|Posted on April 5, 2015 at 3:15 PM|
fROM THE EMAIL I SENT OUT, THE DAY AFTER THE EVENT:
Hello You Very Dear Circles of Light Participants!
Thank you SO much for your support of Tuesday's event. I've posted some of the photos that Dave took on Facebook, but in case you don't look there, I'm sending some along through email.
I'm so glad those of you who were able to come to Folsom, got to meet Franky, and he is VERY glad that he got to meet you.
This is how it went on the inside: There was a feeling of excitement in the air. The guys were so looking forward to seeing our guests: Sandy McAlister, Franky Carrillo, Judy Tretheway and Minh Mark. We began, as always, sitting in a circle of chairs, and each of the men introduced themselves and shared how T'ai Chi Chih has changed their lives. That alone would be enough. They talk of learning to connect within, to a higher, softer self they didn't know existed. They speak of finding peace in their chaotic, dangerous and stressful world. The spoke of comraderie, of how whether white, black or brown, they always smile and wave on the yard, because they are brothers through the form. Most of all they expressed gratitude, for Justin Stone, for Sandy and all of their guests, for their teacher, and for the practice. Some will even say they are grateful to be in Folsom, so they could discover T'ai Chi Chih and what it has shown them about themselves; about how to live.
Watching them eat will always be one of the greatest joys I will ever experience. But more than that, it is sitting down together and sharing a meal, the temporary normalcy of it, and for a while, they are not in prison any more. After our meal Franky Carrillo got up on stage and spoke of his life after 20 years of wrongful incarceration. He said that, having come in at 16 and being released at 37, there were some who wondered if he could ever adapt, could make a life for himself. He demonstrated to the men that not only is it possible - he is living a life beyond his wildest dreams. He is in love, he has a beautiful son, and he is attending a prestigious university. He has been in newspapers, magazines, and on radio and t.v. Rather than relax and live a quiet life, he is using his fame and working hard to change the system. He said that once released, he had a choice. He could hold onto the anger and bitterness he felt towards those who had hurt him, or he could reach out in forgiveness. He chose the latter. He has had dinner with the D.A., the Prosecutors, and even the Judge who passed his sentence. He befriended the very head of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. And by doing this, he is able to work for change. Soon he is even traveling to the White House to speak. But what Franky said is the most important thing he does now, is to introduce himself as a former inmate. He said, "I am your face out there. I am working to destroy the stereotype of how a former inmate looks, of who he is." He expressed gratitude for the T'ai Chi Chih class he was able to attend while he was in Folsom, and said it helped him immensely after his release. There was hardly a dry eye in the place. Then he and Judy Tretheway left to join the group of 14, waiting on the outside.
Before the class in the Chapel gathered into our Circle, Sandy, the International Guide of T'ai Chi Chih, read aloud the article that she wrote after last year's banquet. Eyes-welling-up-with-tears-of-emotion seemed to be an ongoing theme Tuesday, be it Franky, Judy, Minh, myself, or one of the inmates, and Sandy was no exception. She spoke of how the word "prisoner" just did not describe the men who sat before her. She also expressed her gratitude for Justin, and for them. She finished her reading at 3 minutes to 2:00 and we eagerly formed two circles, myself, Sandy, Minh and the more experienced students in the center circle, surrounded by the remaining students. I listed all of the people who were joining us in this special practice: Franky's Circle of Light on the Hill, looking right down on us, as well as the Circles in Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Diego, Albuquerque, Atlanta, St. Paul, Portland, Edmonton, Canada, and London England (a partial list). There was such a feeling of calm excitement in the air, as Sammy and Mr. Miller counted down the seconds. Then quietly, Sandy said, "Rocking Motion," and we began. It was one of the most beautiful practices I've ever experienced. I don't think I've ever seen this class so synchronized, so present, so connected. We were all being carried along by the love being expressed in movement, all over the world. We were as one. It was truly magical.
I look forward to hearing about your experiences as well. I would love it if you would do a "REPLY ALL," so we can all share in your thoughts and feelings. Again,I am so grateful to you all, for your enthusiasm, participation and monetary support. Thanks to Franky for using part of his Spring Break to join us, thereby creating the second Circle of Light; thanks to Sandy, Judy and Minh; thanks to my husband Dave for all of his support and help, and to my brother Tom, for sending the press release for free.
Much Loving Qi - Julie
P.S. Here is a link to an article that came out yesterday, from a Tai Chi group in San Luis Obispo, who joined in our practice. I am not sure who they are, or how they heard about it? Wow! http://www.ksby.com/story/28693883/tai-chi-class-shows-support-for-former-inmate