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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
13 fall 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly free behind bars Mario Easevoli, an inmate and student in the Liberation Prison Project, finds moments of freedom through his meditation practice. Still I sit in between two bunks on my folded, raggedy blanket with a folded towel under my feet in the half-lotus position, earplugs (which I made with toilet tissue, pieces of plastic bag and thread from a sheet) in my ears, eyes near closed, focused on my breath. Ten minutes pass and gradually all the craziness around me fades away. I feel the breath enter my body and again as it leaves. Shortly after, someone on one of the top bunks adjacent to where I am sitting drops a towel on my shoulder. I notice but do not budge. After all, it’s just another distraction. I gently return to my breathing. Life, in the middle of chaos, has become still, calm, tranquil. It’s almost as if I were no longer in the middle of this place many consider hell. And yet, I have never been more aware of each moment as it is. I have found what those around me search endlessly for. Freedom. Enjoyment in each passing moment. For most here, even the notion is a fairytale. Unattainable. Understanding this causes com- passion to swell in my heart. Why can’t every- one here experience this for themselves? Why is everyone struggling so hard to only suffer more as a result? An hour or so passes and I end my medi- tation and open my eyes. I’m in a differ- ent place. I no longer see a jail full of loud, fighting criminals and angry jail officers, but instead, full of suffering beings, wanting to be happy just like me. It is then that I realize the great opportunity at hand; I am in the middle of intense suffering. It’s here that I can really practice. Here I can really help. But I wonder how? After I rise and reassure the person who dropped the towel that all is okay, I begin my first daily walk—mindfully. Focusing on my breath and each foot as it touches the cold, hard floor. The walking area is maybe forty feet long, and I traverse it as if almost gliding, feeling light and blissful. Surely there is a sub- tle smile on my face as I feel the energy of joy, the energy of mindfulness spread throughout my body with each careful step, recognizing how wondrous life really is. It isn’t long before the same person who dropped the towel joins me—for the first time—quietly, with nothing but a nod and a smile. We continue to walk silently, mindfully. Both of us enjoying every step we take. Nei- ther of us says a word. We each understand. Here, in the middle of jail, we are free. From Mandala, april–June 2011 first thoughts illustrations by eric hanson