Ginger is one of 4 new facilitators-in-training at the GEO Lockhart Unit this Spring Semester. She shares with us about her experience of her very first day Behind Bars.
Truth Be Told orientation day was last week. Five of us went into GEO Lockhart Prison to meet the women, introduce the Talk To Me classes, and go through a process of starting this truth-telling journey together. As a facilitator-in-training, I was kind of straddling the two realms – I live in the “free world” and my work is to learn how to facilitate classes on my own in the future, and I am fully a class participant, along with the women who live in the prison, and my work is to tell my story.
Every minute of the day was relevant and important. It began as soon as I saw Katie at the front door of her house, and continued as we drove over to Callahan’s General Store and picked up Donna. Katie facilitates the writing class that I’ll be doing, and Donna facilitates the speaking class. The three of us drove out to Lockhart and the conversation in the car was alive and connected to the purpose, and fun. We met up with my co-facilitators-in-training, Margarita and Jill, at Reyna’s Mexican Bakery and Café where we shared and listened and laughed and bonded as a group. Then we drove over to the prison in the same car, strengthening our easy connection with conversation and togetherness.
I started to feel my nerves upon entering the prison. My expectations were stronger than I realized, causing some tension around protocol and rules.
The process of entry (checking in, getting badges, metal detector, pat-down, walking through several armored doors) was good to be doing in this group of new friends.
We arrived in the gym and it was essentially empty, just a few chairs, tables and a sound system set up for our presentation, and there were two women in their blue uniforms, smiling and greeting us as if we were old friends. They had done the program before and were on the set-up crew. I noticed my nerves were tweaked out though I really didn’t know why at this point. After a while, women started to arrive, carrying their plastic chairs. They came! Something in me started to relax a bit. We were actually going to do this thing. A woman who I sat next to told me she is using this time in prison as an opportunity to know herself. I felt humble in her presence.
Katie led the orientation and Donna spoke and the three facilitators-in-training were introduced. At some point I looked back at one of the women who had greeted us at the door, because there was something about her specifically that touched something specific in me. I looked back and was flooded with a painful memory. She had reminded me of something from my past that I had not felt into, until that day. I cried quietly as the presentation continued.
And I started to notice that actually most, if not all, women there felt like mirrors into something in me. Though they are incarcerated for various crimes, I experienced myself with them, how common our human lives really are. I felt connected, humbled, fairly disoriented from my usual mindset, and alive.
In my own healing years, I’ve at times looked for some sort of prison like this. For a while there, I couldn’t face the world, knowing what I was discovering from my own past, about my own trauma. I committed myself to silent meditation retreats instead of state penitentiaries. These days I am learning how to live, for real, in the free world. And the thing is, this journey is a continual diving back into the places in me that are still locked away. I’m thankful for the wisdom of the Truth Be Told community, for knowing that we cannot facilitate that which we cannot be with in our own lives. Tomorrow is the first Talk To Me Circle in which I get to fully participate as an inmate, and I get to learn about facilitating through Katie’s guidance. Again, it is simply humbling to be walking around out here; free to live my life, and to also know I am incarcerated.
Ginger McGilvray grew up in Central Texas and lives in Austin. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist and yoga/movement instructor and she is a Hakomi Practitioner-in-training (Hakomi is a mindfulness-based, body-centered form of psychotherapy). She is a lifelong dancer and writer and she has an affinity for working with people who are in healing process in their lives, such as related to trauma, cancer and addiction. She also works with end of life care. There is a popular quote by Howard Thurman that pretty much summarizes Ginger’s intention: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”