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Reiki in Prison
In June of 2001, I began a pilot program to teach Reiki to inmates in one of our local jails. This opportunity was dropped in my lap, purely by synchronicity.

With all due respect, I can tell you that stepping foot in a prison was the last thing I ever thought would happen to me - never mind teaching in one! However, that is exactly what happened. The story that follows tells how this all happened - chronologically.

Inmates practice giving
Reiki sessions to one another

And I must tell you, before you begin, that I consider this an incredible blessing in my life. It is something I would urge any Reiki Master Teachers to do. I learned many things in just a few short months: Patience, flexibility and simplicity to name only three! I invite you to contact me if you have comments or questions or suggestions, as this is still in its infancy. My e-mail address is: theheart2hearts@yahoo.com.

The Beginning

In November, 2000 I held a Reiki workshop at a local animal training facility. I have over 30 years in the pet industry, and working with animals and Reiki is just one of my loves.

One of the attendees approached me afterward and told me she worked in a prison. She was interested in taking Reiki herself, but she thought the inmates would benefit so much from this. She asked if I would consider speaking at the jail. Without a moment's thought, I said, "Sure!" Not a minute later, my knees got weak and my stomach started to turn and I thought, "What in heaven's name have I just said?!?"

Now, let me interject something here. I have a friend who repeatedly tells me those spur of the moment answers are life's "pings" - what follows, in the form of thoughts are life's "pongs". In other words, when we speak quickly without thought in an instant like that, it is truly God and the Universe at work in us. It is when we stop to think about things, before answering, that we encounter our ego. So, my higher self answered yes, and my ego immediately had a fit! And, my ego also added, "Well, maybe she'll forget . . ."

However, she did NOT forget and in February, 2001 she called me again and asked if I was still interested. Having committed in November, and with shaking knees, three months later I answered, "Of course! What did you have in mind?" Thus began the Reiki Pilot Program.

First, the Tour

In February, I toured the facility, to be sure I would be comfortable within that type of setting. Remember, I had never stepped foot in a jail. I had, however, been held up at gun-point in my place of business and on another occasion had been physically assaulted. That was the closest I thought I would ever come to an inmate or potential inmate.

I provided a Question and Answer sheet for her, as well as two articles I have. One is on Reiki and Unconditional Love and the other is on Reiki and Alcohol/Drug Addiction. She had decided that the "Life Skills Program" would be the group to begin working with. These are inmates who are part of a program that provides life skills that can be used not only in their current life situation, but also upon release back into society - things like AIDS/HIV classes, parenting classes, anger management, computer classes, GED programs. This facility actively pursues programs and training for the inmates in the hopes that recidivism (repeat offenders) will be reduced.

The Baby Steps Begin

My "contact person" (her name is Cathy, by the way) put up all the information and made an announcement at their morning meeting one day. And within less than 36 hours, she called and said she had taken the sign up sheet down, as there were 16 men who had expressed an interest in attending a Reiki Workshop.

Since I had no previous exposure to this type of setting, she was afraid I would be overwhelmed with the number of inmates who would be present at one workshop. As a result, she asked if I might consider doing a number of presentations. Her plan was to divide the number of inmates up into groups of four and open the workshop to the same number of staff. This meant I would do four introductory workshops with eight people in each one. This suited me just fine. I'm very comfortable with small groups, as I prefer a more intimate setting, rather than large, formal workshops. I enjoy interacting with participants and this is much easier with smaller groups.

So, in March 2001, I went in and did an intro workshop that was attended by eight people, just as planned. Enter "Challenge #1" - if you will. Things rarely start on time in a correctional facility. Although I had filled out all the appropriate paperwork and received clearance from the Assistant Deputy, the day of the initial workshop the people behind the front desk looked at me like I had two heads. However, my little friend Cathy came to the rescue. She me signed in, and with a visitor's badge clipped on my lapel, off we went.

I brought in introductory packets for everyone that included the original articles I had left the previous month and briefly spoke about Reiki, what it is and how it works. I did chair sessions for anyone who was interested and my 2-hour workshop last nearly 3½ hours. As you might expect, the responses varied for everyone, but the experience was actually quite profound for some. Reiki did a wonderful job for these people. I left on a Reiki high with such gratitude for the opportunity to share this beautiful energy with those who are in such need of healing.

