Building Inner Strength
Building Inner Strength
Building Inner Strength


By Karen Mastroiani and Helen Schwartz

Helen Schwartz and I began meditation sessions at the Southern Correctional Institute in Troy, North Carolina about 18 months ago. The Women’s Facility is a medium security prison. The half-day introductory session on Practicing Meditation and Exploring the Mind attracted over 100 women. From that list our sponsor selected 20 to participate in meditation sessions on the 16 Guidelines, and the group has continued ever since.

The title of our program continues to be ‘Building Inner Strength’. The foundation of the program - and the first 18-week initiative - is based on ‘The 16 Guidelines for Life’ book. Each participant received a book and we spent an hour and a half weekly exploring each Guideline.  We developed an outline curriculum, discussion questions, and homework for each Guideline.

The process has been amazing for all of us.

I’ve loved the 16G ever since they were introduced to the children at our Center. I strongly felt, and still do, that the Guidelines provide essential tools for adults in many settings. We use them in our leadership development initiatives with corporations and David Machles introduced the Guidelines for our prison project at our Center.

There are many difficulties and obstacles in these settings, yet our participants continue to practice, making incredible progress. None were meditators before and they are from varied or no religious backgrounds. The women share personal stories of their meditation practice, and their practices of kindness, patience, generosity, forgiveness and gratitude.

We learn from each other.

They share the 16G information as well as their experiences with other women at the facility. In fact, we have a waiting list for starting new groups. They appreciate the non-judgmental approach to increase their well-being and the well-being of others.

We’ll share one small story as an example of the observable changes - there was a wasp-like insect on the floor (we frequently have insect guests) as we all set up the room for our last session. Without a word, one woman got up, found a piece of paper to gently take our guest outside to the yard. Other women assisted. The process involved getting the guard, convincing the guard, and getting doors unlocked!

Not all of the participants are in our lovely picture because Helen, the co-facilitator was ill, and several participants were also ill.

Note: The women at the facility made our meditation cushions.