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Transcendental Meditation transforms lives at Rikers Island Corrections Dept for Women
by Bibi Tran

David Lynch Foundation    Translate This Article
22 August 2014

''I always feel rested, calm and energetic. My thoughts are more soothing and I'm brought back to happy memories from my past when I was younger.'' —Meditating inmate

Four David Lynch Foundation TM instructors were invited to Rose M. Singer Center located at Rikers Island in New York* in early July, to give an introductory talk about Transcendental Meditation (TM) to 20 female inmates who were incarcerated for a wide spectrum of offenses, from major to minor.

''The needs here are diverse,'' said Phil Terwiel, Director of Workforce Development at NYC Department of Correction. ''Offering TM could be a very valuable asset to help released individuals manage the stressful task of securing a place to live, finding a job, and smoothly reintegrating into society as a whole.''

Mr. Terwiel's instinct was correct. All 20 women signed up to learn TM—plus three Rikers staff members. And one week later, a TM course, funded by the David Lynch Foundation's Women's Initiative, was under way.

''The students were so attentive, appreciative and happy to have us there,'' said one of the DLF TM teachers. ''They said it was the most relaxed they'd ever been. You could feel the air of peace and satisfaction almost immediately after the first meditation. They all had smiles on their faces. One woman expressed: 'If I had this for my whole life, I would not be here today.' ''

After three weeks, all the women remarked on the really marked improvements coming from their TM practice. Said one (name withheld by request): ''I really love the calm I get from meditation. It's so helpful for my surroundings. I can feel my heart rate slowing down. Feeling this inner peace is the greatest reward. Blocking out the unwanted mental garbage has completely changed my spirits. Keep up the amazing job.''

''It's so much more than I expected. I am more reasonable and at ease these days. I don't allow others to stress me. If they do something I don't like, it's still okay.'' —Meditating inmate

Said a second meditating inmate: ''Before TM, I was lost, stressed and angry. I kept blaming myself for what my life had become. With meditation, I am much more open to life itself, and I can make it through daily struggles. It's a gift to have this secret place that brings me relaxation and joy. Thank you so much.''

''I'm letting go of the small stuff. At night, when I can't sleep, when people are screaming, I just meditate. It's been ages since I felt this good, and I am aware of myself. I would recommend this meditation to anyone. I will continue with this until the day I die,'' added a third woman.

By the end of four weeks TM instruction, the TM teachers and inmates and staff had forged a deep connection of mutual respect, understanding and nurturing.

''This has been one of the most satisfying courses I've ever taught because the need is so apparent. Now the women will have TM for the rest of their lives. When you have TM, you don't need anything else. You simply close your eyes, and everything is there for you,'' said another DLF TM teacher.

''The feeling of heaviness on the island is so strong but the warmth of these women, the eagerness to heal, grow and find peace—is even stronger.'' —Rachel Katz, DLF TM teacher

The DLF teachers will be returning to Rikers for regular meditation follow up meetings. Rikers Corrections Department is seeking ways to to scale the TM program to reach more inmates and staff.

''Everyone enjoyed their experience with TM,'' said Mr. Terwiel. ''Without a doubt, it would be beneficial to teach Transcendental Meditation to other inmates on the island. The current challenge is purely logistical, but we are hopeful for a solution.''

* Rikers Island is the location of a large prison complex in the City of New York Department of Correction.

Copyright © 2014 David Lynch Foundation

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