‘A story of transformation’, describes Kanchan Shinde, a Youth Leadership Trainer, about her experience of teaching The Art of Living Course to 20 jail inmates. She played an instrumental role in instilling smiles and a sense of peace, and healing the deep pain and sorrow in these inmates who had adopted *Naxalism as a way of life.
On the first day of the Breath-Water-Sound program, The Art of Living teachers Kanchan Shinde and Milind Umre met the 20 female inmates; six of these were Naxalites, three of whom did not even acknowledge her presence in the room. From initial skepticism and indifference at breathing practices to initiating regular group meditations; this group of female prisoners at the Chandrapur Jail, Maharashtra, India, experienced a sense of peace and calm at the end of the three-day Art of Living workshop.
Eager to learn more about yoga and meditation, the inmates requested the prison authorities to organize the next level Art of Living program at the earliest. Looking at the positive response the prison superintendent is now planning to introduce this program for the male inmates as well.
Understanding the power of the breath
During the program, participants experienced immense relief from pain and sorrow. The six Naxalite women belonged to the state of Andhra Pradesh. Perhaps, sensing the initial language barrier, the women consciously avoided active participation. However, after the pranayama (breathing technique) was taught on the first day of the program, there was a spontaneous smile on each of their faces. Thereafter, they became quite relaxed and were involved in the course processes. On the last day of the program, although unable to express their feelings verbally, the women had tender, appreciative eyes and smiling faces that plainly showed the joy and gratitude within.
Kiran, another inmate, imprisoned for the murder of her husband and her young child, had attempted to immolate herself. With severe burn marks still on the body, she seemed disturbed and had a reputation of being irritable and hostile with her inmates. But by the end of the program, she realized that her hostility was a result of her anguish and pain. Feeling a deep sense of relief in the body and mind, she danced in the satsang, apologized to the instructor, inmates and authorities, and assured them of no further brawls.
Responsibility for group meditation
Nilima, a young 25-year-old Naxalite, imprisoned for murder, was also delighted with the program. She took the initiative and responsibility to ensure that the entire batch would meditate every day together.
Naxalism: Naxals are groups of militant insurgents that are fighting a war against the government.