La Republica, May 10 2000
by Salvo Palazzolo
At the Pagliarelli, eastern meditation for 20 disciples. Then it will be the turn of traffic policemen and bus drivers.
Here is the one who is a convicted Mafioso; the manager convicted for fraud, the common criminal...a multi-faced humanity from twenty-five to fifty-five years of age. Behind the bars of the Pagliarelli prison in the section where the convicted spend ten years or more, people start to talk of freedom.
A master of eastern meditation for Palermo, Vincenzo Fatta, has crossed the gate of the prison institute and started a school that has already twenty disciples. Three times a week, for two hours in the afternoon, Pagliarelli becomes a place of inner search. When you have bare feet and your eyes closed, breathing deeply, the bars of the prison can look far away... "so that," explains the master, "everyone can throw out all the tensions, the garbage of emotions and negative experiences."
In the silence of your own being, meditation triggers an extraordinary process of transformation, of inner liberation. All that started two weeks ago, after the necessary authorization of the magistrate and prison authorities.
"Through our voluntary work, says Vincenzo Fatta, "we want to add a support to the educators who operate Pagliarelli." And from the institutional prison to the "prison of our being" as the master of meditation calls it, the step is really short. Fatti and his association, christened Sammasati, (in Hindi: remembrance) have already proposed to the Palermo city council that they extend the experiment to other professions that are under the daily pressure of stress. From the traffic police to the public bus drivers.
"It is not new," explains Fatta. "In Sweden the local council has supported a similar initiative, [ LINK to MeditationGoesMainstream Transport] and the end of the meditation course a substantial decrease in the number of street accidents occurred."
The proposal is not far from the minds of the council; in fact they are already financing the meditation school behind bars.
The Pagliarelli experience has only two precedents: in the prison of Trento and Rome.
When, for the first time Vicenza Fatta presented the initiative to the prisoners inside the Pagliarelli theater, the responses were various and not always positive: "Talking about freedom in jail, even if about the inner one," says the master, "is always a bit difficult." But at the end of the session many have requested to be admitted to the course. It is likely that, at the end of the program of thirty sessions, a repeat will be scheduled. And not only for the prisoners. The project also has something for the prison wardens.
This afternoon we'll be taking another step in this remarkable inner journey: in the gym transformed into a meditation room there will be only the two masters and their seekers, as they are called. Nobody else is admitted; not even the wardens. Inside the prison walls, everybody will throw out whatever he has inside – anguish, fears, desires – and they will do it through shouting and moving different body parts. As the master teaches "meditation" – he has immediately made clear – "is for courageous people because it means encountering the ghosts from the past and the present, and getting rid of them."
Somebody has decided to leave the course after a few sessions. "To the one who goes on," explained Vicenza Fatta, "I said that this year in prison can become a great opportunity. And in the cells of Pagliarelli, for the past two weeks it is the only subject they are talking about."
Read more about Dr Fatta's work in:
...Doing Time as a Meditation
...The Inside Story: Prisoners' Feedback
...Doing Time As A Meditation
...Back for more
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