Architects of a New Dawn

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Oprah's interview with Jenny Phillips - Dhamma Brothers Documentary & book Letters From the Dhamma Brothers

Jenny Phillips Cultural anthropologist, writer and psychotherapist Jenny Phillips has been working in the field of mental health for more than 15 years. Much of her work has been with male prisoners, teaching inmates courses on emotional literacy and vipassana meditation, an ancient meditation technique based on the teachings of Buddha. Her work has helped inmates—many serving multiple life sentences—transform their lives, face their pasts and become more peaceful, purposeful people.

In 2008, Jenny released the self-produced documentary The Dhamma Brothers, which followed 36 prisoners at the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama through a 10-day silent vipassana meditation course. Her book Letters from the Dhamma Brothers: Meditation Behind Bars is a collection of letters and interviews from inmates who took part in the meditation course. The book depicts prison life and the journey many of the prisoners took to better understanding the teachings of Buddha and achieving inner peace.

Jenny has doctorate in anthropology from Boston University and is currently researching a book—along with her husband, journalist Frank Phillips—on author Ernest Hemingway's 22 years in Cuba. Jenny's grandfather, Maxwell Perkins, was a legendary book editor and close friend of Hemingway's.

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This is what happened when I tried to embed part 1 below. go to this link - you will really get alot out of these interviews by Oprah:
Part 1 Watch Now Listen Now

Part 2 Watch Now Listen Now

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Letters from the Dhamma Brothers
Meditation Behind Bars
Author: Jenny Phillips Foreword by: Dr. Robert Coles

Publisher: Pariyatti Publishing Imprint: Pariyatti Press
Trade Paper, English
$15.95 In stock/usually ships in one day
Pages: 240 Size: 6" X 9" X 21/32"
ISBN 13: 9781928706311
ISBN 10: 1928706312
Product Code: 778706
When the first ten-day Vipassana meditation course came to a close at Alabama's Donaldson Prison in 2002, twenty men were faced with the possibility of a new chapter in their lives. Many have life sentences and most have been deeply acculturated to the life of violence and abuse that is all too common in prisons. In letters written during a four-year period after this course, 15 inmate-meditators offer direct and intimate access to their thoughts, struggles, dreams and triumphs after taking part in this intensive, voluntary program. Corrections officers, wardens, judges and others ask: "Can this program really reform such hardened inmates? Will the changes last?" These letters will help you decide for yourself if their transformations are real or not. The Dhamma Brothers, a documentary film about the program at Donaldson, was released in April 2008 and shown at numerous theaters and film festivals in the United States. You can hear Oprah Winfrey talk with author Jenny Phillips and two inmate-meditators, and read from this book on the web at, Soul Series.
Winner, PASS award by the National Council on Crime and Deliquency (NCCD)
Finalist, Book of the Year Award, Foreword Magazine

Review By: John Lewis, U.S. Representative, Georgia - February 10, 2008
"The Dhamma Brothers have taken their own passage to India and discovered a practice of meditation that guides them down their inner path toward freedom. Those of us who accept the philosophy of non-violence believe there is a spark of divinity within all of us. This book makes it plain that no human being--no matter how troubled his beginning, regardless of his race, color, nationality, or creed--should be considered beyond the reach of redemption. No one should be tossed away in a jail cell and forgotten as though his life means nothing. This book demonstrates that all some people need--even those we might consider the worst among us--is to be led toward their path to recovery, and when they are restored, their contribution to our society and the world is limitless."

Review By: Will Marston, School Library Journal - September 1, 2008
Vipassana is an ancient nondenominational meditation technique that was revived by Gotama the Buddha 2600 years ago. These letters are a testament to the power that this practice has had on the lives of a handful of men in a high-security prison in Alabama. Many of them are serving life sentences, and all of them have struggled to find peace with themselves. The course has worked wonders for prisoners in India, where it was developed. For 10 days, the men meditated with three teachers, isolated from the rest of the prison population. They began by focusing on their own breath as a way of breaking down the barrier between mind and body. Out of the silence of meditation came an awareness that was transformative for these troubled men and that has lasted for years, even in the midst of the anguish of daily prison life.

Teens in trouble or at risk would certainly find this book illuminating. So, too, would those trying to fathom how to lead a sane and peaceful life in a world that can be hard to comprehend. This book offers a chance to develop an understanding of how we can share a commonality with something as simple and as vital as a breath.

Review By: Gerald Hannon, Toronto Globe & Mail - August 11, 2008
Interview/review excerpts . . . [Author Jenny] Phillips, a cultural anthropologist and practising psychotherapist in Concord, Mass., has spent a considerable amount time in prison herself, though not for any violation of state or federal law. She hangs with convicted thieves, murderers and rapists because she believes that a 10-day, 100-hour course in Vipassana meditation will lead them not only to manage stress and anger, but teach them that "experiencing and observing one's misery with constancy and equanimity, looking at it squarely with patience and fortitude - is the path to experiential understanding and the liberation from suffering ..." Sounds far-fetched, I know. Seems to work, though. Vipassana, which means "seeing things as they actually are," is a Buddha-inspired system of meditation (the way of the Buddha is known as the Dhamma). As she writes, "This technique involves the observation of ordinary, actual sensations throughout the body, moment by moment, and understanding their impermanent nature. ... Incrementally, one overcomes deeply conditioned habitual reactions and emerges with a profound inner freedom and equanimity." In 1999, she learned that several hundred prisoners in the Donaldson prison had become aware of the Houses of Healing program, and were meditating regularly. She decided to visit and interview some of the men - the program, remarkably, had been initiated not by professionals like herself, but by a prisoner who had found a book about it in the prison library. The interviews persuaded her that the introduction of a Vipassana meditation program, which she had learned of through a documentary film charting its success in Tihar Jail, India's largest prison, "could provide the structure and approach to further address personal suffering." There was some negotiation with the prison administration, but in January, 2002, Donaldson Correctional Facility became the first state prison in North America to hold a Vipassana course (it had been used in county jails before - studies there showed a significant reduction in recidivism). That is how she came to meet and know men such as Mr. Kennedy, Grady Bankhead (sentenced to life for his part in a murder), Michael Carpenter (homicide, life without parole), Wayne Finch (homicide), Edward Johnson (aiding and abetting a triple homicide) and about 10 others featured in her book. The men, most of them African American, sat for hours in the prison gym, closing their eyes, following their breathing, listening to their bodies. They did it for 10 hours a day, under the guidance of three of her colleagues. When they "graduated," the prison warden attended the ceremonies. He saw hardened criminals weep as they told their stories. He urged those who had taken the course to become agents of change in the prison. Ms. Phillips and her colleagues would soon start receiving letters - many of them published in her book - from the men who took the program, men whose view of themselves and their capacity for change had been radically transformed.
Well, I finally did it... set aside an hour to watch both parts of the Oprah interviews. I want to see the movie. It was very inspiring to hear the prisoners finding a way to be at peace with themselves even while in the harsh prison environment.



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