of approximately 50 men who opt to become part of a program that teaches them about disease control, communication, anger management and other skills . . . Skills that they can use upon being released.

ODBNS: Is this a common Prison Program?

MICHELLE: No. This is the only facility that I am aware of that takes this type of interest in their inmate population. They do what they can to rehabilitate and provide programs and information in the interest of keeping recidivism down.

ODBNS: We know you decided to help out, but what were the logistics?

MICHELLE: I left a "Q & A" sheet about The Usui System of natural Healing, Reiki, and a sign up sheet with Cathy. She put this up for the men in Life Skills with a little explanation , and made copies of the "Q & A". Cathy told them men I would come back if there was enough interest.

ODBNS: Was the idea well-received?

MICHELLE: Within 36 hours she had had 16 men sign up for a Reiki Intro Workshop!

ODBNS: That is amazing! How did you plan from there?

MICHELLE: We then set up a series of workshops consisting of groups of eight. In the beginning we had four inmates and four staff in each session. But, by the second workshop, the Deputy stated that there was to be no interactive workshops between the inmates and the staff. So from there we had strictly inmates. We did four "Introduction to Reiki" sessions, and signed on several men to take Level I.

ODBNS: How did the Intro to Reiki session go?

MICHELLE: We had 40 hostile men staring across the room at me! Apparently, they had had another class set up that involved the men in pairs doing presentations. That had been postponed, due to the Reiki Intro. However, it was the best workshop I have ever done and within a few short minutes, Reiki had worked its magic and these men were really getting into it!

ODBNS: Did you give the attendees any handouts?

MICHELLE: We provided little packets of information that included the same Question and Answer sheet I had originally left with Cathy, a couple of great articles I have about Reiki and Addiction, and Reiki and Unconditional Love, a picture of the chakra and endocrine systems. The front page had the Kanji Symbol on it.

ODBNS: When did the first training actually take place, and were you alone with the inmates?

MICHELLE: No. Our first class was nearly 4 months later. We had 4 inmates and Cathy sat in on the class. She has been incredible throughout this entire thing. Her concern has been my comfort level and she simply would not leave me alone with the inmates.

ODBNS: How are you feeling about all of this, Michelle?

MICHELLE: Jane Anne, I cannot tell you how much this volunteer effort I have undertaken has filled me. What started out as a, "Ok, I'll go and check this out - see what transpires" thing is something for which I now feel great passion. It is wonderful to see these men unfold before my eyes - men with anger, trust issues, suspicious minds, closed hearts, abusive pasts . . . you name it.

ODBNS: Do you think Reiki I Training has had an impact on their lives?

MICHELLE: Oh yes! Within two months of the first group's training, I can see a difference in their eyes - they speak with excitement of working on others and the way the Reiki makes them feel. In fact, two of the men are part of a theatre group and they asked if I could please attend the play. I was allowed in and afterward, one of them came up to me and said, "I wouldn't have been able to do this without Reiki."

ODBNS: What do you see for the future, Michelle?

MICHELLE: As this program progresses, it is my hope to begin a Reiki Clinic at the facility. This would be a way that the "practitioners" could work within their community, and their fellow inmates could experience Reiki on a regular basis. And along with that, I would like to start a Reiki Share for the practitioners as well.

ODBNS: Thank you for sharing the background and experience of your Reiki Effort with the Members and Associates of the ODB NEXT STEP Project! We hope you will "Keep IN TOUCH" so that we can learn from and support your work.

MICHELLE: I'll let you know how things transpire. Once again, Jane Anne - THANK YOU!!

**Editor's Note: Here is the page with the article written about Michelle and her community Reiki effort!

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