We faced challenge #2 immediately following this first visit. The Deputy had said that faculty/inmate interaction is prohibited and as such, all future workshops must be attended strictly by the inmates. Now, I say "challenge" because I knew from that first visit that the staff needed Reiki as much as the inmates. Rules are rules - and I was not about to question the Deputy. The remaining workshops were attended by the inmates only.

The Steps Go On . . .

We had several who were interested in taking Level I, so I put a proposal together for the Deputy, the Assistant Deputy and Cathy. This proposal included my business card and brochure, copies of the original packets I had put together for the intro workshops, a Level I student handbook, a questionnaire for the proposed students, a suggestion sheet for preparing for a Reiki attunement and a copy of William Rand's article ,"Reiki in an Indian Prison". The proposal included a letter from me, explaining my goals, as well as a break down of the Levels of Reiki. I also included my "requirements": a quiet, semi-private space in which to teach and attune the men, a mid-afternoon snack, the use of a Reiki table with pillow and blanket (all great thoughts, but most unacceptable) as well as what I wished for post-class communication with the students.

I met with the Deputy, Assistant Deputy and Cathy to discuss the proposal and we agreed that these classes would be held over the course of two days and would truly be bare bones. My classes are very special and I enjoy all the "bells and whistles"; you know, the candles, music, fountains, aromatherapy - all things that are not necessary but add to the whole Reiki class experience.

None of these "fluffy things" would be allowed, I was told, and they would take the idea of bringing a table under further consideration. However, no pillow or blankets could be used. Ok. I admit it. I was disappointed, but I was getting a heck of an education here and I have learned the real meaning of flexibility, "winging it", and truly "letting go and letting Reiki". It isn't the "stuff" that we bring in for a class; it is the "stuff of Reiki" and who we are that we bring TO a class that matters.

Another Lesson Learned

One of the inmates was scheduled to be released shortly after the last workshop. He was incredibly interested in learning Level I; he had experienced a profound healing and I wanted very much for him to have this. I was also willing to go in and teach him, one on one. We scheduled the class and off I went. Now, mind you, this facility is 30 minutes away from me - one way.

Upon my arrival, I was informed that he would be unable to attend. Period. No explanation (privacy rights of the inmate could not be violated) - nothing. So, amid my little "ego attack", I got in my car and drove 30 minutes back home. Revelation #1 - things do not always go as planned in a correctional facility. Lesson here? Flexibility. This inmate left without having Reiki Level I. However, I trust that having experienced a session while still incarcerated, that he will be looking to find this energetic modality on the outside. And so I have released what I wanted for him and know that everything is as it is supposed to be.

The First Class is Scheduled

We scheduled our first formal class on June 7 and 9. We had four inmates and Cathy joined us also. It was a wonderful group of men, each with their own issues and none of whom wished to share much. But, they were like little sponges. The table work on the second day was absolutely incredible. I saw changes in the short time span of two days with these guys and I was in awe of what I saw. My gratitude at being part of this was hard to conceal.

I was allowed to check back in with the guys about a week later. Everyone was doing well and working on themselves regularly. I was told early on that anything I wanted them to do must be presented as mandatory. So, their mandatory homework was to write in their journals daily and to do daily sessions on themselves. Optional for them was working on others.

All healing begins with the self and before we can help others we truly must help ourselves. It is in that way that we become beacons for others. I went back right after the end of the 21 day cleanse and it was beautiful. I saw these men with a brightness in their eyes and heard them speak with an air of excitement in their voices as they told of their experiences. Suddenly, this group of men who didn't want to share within a group were happy to tell of their experiences.

Time for Another Workshop

The decision to hold another workshop was made! This time we would focus on the entire Life Skills Group at once. So, in July 2001, I went in and had a totally awesome time! We had a group of 50 hostile inmates, I was told.

