Prison Visits

Nell C. is the volunteer coordinator. You can email her using the links provided below or by composing your own email to nell.clowder at-sign

Schedule of upcoming visits

If you are not on a gate list (see volunteer lists below), you cannot sign up to go on a visit.

How many people should sign up for each visit?

We always need one trained volunteer to be present at each satellite we visit. We like to have more than one person though at each location. We like for untrained folks to make the trip whenever they can, so that they become comfortable and can someday go it alone if we are short-handed. We like to enhance the feeling of sangha by having lots of people at the services. There really isn't any limit. Go whenever it works for you. The only limit may have to do with transportation and we'll work that out trip by trip. Several days before each trip, the volunteer coordinator will send out an email to all participants to arrange transportation. *IF* we're over-populated, you can drop out at that time if you want.

TRAINED VOLUNTEERS, it is helpful if you respond to the volunteer coordinator for each event, so that she knows for sure whether you are/are not available.

Please allow 2 days for the volunteer coordinator to process emails and update this page per your information.

LAST UPDATED: January 18, 2019

Date Time Units Volunteers
 Wed. Jan 9, 2019    
3:30 - 5:30Riverside, Sycamore, ValleyYES: Jessica,  Jim, Cindy, Cathy
MAYBE:          NO: Jaime
Sat. Jan 19, 2019    
 1:30-3:30 LockhartYES: Sergio, Gloria, Kat
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. Jan 26, 2019    
 2:00 – 4:00Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace YES:  Jim, Cindy, Thayer, Cathy
MAYBE:          NO:
Wed. Feb 13, 2019   
 3:30 - 5:30Riverside, Sycamore, Valley YES: Jessica, Jim, Cindy, Cathy
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. Feb 16, 2019  
1:30-3:30LockhartYES: Jessica, Lynn
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. Feb 23, 2019  
2:00 – 4:00Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace YES: Jim, Cindy, Thayer, Cathy
MAYBE:          NO:
Wed. Mar 13, 2019   
3:30 - 5:30
Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
 YES: Jessica, Jim, Cindy, Cathy
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. Mar 16, 2019 
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. Mar 23, 2019 
2:00 – 4:00
Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
YES: Sergio, Thayer
MAYBE:          NO: Jim, Cindy
Wed. Apr10, 2019 
3:30 - 5:30Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
 YES: Jessica, Jim, Cindy, Cathy
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. Apr 20, 2019 
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. Apr 27, 2019 
2:00 – 4:00
Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace YES: Jim, Cindy, Sergio, Thayer
MAYBE:          NO:
Wed. May 8, 2019 
3:30 - 5:30
Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
 YES: Jim, Cindy, Cathy
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. May 18, 2019 
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. May 25, 2019 
2:00 – 4:00
Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
YES: Jim, Cindy, Sergio, Thayer
MAYBE:          NO:
May ??
Vesak Day
May ??
Vesak Day
Wed. June 12, 2019 
3:30 - 5:30
Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
YES: Jim, Cindy
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. June 15, 2019 
Lockhart YES:
MAYBE:          NO:
Sat. June 22, 2019 
2:00 – 4:00
Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace YES: Jim, Cindy, Sergio
MAYBE:          NO:
Wed. Jan. 10, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes: Sergio, Jim, Cindy;
Jessica driving separately
Maybe:  No:
Thur. Jan. 18, 2018  3:30-5:30 vows for inmate-led at Riverside Yes: Janet, Cindy, Jim
Maybe:   No: Jessica, Nell
Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Nell, Thayer, Janet
Maybe:  No: Cindy
Wed. Feb. 14, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside,  Valley,
Vows at Sycamore
Yes: Jim, Cindy, Janet, Sergio to Sycamore, Jessica
Maybe: Nell  No:
Sat. Feb. 24, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes: Jim, Cindy, Thayer, Nell
Maybe: Anna Marie  No:
Wed. Mar. 14, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes: Lane, Sergio, jessica, Cathy pending add to gatelist
Maybe:  No:Cindy, Jim
Sat. Mar. 17, 2018       
 1:30-3:30  Lockhart  Lane, Jessica, Nell
Sat. Mar. 24, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes: Thayer,  Nell, Sergio
Maybe:   No: Jim, Cind, Jane, Cathy, Jessica, Anna Marie
Sat. Apr 7, 2018   
   Lockhart      Yes: Jim, Cindy
Wed. Apr. 11, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Sergio, Jim
Maybe: No: Jessica, Janet, Cindy
Sat. Apr 14, 2018  11:00 - 4:00
special program at all 4 satellites (Buddhists-only at Riverside)
 Yes: Janet, Jim, Cindy, Nell
No: Sergio, Thayer, Jessica
Sat. Apr. 28, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Thayer, Jessica
Maybe:  No:Nell
Wed. May 9, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Jessica
Maybe:  No:
Sat. May 26, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Thayer
Maybe:  No: Nell
Vesak day, May 20, 2018

