Tag Archives: #b4peace

Circle of Love Inside – Writing to Prisoners

Collage Card by KartiArt

In May 2015, I began writing to an inmate through the organization Circle of Love Inside, founded by Mata Amritanandamayi, a renowned humanitarian affectionately known as Amma (Mother), or The Hugging Saint. I had heard of the program from a friend who had been writing to inmates for five years and enthusiastically endorsed it. I was looking for way to serve, and I had been concerned with the problems associated with mass incarceration in the United States for some time. Yet, I had no idea how powerful this simple form of service could be.

What is Circle of Love Inside?

Circle of Love Inside is an outreach program designed to connect volunteers with incarcerated individuals throughout the United States. Inmates request a pen-pal with whom they can establish a supportive and uplifting relationship through the simple, yet profound, act of letter writing. It is not a dating service and the boundaries are clear–the purpose is to support and to inspire. Its purpose is not to proselytize or promote a specific spiritual teaching, and inmates of all (or no) religions participate. Yet, we are encouraged to share our stories and of course, spirituality can be an important part of the letter writing conversation.

Snail-mail can be fun

Today, when writing letters is a lost art and email and texting have become the vehicle for staying in touch, being a pen-pal can become a priceless opportunity.  It came as a surprise to me that both writing and receiving snail-mail could be so rewarding. It had been years since I’d written a letter–but it brought back the excitement of waiting for a hand written letter in an envelop. Most importantly, getting to know an inmate as a human being has been an enriching and profound experience for me and for others I know. It can be a journey where both volunteers and inmates are able to bring spiritual gifts to a unique relationship with individuals who we would never have met otherwise. In many cases, prisoners do not have outside family or support. So, it’s gratifying to know that receiving our letters from the “outside” can make an enormous difference in their lives.

What have I learned?

So, what have I learned by being a prisoner’s pen-pal? I have gotten to know a human being who has been labeled by society as a “criminal.” But to me, he is a person of value with so much potential to grow. This young man, who is only 27 yrs. old, lives in a cell the size of a parking space without human contact. This is the form of torture prevalent in our prison system called “solitary confinement.” It is known for causing mental and physical harm that is irreversible.

“The United Nations agrees. Back in 2011 it issued a report claiming that long-term solitary isolation is a form of torture — a cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment prohibited by international law. The report made special reference to the United States’ use of supermax prisons as a violation. ” George Dvorsky

  • I have learned inmates should not be defined by their crimes and flaws–like the rest of us, they are humans embarked on one of the most challenging paths of existence–the human journey.
  • I have learned our playing field in society is uneven and that makes a difference in what choices we will make.
  • I have learned society needs to address the gap between the rich and the poor and stop ignoring the social issues that guarantee crime.  Some of us have been born into poverty, or become mentally ill, or have been victims of severe neglect and abuse.

Yet, I believe in redemption and in rehabilitation. I believe in healing. I believe we have a moral responsibility to treat lives as sacred. It is time we, as citizens of a country with more incarcerated individuals than any other country in the world, recognize the dark “shadow” of our society. We have to stop ignoring the the social inequality that often leads to despair and eventually to crime.

“The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — a 500% increase over the past thirty years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.” sentencingproject.org

Our prisons are filled with bright and talented individuals who are capable of being rehabilitated. My pen-pal writes poetry, draws, paints, reads books, meditates and prays. My eyes are now wide open to the struggles of those whose daily existence is so harsh I could not bear it for one day.

Pope Francis, on his recent visit to the United States, called for reform when he said,

“All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions in the respect of the human dignity of those who have been deprived of freedom,” Francis said, “I link this to the death sentence. In the Penal Code of the Vatican, the sanction of life sentence is no more. A life sentence is a death sentence which is concealed.” Pope Francis 

The Man in Front of Me

I stare at the man in front of me.

He parts his lips and asks, Why have you become my enemy?

That was never my intention, I respond.

But you’ve hurt me, your daughter, your brothers, sisters, and your mom.

I stare at the man in front of me with nothing to say.

