In Puritan America, a married woman’s illicit affair with a minister landed her in jail. After her release, Hester Prynne was sentenced to forever wear a big red “A” on her dress. 

Nearly 375 years later, the U.S. continues to be scandalized, tantalized and perplexed by sex, especially about sex offenders. Tough on crime, we’re still struggling to learn: 

  • Why domestic violence and incest are so under-reported by victims? 
  • Why most people think every sexual offender is a serial rapist? 
  • Why, even among therapists, many continue to believe sex-offenders to be untreatable? 
  • Why supervision after offenders’ release tends to-wards punitive rather than restorative? 

It’s time to bring the subject of sex crime out of the dark ages, time to help victims shed the shame and trauma of their experience. It’s also time to allow offenders an opportunity to show they can change, make amends and start to earn back trust and acceptance from society.

Begin with the Breath

Transformation of behavior is more like turning a cruise ship around than "turning on a dime."

When working with people who have a conviction for sex offense, it's important to be realistic with your expectations and theirs. What took dozens of  years to put in motion will take years of focused, skilled work on your part and theirs to effect a dramatic change of course.

Mindfulness, in its many forms, is a practice that can make that shift more quickly, with more peace along way. Here are a number of ways in which mindfulness can be practiced. As with taking up any new practice, it is helpful to have coaching from one more skilled in the nuance. A mindfulness teacher can help the student navigate the shoals of self discovery while celebrating each new sunrise.

A body scan can be a five minute exercise or longer. Start with the feet or the head, but take time to focus on each of the prominent parts of the body. Notice the sensation of the feet on the floor, your seat supported by the chair, your hands in your lap. Notice any sensations on the skin, in the joints and muscles, in your internal organs. 

After slowly inventorying the body, focus on the breath, the sensation of rising and falling chest and belly, the sensation of breath on your nostrils, cooler coming into your body, warmer on the out breath. Try to keep focused there on your breath, even when thoughts creep in and steal your attention. Be kind to yourself, patient, as the building of awareness and comfort with stillness grows.

Google mindfulness to find other, more detailed instruction, as well as finding others forms of practice. Some enjoy meditative walking - slow, one step ahead in unison with each inhale or exhale.

Some find sitting on a cushion comfortable while others find a chair best. Some find nature a good companion to quiet reflection while others like a guided meditation tape. Some find ecstatic dancing a key to relaxation and release of body and emotional tensions. Be as patient and curious of what works for you as you would about finding the perfect pair of new shoes.

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