meal for Buddhists. Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace.    
 Sergio, Cathy, Nell, Jessica
Wed. June 13, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Jessica, Cathy
Maybe:  No:
Sat. June 23, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Thayer, Cathy
Maybe:  No:
Thu. June 28, 2018   
   inmate-led: vows
Yes: Janet, Cathy, Jim, Cindy
Wed. July 11, 20183:30 - 5:30Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Sergio, Jessica, Jake
Maybe:  No: Jim, Cindy
 Sat. July 21, 2018

 Lockhart Jim, Cindy, Cathy
Sat. July 28, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 CANCELLED
Maybe: Jim   No: Cindy, Thayer, Cathy, Janet, Jessica
Wed. Aug. 8, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Jim, Sergio, Cathy
Maybe:  No:
Sat. Aug. 25, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Cindy
Maybe:  No:
Wed. Sept. 12, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Sergio, Jessica
Maybe:   No:
Sat. Sept 15, 2018
 1:30-3:30    Lockhart Yes: Jim, Cindy

Sat. Sept. 22, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Cindy
Maybe:  No:
Wed. Oct. 10, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Cathy, Lane
Maybe: No: Jessica
Sat. Oct. 20, 2018    
 1:30-3:30LockhartYes: Jessica
No: Jim, Cindy, Cathy, Gloria, Sergio
Sat. Oct. 27, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Thayer, Cathy
Maybe:  No:
Wed. Nov. 14, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Sergio, Cathy, Jaime
Maybe:  No:Jessica
Sat. Nov. 17, 2018
 1:30-3:30    LockhartYes: Nell
No: Jim, Cindy, Jessica, Sergio, Gloria, Lane
Sat. Nov. 24, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Thayer
Maybe:  No:
Sun. Dec 2
Bodhi Day
 11am-2pm Communal meal for Buddhists @ Crain
Yes: Sergio, Cathy, Jim, Cindy
 Sun. Dec 2
Bodhi Day
 11am - 12pm
Communal meal for Buddhists @ Lockhart
Yes: Jessica
Wed. Dec. 12, 2018 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Sergio
Maybe:  No:
Sat. Dec 15, 2018
Yes: Sergio
Sat. Dec. 22, 2018 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Yes:  Jim, Cindy, Thayer
Maybe:  No:

* driver

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Trained volunteers permanently on the gate list

volunteer sangha availability training date
Anna Marie ASMC
7/17 onsite
Dharmata   4/18 onsite
Cindy Dharmata plans to go every trip (with exceptions),
sometimes Lockhart
7/17 onsite
Gloria      Dharmata Lockhart only
4/18 onsite
Janet Dharmata
1/19 onsite
Jessica ASMC Wednesday, occasional Saturday
7/17 onsite
Jim Dharmata plans to go every trip (with exceptions),
also Lockhart
5/17 onsite
Lane Dharmata Bastrop federal prison only
7/18 onsite
Nell Dharmata as needed
5/17 online
Sergio Dharmata
Saturday 1/19-5/19
4/18 onsite
Thayer Dharmata
8/17 onsite
Jake ASMC as needed
4/18 onsite
JaimeASMCWednesday10/18 onsite
LynnASMC 1/19 onsite
Laurie ASMC
not available
7/18 onsite

Untrained volunteers on the gate list for 1 month (lifetime limit of 4 TDCJ visits without TDCJ training)

volunteer sangha availability # of visits made so far note
Kat ASMC  

Potential volunteers (not on the gate list)

volunteer sangha availability txdl info received by
volunteer coordinator
absence dates
Emma Dharmata

Anna Dharmata   

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Introductory info for new or potential volunteers

Volunteers from the Shambhala and Dharmata sanghas of Austin go to the Crain Unit in Gatesville every second Wednesday and fourth Saturday of the month. Each visit, we do a two-hour class (technically, a religious service). Currently we do this at four separate units located in the Crain complex. We carpool, leaving Austin around noon or 1 PM and returning around 6:30 - 8:00 PM.

