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Envisioning the Future

By Nancy Smyth

It’s been a month since Damon and I facilitated the third session of Coaching for Healing and Non-Violence in the CA Men’s State Prison in Lancaster. I feel so honored to have gotten the opportunity to work with these deeply conscious men. I am deeply grateful to Amanda and Damon for asking me to join them.

The level of mutual love and respect I witnessed in the classroom was palpable. When one of the men who had his sentence commuted shared how nervous and curious he is about dating and having a girlfriend when he gets out, the men around the circle respectfully listened- no teasing nor smirking, just compassion and respect.

This third in-person session focused on a coaching skill that shows the client how to meditate on a future version of themselves and what their lives will look and feel like. In planning the session, we wondered about how it would land with the men, so many of whom face a likely future inside. Many of their sentences are life without the possibility of parole and the rest have upwards of 20-years left on their sentences. They maintain hope though, because of the possibility of commutation and the fact that several of their brothers received commutations from Governor Brown and are out or soon will be.

But here’s the thing - they expressed hope and vision around their futures inside. They

commented that the “Future Self” meditation exercise and subsequent coaching they practiced and received, helped them connect to their true purpose and vision. The coaching exercises helped them understand how in so many ways, they are living their visions in the present moment out on the Yard.

In the coaching demo, one young man, T.A., shared his vision – that he will get out in some years and he will be Mayor of San Bernardino. He shared his vision of a transformed city where people of color own the city and have created a community grounded in compassion, equity, and opportunity. All the men around the circle were nodding their heads and smiling and saying “Yep, T.A. will be Mayor of San Bernardino one day.” We all saw that vision and felt what it would be like to live in T.A.’s city.

We witnessed as the men realized that they have a future no matter where they are, that they’re doing good work just to do it and not just to get out, that they are the people that they want to be.

As I was driving the 90-minute drive home to L.A. I kept thinking about what it would be like if all of these guys could get out and do the work that is calling them on the outside. What an amazing gift that would be to all of us. There is a level of consciousness and clarity from all of the soul searching, inner work and healing that so many of them have done that is crystallized into a sense of purpose that feels so powerful and solid. T.A. said that he feels like he had to be broken and stripped bare before he could “get it’ and see and be his true self. The guided meditation around his future self enabled him to get even clearer and more connected to his purpose.

Another guy said “just sharing our stories can touch people.” Another thing that stood out for me was how having the opportunity for creative expression inside was so powerful and healing. This is something unique to Yard A – the possibility of being involved in programs that are creative, healing and transformational like coaching, the Insight Garden Program and the Paws for Life dog training program. Every prison should have these opportunities for healing and transformation! One man, C, told me how he loves doing Celtic knot work and tattoos. Another young man, Winston, shared how he is a dancer and with a few other men from the group, is in a dance and theater group. I’m hoping that they’ll perform

at their graduation in July. What’s been on my mind lately is what transition will be like for the men who are getting out.

Transitions are hard for most of us, but this is at a whole other level. I thought about how

coaching can support them as they re-enter a world that they haven’t lived in since they were in their late teens. One man talked about learning to trust people that have promised to support him when he’s out, another talked about how he didn’t want to get pulled in to all of the consumption and distractions on the outside. Both of them shared that they feel curious and anxious about life outside AND that they know that their work on the outside will be connected to healing and coaching.

As we wrapped up on day 2, the men thanked us and talked about the “sacrifice” we had made to come and do this work with them. I couldn’t help but laugh because it feels like the antithesis of sacrifice! I felt so honored and lucky to have gotten to know every one of these powerful leaders and do this important work together. I shared with them that it in all of my work over the years in different spaces with different groups, they are some of the most evolved, vulnerable and courageous people I’ve ever met.

Coaching for Healing and Non-Violence Training is fiscally sponsored by Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs. To make a donation please visit:


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