How Prisoners Practice Mindfulness Amidst Chaos

Close the gap between everyday living and meditation with this mindful moment practice tailored for maximum security inmates.

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A maximum security prison isn’t the most supportive place to take up mindfulness practice. The places are always noisy with ambient sounds that include talking, yelling, chains rattling, doors banging…even through the night. In addition, prison schedules don’t adapt to the needs of individual inmates, and cellmates might belittle the practice, making it difficult for an inmate to find 20 undisturbed minutes to sit and follow the breath.

At Folsom Prison in California, I teach a variety of mindfulness practices that have evolved to enable enough flexibility for the men I work with to develop the practice and cultivate what mindful awareness they can.

One of the most successful practices is what I call the Three-Breath Trip. It’s a practice the men can do any time, anywhere, without adopting a meditation posture or even closing the eyes. Here’s how it’s done:

The Three-Breath Trip Anchor your moment. Any time, anywhere when you remember to do it, bring your attention to the internal sensations of three consecutive breaths. Shift your focus away from the external. Because this isn’t taking place in a quiet setting where the body is still, you will need to take the primary focus of…