There was another program that the men wanted to take part in and they were instructed to be at the Reiki workshop instead. One of the students looked at me and said, "I need to warn you. These guys are not happy to be here and are feeling really hostile." I smiled and said, "It's ok. We've cleansed the room. We have Reiki, White Light Protection and we are going to have fun - whether they like it or not!"

While I spoke to the group, the four Level I trainees worked on any of the inmates wishing to receive Reiki. I fielded questions from the men; some of them were incredible too. They ranged from the easy, "Do I have to believe anything for this to work?", to "How does this Reiki affect us in conjunction with the full moon and any rituals we have at that time?"

The Life Skills Group has a morning and an afternoon meeting; the afternoon meeting was held immediately following the workshop and I was told that the men felt their meeting was the best one ever. In fact, one of the inmates approached the Assistant Deputy and told her that he was certain it must be "that Reiki stuff"- because the energy of the meeting felt totally different to him.

Another Class is Held . . . Amidst Challenges

From this group workshop, we had another group of men sign up to take Level I. Amidst changes and shuffles, men being released and so forth we ended up with five men. The class was scheduled for September 10 and 12. This class was a big challenge.

I have learned that often times people don't listen and don't pay particularly close attention. This does not pertain only to the inmate population, that's for sure! We had issues of conflict with schedules; a couple of the men wanted to take other classes in the afternoon, rather than commit to the entire scheduled class. They did not remember signing up for all day classes. Tempers were volatile. Added to that, we had to move from one space to another. The second space was very noisy and definitely not conducive to what we were doing.

All told, our six-hour day ended up giving us a total of three hours of class time. This meant that I was not able to cover all the material normally discussed on day one.

I must say that this was a challenge for me. I learned with this class how to let go of my own expectations and to pass that on to the students as well. To have high expectations and then have the results fall short of our expectations causes disappointment. I now go into the classes with the intent that the Universe will support each of us and that the class will be perfect for everyone. This has been a wonderful lesson in letting go and trusting and I have grown tremendously as a result!

When we enter into a relationship with Reiki, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the student to pursue this relationship for himself. As their teacher, it is my job to bring them into this relationship and I will do the best I can for them. I urge them to write any questions they may have and I will answer them when we meet again. The inmates now have considerable reference material, thanks to the book donations of many wonderful light workers. We all learn as we go. Reiki is truly an experiential type of thing and we only gain from it what we are willing to put into it.

A proposal for a "Reiki Clinic" for the inmates has been written. This is an exciting prospect for the trainees and I would be thrilled to see it happen. I will continue to update this as we progress on the path. If any of you reading this have questions or suggestions, please contact me at: theheart2hearts@yahoo.com I would love to chat with you and exchange ideas. If you have gotten to this end of the article, I thank you. I realize it is long - and bound to get longer! I'll keep you posted.

And the Updates Are . . .

The newspaper article was done and released on November 7, 2001 - you can read the article here.

Classes are still taking place - and most of the early trainees have been released or sent on to other facilities. The classes still have four students each. Three of the trainees have gone on to Level II.

The Reiki Clinic is still on hold. However since beginning classes at this facility, some things have changed. We hold three classes - each one is three hours long. I cover as much information as I can and the men are required to read the manual on their own. We have implemented "Reiki Buddy Sessions", each inmate finds someone in their community willing to receive Reiki sessions. We schedule four Reiki Buddy Sessions and the practitioners actually fill out client intake forms. They keep notes on what they experience as practitioners, as well as, what their clients experience. The final class, (the third of the three-hour classes) is spent answering any questions. There is a written test they must take and pass and the men then do table sessions on one another.

This program continues to change with each class I teach. I ask the men for suggestions on how they would like to see things done. The written test was their suggestion. Doing table sessions twice (once during the second and final three hour classes) was another idea they had. The last group said they would prefer to do two Buddy Sessions for the student and four chair sessions for the Reiki buddies and two table and two chair sessions for the trainees. They really enjoyed the energy exchanges within the group and thought that four sessions were more beneficial for themselves as trainees. Since they have taken the initiative to take the class, I must say I agree with them and have decided to implement these newest suggestions in the next class.

Please check out the beautiful poem written by Melvin Harris here.

 
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