Our goal in providing these services is primarily to ease the prison experience for inmates by giving them the tools to develop a meditation practice. These tools include instruction in basic technique, which we can speak about out of our own experience; motivation to practice, which we also can speak about out of our own experience; and support for their practice, which we give by dependably showing up, occasionally (and optionally) corresponding with them, and once in a while providing special events such as all-day "retreats." While we draw specifically on Buddhist/Shambhala practice and focus almost exclusively on shamatha meditation, we try to make our instruction comfortable and welcoming for people of all faiths.

In seeking to motivate people to practice, we may engage with the inmates concerning issues in their daily lives. These conversations are strikingly similar to conversations we have with members of our own sanghas here in Austin. We all become both learners and teachers. We strive to model Buddhist principles of compassion, patience, and generosity, refraining (to the best of our ability) from assuming any I-know-better posture and from giving advice - while at the same time recognizing that we have been blessed with opportunities to study the dharma which most of these inmates have never had. While we may not explicitly talk about Buddhist or Shambhalian teachings, our contributions to these discussions are grounded in our understanding of the core teachings of Buddhism and/or Shambhala. We are not there to do therapy (even though we may be talented therapists) or to engage them in other techniques, and I mention this not because it is a "rule" or anything like that, but simply to help convey to you the spirit in which we approach the prison sangha.

We also make some attempt to support Buddhist inmates with specifically Buddhist teachings and discussions. This is always a bit of a dance, as we have a variety of faiths as well as varying levels of Buddhist "sophistication" present at each meeting and from one meeting to the next.

Volunteers in our program should be affiliated with the Shambhala or Dharmata sanghas. You should have at least one year of experience with meditation. Please don't think your practice has to be perfect in any way, as it is definitely reassuring to inmates to hear about how we have struggled with our own practice. But you should be committed to meditation as a tool for spiritual development or self-awareness and have personal experience with shamatha meditation. A basic familiarity with Buddhist or Shambhalian teachings is also good, but really you don't need much so long as you participate as a member of the sangha and don't represent yourself as an authority.

One other factor to consider is that you will be dealing with TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice), a very strict bureaucracy, a rule-bound, enforcement-driven, very serious don't-joke-with-us organization. If strict yet arbitrary enforcement of rules that you may not understand irritates you or provokes your spirit of rebellion, this might not be the right volunteer venue for you. We are allowed into the prison at the pleasure of TDCJ and we have to do things their way. Period.

TDCJ provides and requires training for volunteers in the chaplaincy program. However, you can come with us one to two times without having taken the training. You will be paired with an experienced volunteer(s) when you go, and you can participate or simply observe. You can use this web page to see upcoming events and request that you be included. We will also meet with you before your first visit, to go over any questions and give everyone a chance to get acquainted. Contact the volunteer coordinator (link below) to set up your visit.

Before visiting the prison, you should read the TDCJ Volunteers Handbook, especially the rules of conduct and the information on contraband and emergency situations. TDCJ does a good job of explaining the boundaries that should exist between volunteers and inmates. In terms of safety, nothing scary has ever happened to our volunteers, but this is a prison and you should know what risks you are taking.

If you want to become a regular volunteer you will need to submit an application to become a TDCJ volunteer (find a link to the application on this page). You will also need to attend a training session. You may have to wait a while for a training to be offered in the Austin area, so you should check the schedule and rsvp for a training as soon as possible. Find a link to the training schedule on this page. Take a copy of your application to your training session. Upon receiving your application, TDCJ will conduct a background check and then send you a letter indicating approval (or not, but wWe have never heard of an application being turned down). If you receive this letter before you go to training, take the letter to the training session.

