Playing in Prison
(Lila Parrish)

Play shows up with surprising gifts sometimes. I volunteer at the state prison in Lockhart as part of Inside Meditation, the prison program that AZC is part of. The class I teach is on meditation and occasionally I share some circle dance as part of that. When the women come into the classroom and sit down they are carrying the energy of living in large “pods” or units and sharing a cell with another woman. There is no privacy and even smiling at someone can get them in trouble at times. As a result of that environment many of them have guarded faces. The circle dances are lively and the novelty of dancing brings down that guardedness. Their faces light up with laughter and the delight of moving safely and playfully together. When a dance ends I invite them to look around the circle and notice the difference in how their faces look. Next I ask them to share anything they would like. “I forgot I was in prison while I was dancing.” “I felt like a child playing.” Our dancing together can give some moments of freedom and of remembering a younger, happier self. Gifts of freedom and youthful energy for at least two women. And for me the gift of deep gratitude for their willingness to dance and play with me.

March 2010

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