By Arlene Stepputat
“I found the Mind and Supermind lecture presented by Drs. Bonnie and David Paul to be especially meaningful. This was due both to hearing about the amazing work they do in prisons, and to the listening exercise they led us through. I learned something significant and very helpful about myself in doing the exercise. The other participants I talked with all had similarly revealing experiences. It was a most worthwhile evening!” – Spencer Sherman, Mind and Supermind Moderator
More than 60 people gathered on April 2nd 2018 to hear Mind and Supermind speakers, Drs. David and Bonnie Paul. The evening was billed as “How Selfless Service Can Transform You and the World.”
Bonnie and David took front and center with their usual warmth, welcome and humor. There they presented the work of FTC which included a video testimony from one of the original women inmates who attended the first FTC project at Valley State Prison when it was a women’s facility.
They engaged the audience in both the practical theory of the work – referring to Viktor Frankl as well as the neuroscience to illustrate how and why change is possible for any of us. David also discussed why service is good for your physical health and cited recent medical research that validates this idea.
As someone who has been with the program for many years, I have repeatedly watched “strangers” become connected through the experiential exercises used in FTC’s workshops. When David and Bonnie introduced the evening’s exercise with the handout Finding Your Freedom to Choose, the room buzzed in the tentative but soon intimate sharing within each exercise group.
FTC’s Pathways to Freedom workshop at Valley State Prison
Large group sharing was brief but filled with familiar comments as people realized that we all have more in common than we have differences. The idea of actually being listened to with someone seeing your loving essence was a revelation to many. One person shared that she didn’t realize that she would actually learn something in each role of the experiential exercise and that raised her awareness about engagement with people over all.
I had invited many friends to attend and spoke with two of them a few days later about their experience of the evening. Dana, an RN and long-time friend involved with social justice including a local project for tattoo removal for gang members shared, “it wasn’t long enough. There were so many golden nuggets coming from David and Bonnie I couldn’t write fast enough. The experience from the experiential exercise was very good. I wish it had been 3 hours.”
Victoria, a colleague at work, has a son who has been involved with a court case for the last year or so. He’s only 17 but will likely be sentenced as an adult. She has been confiding in me because she feels the stigma many families experience when a child or sibling or spouse is incarcerated. She came at my urging since her son will soon be sentenced to his prison term.
Victoria said this about the evening. “I was so impressed with the video of Jo, the inmate. I also felt comfortable opening up to a stranger which surprised me. I learned a lot from the others in my exercise group in a short time. We are all normal. We all go through stuff.” Then a little tearfully she added, “There are really amazing people out there with good hearts.”
For me the Freedom to Choose Project is about the loving and also a reminder that the wisdom and caring for another human being is inside each one of us. In my experience, selfless service does indeed change the world, the world inside me and all around me.
Mind and Supermind Classes are presented by Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) as part of their School for Extended Learning. Mind and Supermind has a long history in Santa Barbara of bringing cutting edge and conscious learning to the community. Past presenters have included the likes of Deepak Chopra, Byron Katie and most recently Jack Canfield.
Arlene Stepputat (FTC volunteer since 2005)
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