Thank you for you interest in this program! This is wonderfully worthwhile work that has changed the lives and  practice of all of us who volunteer - to say nothing of what it has done for some of the inmates.

If you have ever been incarcerated in the TDCJ system (not including state or local jails), we MUST notify TDCJ before you make a visit. Please tell the volunteer coordinator if this is the case.

If you want to volunteer with ASMC-Dharmata: Click here to contact the volunteer coordinator. (And if this link doesn't work, just send an email to the volunteer coordinator, nell[dot]clowder[at]utexas[dot]edu.)

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TDCJ Volunteer Training Schedule

You can see a schedule for TDCJ volunteer training sessions online. Try this link: TDCJ training schedule.

If that doesn't work, go to this page and look for a link to a current training schedule: volunteer services.

Volunteers are required to retrain every two years. Volunteers are allowed to take the training on-line, but cannot do this two trainings in a row (every other training must be an on-site training).

Gatelist items

These items are approved for us to carry into the prison.
  • small bell with striker
  • 2 travel packs of kleenex
  • incense (may not be burned in prison)
  • pad of paper and pencil/pen (for taking attendance)
  • 25 name tags and 1 marker pen. NOTE: YOU MUST GET THE NAMETAGS BACK. If the women leave the meeting with a tag, they can get in trouble for that.
  • 3 x 3 foot cloth with devotional image for hanging/display.
  • pack of religious pictures (not for distribution)
  • religious literature for distribution. If you plan to take some, please tell Nell in advance so that she can double-check with chaplain.
  • clear plastic container for carrying the above

Devotional items that inmates may possess

Inmates are allowed some devotional items that pertain to their faith. For Buddhists, these are

  • japa or mala beads
    Mala beads must be black (colors pertain to gangs), on cotton string (can't use as weapon) and beads no more than 3/8 inch. It is not to be worn on the wrist.
  • picture of buddha
    8.5 x 11 or smaller on normal paper or cardstock. Must "meet the standards of TDCJ." We can give the chaplain a supply of pictures and then our Buddhist friends can request them using a form.
  • dharma medallion
    The dharma medallion is purchased through the commissary and handled by TDCJ.

To obtain a devotional item, an inmate does an I60 form to request the item. The Chaplain checks their travel card (religion) and their property records to verify that the inmate doesn't have that item already. An inmate with too many items may have to give up some other devotional item to get this one. The I60 form names the vendor the item will be purchased from. The vendor must be approved (call chaplaincy office in Huntsville to get approval). Once the I60 is approved, the inmate can order the item. The prison mailroom is informed. The item is received by the chaplain, a property slip issued and the item given to the inmate. Without that property slip, the inmate will be assessed a violation.

Previous visits

Date Time Units Volunteers
Sat. Dec. 23, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace Jim, Nell, Janet, Cindy
Wed. Dec. 13, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Jessica, Jim, Cindy
Sat. Dec. 9, 2017   Bodhi day meal for Buddhists at Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace, and Valley Nell, Jim, Cindy, Jessica, Sergio
Sat. Nov. 25, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace Nell, Jim, Cindy
Wed. Nov. 8, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Jessica, Jim, Cindy
Sat. Oct. 28, 2017    Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace Cindy, Jim, Nell
Wed. Oct. 11, 2017    Riverside, Sycamore, (not Valley?) Jessica, Janet
Sat. Sep. 23, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace Cindy, Jim, Daniele, Nell, Anna Marie
Wed. Sep. 13, 2017    Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Jim, Cindy, Janet, Sergio
Sat. Aug. 26, 2017    CANCELLED due to lockdown  
Wed. Aug. 9, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, (not Valley) Nell & ?
Sat. July 22, 2017   Sycamore, Terrace regular service, Riverside Buddhists 11 - 4  Janet, Cindy, Jim, Nell
Wed. July 12, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Janet, Cindy, Jim, Jessica
Sat. June 24, 2017  11 - 4 Sycamore, Terrace special program
(Riverside cancelled because they put us in gym).
Nell, Cindy, Jim, Sergio
Wed. June 14, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Cindy, Jim, Jessica
Thu. June 1, 2017   Sycamore inmate-led Nell
Sat. May 27, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace Jim, Cindy, Janet
Sat. May 20, 2017   Buddha day (meal) Riverside Buddhists  Jim, Cindy, Nell
Wed. May 10, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Jim, Cindy, Janet, Sergio
Sat. Apr. 22, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace Jim, Jessica, Janet
Wed. Apr. 12, 2017   Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Jim, Cindy, Laura, Janet, Jessica
Sat, Mar. 25, 2017 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace Jim, Cindy, Nell
Wed, Mar. 8, 2017 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Jim, Cindy, Janet, Jessica
Sat, Feb. 25, 2017 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace
Jim, Cindy, Janet
Wed, Feb. 22, 2017 Work session, 2-4pm, Wheatsville on South Lamar
Wed, Feb. 8, 2017 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Jim*, Cindy, Janet, Jessica, Peggy Kelley
Thu, Feb. 2, 2017
inmate-led (Riverside) Nell
Sat, Jan. 28, 2017 2:00 – 4:00 Riverside, Sycamore, Terrace Jim, Cindy, Janet
Wed, Jan. 11, 2017 3:30 - 5:30 Riverside, Sycamore, Valley Jim, Cindy, Jessica, Sergio*


