Court-imposed Meditation Training

Jail Time or Meditation? Court-imposed Meditation Training

What’s your poison?

Whether it’s rum, whiskey, vodka, or good ol’ beer, alcohol is alcohol. It has an uncanny way of muddling your senses. Although alcohol is not bad per se, it has the potential to turn evil when you drink too much to the point of abuse or when you go behind the wheel and drive while under its influence. When you do that, you’re not only putting your own life at risk, but the lives of others as well.

It’s a bitter life lesson that students of Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court DWI/Drug Court Program had to learn the hard way. Driving while impaired or under the influence doesn’t go unnoticed.

But, luckily for them, they can avoid a jail sentence as long as they go along with the yearlong mindfulness training imposed by the court.

Hoping to help participants relax and stay sober in and out of the program, Michel Duval, the director of The Mindful Center, leads the class held at the Evolution Group, a counselling centre. She uses the stress reduction program created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The technique is also known as Mindfulness-Based Reduction Technique.

Students, all who have been charged with DUI, attend an hour long weekly session of mindfulness meditation. Using breathing or counting meditation, the participants try to relax, calm their minds and focus on the present. Although the majority of the students are men, the class comprises people who come from virtually all walks of life and most are under the age of 30.

The class focuses on the practice and its effects on the participants. DWI issues are seldom or barely discussed. The program has been running for 18 years and it has successfully helped its participants be more positive and less stressed.

One of the program’s graduate, Simona Lopez, 27 years old, a wife and a mother of three, was charged with DUI twice, once in 2010 and then in 2014. When asked about the program, she said, “I think it’s a great opportunity for somebody to take advantage of … It’s kind of embarrassing, and I know a lot of people read the Journal, but it’s a learning experience for myself and hopefully for someone else … If I can make someone think twice about drinking and driving; that means a lot to me”.

To sum it all up, mindfulness meditation does wonders to the brain. It reduces stress and, at the same time, helps people think clearly and positively. In return, this helps them fight off addictions, not just limited to alcohol, and to make better decisions. For instance: not driving when drunk.



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