In 2003 Byron Katie asked me to teach The Work at San Quentin through the non-profit, Insight Prison Project.A major component of the class is self-inquiry, investigating the thoughts that cause stress and suffering. The men learn that it’s not their outside circumstances that are the problem, rather it’s their thinking; that whatever happens in life happens for us, not to us. In the class they find freedom within themselves by using The Work of Byron Katie, facilitating each other in the simple method of the 4 questions and a turnaround. Many of them claim that they are thriving and finding peace because of the tools they are learning in this class and others offered by IPP.
Outside of class it is prison policy that the different races are not allowed to eat together or bunk together. It is understood amongst the men that they will not socialize with other races. However, in class they sit in a very diverse circle. It is not unusual after a sharing for one man who is black to walk across the circle and hug another man who is white. In class they learn that tears are in fact a strength. The circle is a safe place for them to be vulnerable, to share their fears and disappointments. They receive the encouragement and support of their brothers in the circle, finding out that they are not alone. Many who have never known a healthy family, claim that this circle is their family.
I am honored beyond measure to be with these brothers each Monday for two different classes. One class is for men who will parole and the other is for the lifers, ones who most likely will never leave San Quentin. These men teach me about living in the present, about finding freedom now.
- Kathy Harris
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Comments from Prisoners"This class has made me a very caring and loving person, and has helped me with my crazy negative thinking." - Gregg T. Davis, San Quentin Inmate
From an inmate who is in for life: "Since the class, I've been feeling the light inside of me and seeing it in others. I am more able to listen to a brother like Sam who came to tell me about his fear of his recent cancer diagnosis. In the past I wouldn't have slowed down enough to hear him."
One inmate speaking to another in the class: "I don't suffer myself any more with the thought that I may never leave prison. It is what it is and by accepting what is has given me freedom. In fact being at San Quentin, and taking these classes have transformed my life. I don't need to leave San Quentin to have a full awake life."
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From Two San Quentin Visitors:"After spending five minutes in Kathy's "The Work" class I could see the incredible light that she and Byron Katie's curriculum bring to the darkness of San Quentin. Kathy has this innate ability to not only embody the principles of challenging your thinking, but she inspires both teacher and learner in every participant. Kathy's shining positive energy and belief in "The Work" are contagious both within and outside of the classroom." -Stacy Kellogg - visitor
"I have visited the class for over a year. Her authentic loving presence inspires trust and deep sharing. She is skilled at listening and engaging with a clear mind and open heart. I have been transformed by her work." -C. Keene - visitor More Inmate Response:
"This class has given my life back to me, made me a better listener, taught me to check my thoughts and to love what is." -RR , inmate
"Kathy's enthusiasm and energy is contagious. I come out of class feeling refreshed and full of life. The Work has helped me to forgive myself and free myself from my past baggage." -TT, inmate
"Kathy has helped me to be in touch with my inner being, helped me to focus on my thoughts and get past stinking thinking. I love The Work, it's a great class." -WM, inmate
"The class has helped me realize how I have blamed others instead of taking responsibility for my thoughts and actions." -AG, inmate