Date Riverside Sycamore Terrace Valley literature
Sat. Dec. 24, 2016 Nell cancelled

Wed. Dec. 14, 2016 13: Jessica  

Sat. Nov. 26, 2016 14: Lane 13:

Wed. Nov. 9, 2016 12: Nell 5: Jessica

Thurs, Nov. 3, 2016 Jim, inmate-led  

Sat. Oct. 22, 2016 Janet, Cindy, Jim special program 13: Nell, Jessica special program
1: Jessica regular program

Wed. Oct. 12, 2016
4: Cindy

Thur Oct. 6, 2016 6: Nell (inmate-led)  

TNH 2 chaps from "Anger"
Sat Sept 24, 2016 14: 8: Lane

Wed Sept 14, 2016

4:  Sergio

Sat Aug 27, 2016


Wed Aug 10, 2016 13:

Sat July 23, 2016 16: Janet 10: Lane 1: Nell

Wed July 13, 2016 16: Jessica, Sergio
10: Cindy, Chris

7: Jim

Sat June 25, 2016 13: Lane
13: Jim
not enough volunteers

Wed June 8, 2016 19: Jim
?: Sergio

6: Cindy

Sat May 28, 2016 16: Cindy, Merri
18: 11-4PM with vows (3). Nell, Merri, Jim, Janet, Cindy
0: Jim

Wed May 11, 2016 21: Jessica
5: Jim

Sat Apr 23, 2016 13:

Wed Apr 13, 2016 18: Nell, Khema 4: Jessica
2: Jim
Sat Mar 26, 2016 16:
1: Jim

Wed Mar 9, 2016 cancelled due to lockdown
Sat Feb 27, 2016 10: Anna Marie, Jim 7: Cindy 1: Nell

Wed Feb 10, 2016 yes yes
2: Lane

Sat Jan 23, 2016 16: Lane, ?
5: ?
did not go
Winter Feast packes 3 & 4
Wed Jan 13, 2016 17: Lane, Sergio
8: Nell

3: Jessica
Winter Feast packets 1 & 2
Sat Dec 26, 2015 11-4PM  35: Janet, Jim, Cindy, Nell, Lane
4: Lane    
0: Nell

Wed Dec 9, 2015 28: Cindy, Nell 5: Jim, Lane
1: Sergio
Sat Nov 28, 2015 25: Janet, Jim, Nell 2: Lane, Cindy 0: Cindy

Wed Nov 11, 2015 36: 4: ?

Sat Oct 24, 2015 16: Cindy 11-4PM   14: Jim, Cindy, Nell
3: Nell

Wed Oct 14, 2015 17 + 13: Nell, Jessica, Jim 4: Sergio
2: Cindy
Sat. Sept 26, 2015 cancelled due to lockdown
Sat. Sept. 9, 2015 32: Cindy, Sergio 5: Jim
Wed. Aug 22, 2015 we missed it
Wed. Aug 12, 2015 37: Cindy 2: Sergio
1: Jim
Sat. July 25, 2015 22: Jim 10: Nell, Janet
2: Cindy

Wed. July 8, 2015 26: Nell 12: Lane


Sat. June 27, 2015 18: Jim?
18: Lane
2: Cindy?

