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Monday, 24 August 2015 07:03

I went to jail and experienced freedom, control and magic

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I am standing in a gymnasium in a high security youth correctional centre in Saskatchewan.

I am surrounded by all of my
hand drums and world percussion instruments, displayed in a circle.
I am waiting for the participants to arrive. My heart is beating quickly.
The gym is silent.
I am nervous and excited.
I have never been in a jail before. Getting to this gym was a journey itself. Passing through coded doors, security, special keys, everything locked. High gates. Big fences. Bars. Wires.
I have been asked to facilitate one of my “Joy Infusion Drum Circles” to all of the inmates at the Youth Correctional Centre. All young men. All younger than 18. All in jail for some crime or offence they have committed. There will be almost 50 of us, when we gather together.
I am welcomed with open arms when I arrive. Together the director and I unload the 50-plus drums out of my vehicle. The gym is empty. Our voices echo in the empty space. I hear the sound of walkie-talkies, codes, beeps and different security talk through the speaker system. For a moment I have
a flash back of Johnny Cash singing at Folsom Prison.
I have never been in a jail before. I can imagine the desire for more joy in a prison. I wonder how the joy will emerge when the young men arrive. My heart is beating quickly. The gym is silent. I am nervous and excited.
Then a whistle, a beep, and a door opens. One adult enters. Then 13 youths follow him. Line up against the back wall of the gym. The gym is still silent. No one says anything. I watch the entering of the young men. There are times when it feels like a movie. From the wall, they move to chairs which are in a circle surrounding my drums. More silence.
Another whistle, a beep, and the same door opens. The routine continues. Thirteen youths line up against the back wall. Pause. Silence. Then make their way to the circle of chairs.
A few more beeps, whistles and walkie-talkie codes. A few more line-ups against the back wall, until all the youths are in the circle. We are ready
to begin.
From silence and stillness we moved to moments of freedom and joy in the circle. The boys’ faces lighting up. For two hours we expressed, we drummed, we told stories, we sang, we moved, we listened and we held sacred space together. We would get to these points of “freedom” where the boys were truly allowing themselves to express through the drum … and then almost as if it was engrained in them that “freedom was not allowed”, they held back and restrained their playing, pulled their bodies further inside, pulled themselves further inside. Control. Hold Back. Don’t express. Be unseen.
I was struck by the paradox of control and freedom. The  teenage years are a time when we want to be seen, noticed, valued and recognized. It is a time
of struggling to find our identity, to express and be unique. And yet, how does one be a teenager in jail?
They are all dressed in grey sweatpants, grey shirts and white Velcro sneakers. They are all individuals and yet they all look the same. They are each unique, and yet they blend into each other. I have never been to a jail before and I was struck by the energy of control and the desire for freedom.
Yes, we all have our own set of rules we follow. Some of these rules we place on ourselves. Others
are placed on us. I am grateful for the power of choice. We all have the ability to choose. Yes, these young gentlemen made some choices and now they are living in jail. We too, can confine ourselves with our “rules”, our “shoulds”, or “must dos”.
Our thoughts can limit our potentials and possibilities. My mind can be my jail. My thoughts can limit my freedom.
Choice. I am responsible for all of my choices. Whether I am a youth in jail or a motivational drum leader. We all have the power of choice.
In those moments when we choose — which is every single day — here is my invitation: “how can my choices help me expand my life with even more ease, joy and glory?”
The great magic came when we sang Wendeyaho — a Cherokee morning song — a blessing song sung by the Cherokee people for centuries. I offered this song at the end of our circle and all the boys made a choice — to sing. They drummed with great power and passion. They lifted their voices to the sky. It was
as if I was transported to an All Nations Boys Choir.
I felt this awakening in them. Something true emerging from within their song, their voice, their rhythm. We are all one. We all choose. We all fall.
We all rise. Choice creates freedom. Let your voices sing. Rise into the magnificent choices for your day.
To all the young men at the youth correctional centre I thank you.
Like what you’ve read? Desire more? Shine on with Christine and join other Joyful Abundant Life Seekers as together we shine every week. One on One Life Coaching, Abundant Living Guidance and more is available. Sign up for “Be Alive & Shine” newsletter on my website at: For more tips and tools on how to live abundantly from the inside out, visit me online ( Twitter@ChristineCiona or Facebook/KIVAsacred studio) or join us at KIVA (in the Carmel Mall). You are always welcome.

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