The Sweetwater Zen Center community cares deeply about engaged action in the world as an essential aspect of the spiritual path. One community with particularly limited access to cultivating their own path through suffering is those who experience incarceration. No population is in deeper need of support and understanding, yet they receive the least.
SWZC’s Free On The Inside program carries our vision to provide that support and understanding through wisdom and compassion and is designed with 3 components:
- SWZC volunteers offer meditation instruction and council practice to inmates at local prisons and detention centers. Many inmates and detainees are desperately looking for a peaceful space where they can explore stillness in the midst of utter chaos.
- SWZC volunteers correspond with inmates across the country through the mail. So many people on the inside are longing for guidance—both in general, and also in their meditation practice. We receive letters from people of all walks of life asking for Buddhist teachings, literature and even just a simple crossword puzzle book. Providing this contact with someone who cares can be a profound service.
- SWZC hopes to soon partner with other reentry programs around San Diego to help support and provide spiritual guidance to those who are transitioning back into society after being released. Over the decades, SWZC has helped a number of people transition through its programming and support. And we hope to make this an official service in partnership with established reentry groups.