Wed. June 10, 2015 23:
8: Jessica

Sat. May 23 19: Janet, Lane
5: Anna Marie
3: Nell   R-WD: Meditation; Terrace=Jan WIllis
Wed. May 13 27: Jim
7: Cindy

 cancelled none
Sat. Apr. 25 14: Anna Marie 4: Jim 3: Cindy   none
Wed, Apr. 8 20: Jessica, Jim, Asenath 7: Nell   1: Cindy Doing Your Time; Jan Willis excerpt
Sat, Mar 28, 2015 cancelled, lockdown
Wed, Mar 11, 2015 20:Jessica 7: Cindy, Asenath   4: Jim none
Sat, Feb. 28, 2015 Cindy, Jim, Thayer, Anna - cancelled due to weather
Wed, Feb. 11, 2015
 Cindy, Jim, Sergio  Anna Marie (Lane turned away)
Sat, Jan. 24, 2015 Janet, Jim, Cindy, Nell, Ruben, Sergio, Thayer (all day event)
Winter Feast
Wed, Jan. 14, 2015 Jessica Sergio
Sat, Dec. 27, 2014 14: Jim, Annie B. 6: Cindy, Asenath 3:Nell   Razor-Wire Dharma: Meditation; Patience
Wed, Dec. 10, 2014 16: Jessica, Nell 15: Jim   6: Sergio ASMC FAQ; Doing the Buddha's practice. 2 pieces on refuge vows.
Sat, Nov. 22, 2014 cancelled cancelled    
Wed, Nov. 12, 2014 13: Jessica, Sergio 9: Jake, Lane
3: Jim, Cindy Doing Your Time w Peace of Mind; 2 articles on depression
Sat, Oct. 25, 2014 8: Jim, Cindy 9: Nell, Peggy 5: Janet   Razor-Wire Dharma:meditation, Med. in Noisy Env., References
Wed, Oct. 8, 2014 cancelled (lockdown) cancelled
cancelled n/a
Sat, Sept 27, 2014 15: Nell, Janet 9: Cindy, Annie B
10: Jim n/a
Wed, Sept 10, 2014 10: Jessica, Sergio 11: Cindy, Lane 5: Jim
Sat, Aug. 23, 2014 14: Cindy 12: Jim
13: Nell n/a
Wed, Aug. 13, 2014 12: Cindy, Lane, Adam 17: Jessica, Sergio 5: Nell, Jim
Wed, July 16, 2014 ?: Jim, Cindy 15: Nell, Lane

Sat, July 5, 2014 cancelled cancelled

Wed, June 18, 2014 8: Jim, Nell, Jessica ?: Cindy, Sergio

Sat, June 7, 2014 9: Jake, Peggy 5: Jim, Cindy

Wed, May 21, 2014 11: Adam, Jessica, Jim 10: Cindy, Sergio

Sat, May 3, 2014 cancelled 14: Nell

Wed, Apr. 16, 2014 4: Jessica, Nell, Cindy 1: Jim, Sergio

Sat, Apr. 5, 2014 cancelled due to lockdown cancelled

Wed, Mar. 19, 2014 13: Janet, Jim, Sergio 10: Merri, Cindy

Sat, Mar. 1, 2014 5: Cindy, Janet 15: Jim

Sat, Feb. 22, 2014 all day
14: Adrienne, Ruben, Nell, Jim, Cindy

Wed, Feb. 19, 2014 11: Nell 15: Cindy, Jim

Wed, Jan. 29, 2014 9: Jim, Nell 17: Jake, Cindy, Jessica


Winter Feast Meditation Buddies 2016

Actual meditation buddy assignments will be sent out by email. If you have questions about your buddy assignment, contact Cindy (cphillips78669[at]

Please write to your buddy once every 10 days during the period Jan. 15 through Feb. 23. Mail your letters directly to the prison. The address should look like this, where the digits following the addressee name is the inmate's prison id number:

Jane Doe 123456
Crain Unit
1401 State School Rd.
Gatesville, TX 76599

The return address you use should look like this:

