A three day heart2heart retreat began at the Philadelphia FDC prison with 15 female participants on 3 south. Overall there were 5 sessions which included yoga, meditation and non-violent communication skills. Our program director chose the theme ‘we are all connected’. Each of us volunteers spoke to how this is true but that in reality we experience much difficulty connecting deeply to ourselves and others authentically. Why is this?
Trauma, pain, addiction, distraction…the list goes on. We shared a variety of tools to help the women feel better connected to both the Self and others and shared three sessions of yoga and meditation.
Ieasha, a 30-something inmate had never practiced yoga before and tried her best to stay in the room as we breathed and stretched in simple asana. But her discomfort was palpable and she left half-way through. She came back the next day, only to leave unexpectedly. Initially when discussing the agreements we would all hold to, one of which was “stay” in the hard stuff, Iesha was the first to give her buy-in and contributed boldly to the other agreements like ‘what is shared here stays here’.
What’s more, Iesha couldn’t make eye contact, was twitching and admitted to feeling extremely irritable. I am currently learning more about being ungrounded and its origin in the root chakra in my YTT.
In our final session she attempted to bow out saying, “I just showered and lotioned. No one told me this was yoga again.” I promised her we wouldn’t sweat and asked if she would give our new volunteer a chance to share her gifts. I will never forget how she respectfully replied,
“I will try it Miss”.
The sincerity of her words struck me in a way that almost made me cry.
I believe she stayed with the opening string breath meditation and two of the seated asana and then I saw her out of the corner of my eye retreat to a spot in the back of the room, eventually leaving altogether. I was told she never returned for afternoon session but peeked in the window several times. I was saddened at the thought of the pain she must be carrying. I sensed her desire to learn and grow but there was such resistance she just couldn’t get past the blocks.
Later that evening as I walked the dog in the park, I looked up at the fading blue sky and felt its expansiveness deeply. I then noticed the ground supporting me as if for the first time and I began crying and repeating, “I am rooted. I am rooted. I am rooted.”
Something shifted and I began shouting, “Ieasha! Ieasha! Ieasha!”. My entire body was trembling.
Next thing I knew, I was crying hysterically as if her pain was my pain and I prayed to the Heavens, “Heal her! Heal her!”
My breath returned to normal and the tears dried. I continued to pray, “Let some small tidbit feed her. Let the breath carry her toward healing.”
I was connected to Ieasha undeniably. I can only hope my prayers were heard.