He parts his lips again, Do you expect it to all just go away?

I cast my eyes away from the man, wanting to hide.

Look me in the eyes, or are you that full of pride?

I finally turn and begin to walk away.

I love you, I hear him say.

I slowly turn to find tears rolling down the man’s face.

I love you, but you can’t seem to to find your place.

I look at he man in the mirror and say,

I’m lost but will find my place one day.

By Gilbert

Collage Card by KartiArt

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Filed under Topics I Love, Writing to Prisoners

Spread the Message of Love, says Mata Amritanandamayi Devi

Spread the Message of Love

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There are many wonderful teachers on the planet who offer us a vision of a kinder and more peaceful world. They seem to be tuned in to some place where knowledge springs eternal and they touch and transform the hearts of many people – sometimes millions of people. These teachers do not teach religion or dogma – they respect all religions, they are speaking to us all, to their human family.

They are asking us to live lives of compassion, love, and forgiveness. They are speaking to our higher selves, our better angels. You could say, their religion is love. They are here to show us a more peaceful way to live and interact with each other. They are like flowers whose life’s purpose is to bring the world a touch of beauty, to spread the fragrance of higher consciousness to all of us who stumble along this human often arduous journey of life.

Our world is full of those would prefer the ways of war and conflict, where egos run rampant and ignorance and hatred fuel their violent actions, creating more and more pain and suffering. But these beings of light show another way, and those who are moved by them, also begin to choose the path of peace, and one by one, people begin to change and the world changes one person at a time.

In upcoming blogs, I will share with some more of my favorite teachers.

“Every colour has its own significance, but the real beauty lies when it unifies like a rainbow. Love is the centre of every relationship. The real beauty has its own sheen when love and unity combines, said Mata Amritanandamayi Devi at A.S. Raja College Grounds here on Wednesday.”

forpeace6 “In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.”

Thich Nhat Hanh quote

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Bloggers for Peace: Art is a Universal Lanquage

Art for Peace

Art for Peace – Collage by Kartika

Bloggers for Peace

This week, I decided to take up the “Blogging for Peace Challenge,” and have committed to blog once each month on a topic that I feel relates to peace.

While for me, art making is a way to enter into a peaceful state because I can temporarily let go of the restraints of daily living, I believe art enhances human relationships and can build connection and communication between people. I also see art as a way for humans to connect with and appreciate the natural environment. Just look at the fields and sky painted by Van Gough – we can see he was in communion with nature. Artists have this gift, this opportunity to share such visions, to move us into states of consciousness where we may not ordinarily go.

We are united in this need to experience beauty, and through human history, the arts have been a universal vehicle for us to both appreciate the creations of others and to create our own unique visions of what is meaningful and beautiful.

Art is timeless

I find it fascinating that we can admire and be moved by the works and artistic expressions of artists from all over the world, from the beginning of time – we can feel connected to the Navaho women who weaved rugs and the Greek artisans who made drinking vessels centuries ago.

Those simple cave paintings created thousands of years ago still move of us. We find them beautiful in their elegant simplicity. And contemporary and modern artists borrow from the styles of all generations of crafters and artisans and artists to inspire their work.

When we visit museums and see artifacts from around the world, whether from Asia, Europe, Africa, or elsewhere, we get a glimpse into the souls of our ancestors. They have all been creators, they have all created beauty from the depths of their souls. They are like us, they are our family. They share our wonder when standing in front The Pieta, they share the need to experience and express the sublime through beauty in all of its forms.

Art is not a luxury that humans can live without. It is a necessity and the artist will go to any lengths to bring his visions into form.

Making art is part of our human DNA – humans are designed to create and to share their creations with others. In this way we come together to appreciate one of our common denominators – our creative potential and the joy of making things, the need to be inspired, and the impulse to follow the muse wherever she takes us. This is the way art can be a bridge to peace and harmony.

forpeace6

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Filed under Archetypes and Symbols, Artsy Stuff, Bloggers for Peace, Spiritual Musings and Conundrums, Topics I Love