<your FIRST name> (chaplaincy volunteer)
Austin Shambhala Meditation Center
1702 South 5th St.
Austin, TX 78704

This year, we have asked participants to write back at least one letter to their meditation buddy. Don't be surprised if the letter is very short. Self-expression and even literacy can be challenging for these folks. Letters from the prison to you will be sent to the Shambhala Center. Prison volunteers will pick them up and see that they get to you. Whether or not you continue to correspond with your buddy after the feast is over is up to you. Our experience in past years is that correspondence peters out pretty quickly once the feast is over. If you are really hoping to hear from your buddy, we suggest you send them a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Put a stamp on an envelope and fill out the send-to address as shown above. Put the inmates name and number in the return address on the envelope (they can fill out the rest). Do not send stamps that are not attached to a self-addressed envelope. Unattached stamps will be confiscated.

What to say?

If you have more than 1 buddy, you can say the same thing to all of them.

Your buddy may be brand new to meditation or they may have been meditating for a while. We all struggle with the commitment to our practice. Your Winter Feast buddy has made a promise to practice daily during the feast. How would you support any fellow sangha-member who had made such a commitment? You can be a cheerleader. You can tell them about your own practice. You can talk about successes and failures you have had with your practice or with your commitments. Imagine you took a job in Antarctica and while you were there vowed to meditate for forty days and felt pretty alone. What kind of letter would you want to receive?

Here are some specific suggestions:

how/why you started meditating your practice, how it has changed over time
meditation books you’ve read, what you thought meditation teachers you’ve had, people who’ve influenced your meditation
your struggles as a meditator the ideas of success and failure applied to meditation
your religious history how meditation has changed you, your life
a specific situation where meditation helped you a day in your life before you meditated vs. now
meditating with the sangha vs alone how you motivate yourself, how you deal with lapses in your practice

Special considerations when writing to inmates

If you meet someone at a party, the conversation often begins with a list of things about you. “I’m a doctor, I work at Seton. I went to school in Houston. I have three kids.” There’s no need to do that in these letters. Keep your letter focused on meditation or your spiritual path. Reach out to these people as a fellow sangha-member, meditator, and spiritual seeker. You can be personal in the sense of sharing your feelings, experiences, frustrations, religious history, etc., but don’t give personal “facts” unless they are really relevant to your discussion.

Don’t inquire about their conviction or other legal matters unless they bring it up first (which is extremely unlikely).

The other thing to know when writing to inmates is that the gesture of writing, whatever you say, is huge. The fact that you take the time to do this, to recognize their existence, is huge. They will receive whatever you write as an act of generosity and kindness. It’s hard to fully appreciate this if you have not been in the prison environment. On the other hand, as meditators, they are just like us. Their struggles with meditation and the benefits they receive from meditation are exactly like any of us in the sangha. You can write the letter that you wish someone had written to you when you were a beginner or when you were struggling with your practice or when you were elated by your practice (as many of the Gatesville women will be by the Winter Feast) and that will be a great letter.

If you need help, contact any of our experienced prison-going sangha members. Dharmata: Jim, Cindy, Sergio, Janet or Nell; ASMC: Jessica, Lane, or Jake.

Nell B Clowder,
Jan 30, 2017, 11:51 AM
Nell B Clowder,
May 24, 2016, 1:17 PM
Nell B Clowder,
May 24, 2016, 1:18 PM
Nell B Clowder,
May 24, 2016, 1:19 PM
Nell B Clowder,
May 24, 2016, 1:20 PM
Nell B Clowder,
May 24, 2016, 1:21 PM
Nell B Clowder,
May 24, 2016, 1:21 PM
Nell B Clowder,
Dec 10, 2015, 11:14 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Dec 10, 2015, 11:16 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Dec 10, 2015, 12:01 PM
Nell B Clowder,
Dec 10, 2015, 11:20 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Dec 10, 2015, 11:22 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Dec 10, 2015, 11:23 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Feb 4, 2016, 11:15 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Dec 10, 2015, 11:27 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Jan 30, 2016, 11:15 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Jan 8, 2018, 6:56 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Jan 8, 2018, 6:57 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Mar 19, 2018, 11:54 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Dec 10, 2015, 11:26 AM
Nell B Clowder,
Jan 1, 2018, 7:39 AM