Friday, October 12, 2012

A report / story on Prison Smart course in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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In the penitentiary – correctional facility Tuzla (KPZ Tuzla) a PRISON smart program for female prisoners was held from 5th to 15th September 2012 under the guidance of the AOL teacher Snežana Sarihodžić.

It could have been another small town story but was really a Guru story, full of unusual happenings (although on this Path nothing is unusual anymore), unforgettable moments filled with laughter, tears, joy and sadness and primarily His grace.

It will not be unusual to say it all started from Jasminka Berbić, who is, and only Guruji can set it up in this way – the inspector of the Ministry of internal affairs. She herself told me in one of our conversations: “If someone would have told me that as an inspector I will be organising a course for the prisoners I would have told them they were crazy”. Even less had she dreamed about assisting in one of these courses... His grace continued to flow.

How it all went Jasminka herself noted in a letter she composed and read to the prisoners the last day of the course:

“I wanted with all my heart that the Bosnian Art of Living enters the KPZ Tuzla, so that the ones who were ready could take this unforgettable journey. The first day of the course you were scared, sad-faced, lifeless, absent-minded, distrustful, closed in your own shells that supposedly protected you from the outside world.
They say when the student is ready the teacher “appears on his own”. As the days were going by you had more self-confidence, smiled more, you were more ready to work on yourselves and for yourselves.
The day we were taking our picture together you were all wearing make-up, dressed tidy and smelled nicely with big smiles on your faces. Just looking at you made me feel a sweetness I have not tasted for long time.
In my heart I knew you felt how much we cared about you and you accepted our extended hand. Do not live in the past, it is here only to be able to learn from. Live in the present moment because that is all we have. Do not judge yourselves for the things you have done in the past, you are not the same people anymore. Your soul has suffered enough and is now ready to exit the darkness and go into the light. Do not spend your energy on judging past actions – use them to turn mud into gold. Know that you will also be a good teacher to someone else, that you yourselves will extend the hand of salvation. Be grateful to the prison personnel for helping us, even when our requests and demands were seemingly impossible.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to assist this beautiful and unforgettable course. Trust me, I have learned a lot with you, you were my teachers…”

The mutual gratitude we felt cannot even be described by words. There was a situation at the course that stayed carved into my memory: after we have made a few photographs at the course, we thought they would feel uncomfortable to present them in public – but they all said in unison, leaving us speechless: “Please put them up, so people can see that someone cares about us.”

Here is one of the prisoner’s experience: 
    I woke up early morning and heard there is a yoga anti-stress teacher. I did not really believe there was something like that. I did not have faith, but I went in the end. I cannot say I know where I was heading to, I had second thoughts and doubts – I have been here for years already and no one was has helped me yet.
But as days went on I could not believe it, I would be thinking of you for the rest of the day. I remember yours and your assistant’s words – trust me, I can even quote them. I decided to persevere and stay in this till the end. I wish to change; my punishment is coming to an end. This has been the best gift I have received; the most beautiful one and it will be so till the end of my life. I will miss you a lot, your hearty smile, I feel I belong to you and hardly wait to be with you again. I could not believe all this negativity has left me. I still apply the knowledge you have transferred to me.
I thank you endlessly for this enormous change in me.”

There it goes, a month ago the course ended and it is only the beginning. We have another course with juveniles at the same facility and we have received a request for follow up programs once a week for the female prisoners. One of them told us at the end of the course “Do not abandon us, please…” it only made our sankalpa even stronger.

A situation that occurred the other day reminded me how this Path is truly wondrous and full of blessings. As I have already said at the beginning of this beautiful Guru story, the organisor of the course, Jasminka Berbić, has an office view to the rooms in the prison where the course was held, and this particular morning looking through her office window she saw one of the prisoners'
happy and smiley face. We are truly all one family.

Jai Guru Dev