Reposted from our dear friend Alan Levin, author of Crossing the Boundary.
At the political and societal level, I am very much aligned with those who seek to radically change the prison-industrial complex which involves the mass incarceration of Black, Latino and poor white people. It is an injustice wreaking havoc, especially in communities of color, but truly to our whole society. Yet, while this system is in place, there are those who seek to bring compassion and human contact to those behind bars. At the deepest level of this work, those doing the service experience their work as part of their own journey to be free.
My good friend, Sita Lozoff, along with her late husband Bo, started the Prison Ashram Project in 1973 and then the Human Kindness Foundation in 1987. Bo’s first book, We’re All Doing Time, now in its 19th printing, is available in several languages. In this book, Bo makes the point that we are all, in or outside prison, “doing time” and ultimately have the freedom to choose our state of mind and how we relate to others. It was hailed by the Village Voice as “one of the ten books everyone in the world should read,” and has been lauded by prison staff and prisoners alike as one of the most helpful books ever written for true self-improvement and rehabilitation. When I worked in a drug treatment clinic and met many who had been in prison, they remembered seeing the book, some having read it, and knowing of it’s great power to change lives.
A number of years ago, I went with Bo and Sita to several prisons in the Bay Area of California. It was a very moving experience for me, going behind the razor wire, massive concrete walls, gun towers and steel doors to meet with men and women with whom Bo shared the basic wisdom of the great spiritual masters and gave practical advice for applying these principles in extremely difficult situations.
Bo and Sita are two who fit the description of those in my book, Crossing the Boundary – Stories of Jewish Leaders of Other Spiritual Paths. Both were born into Jewish families and through their spiritual seeking met Ram Dass and became disciples of Ram Dass’s guru, Neem Karoli Baba. They chose for their path of service teaching meditation and yoga to prisoners and corresponding with them. Many of these letters make up the most fascinating parts of Bo’s books.
One of the most difficult challenges is when prisoners are released sometimes after many years of incarceration. Here again they receive support and encouragement from HKF. The Human Kindness Foundation does all of its work at no charge. Like all non-profits, it needs support. I’m hoping that some receiving this message will find it worthy of sending a contribution of any amount. It will be of great benefit.
“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 25:40)