IAM Serves Those Inside

Integrated Amrita Meditation (IAM) has been taught successfully to people from many walks of life around the globe—including medical staff and patients, firefighters, active military personnel and veterans, teachers and students in public schools and colleges, and many others from a variety of professions and lifestyles.

A unique group of students has especially benefitted from IAM—those incarcerated in our jails, prisons, and detention centers. In North America, instructors have been teaching IAM in such facilities since 2006, reaching over 12,000 participants. IAM instructor, Niraga Ostrom, has taught a significant number of these participants in the El Paso County Colorado jail system and just received a 10-Year Service Award from the county, with gratitude for her contribution to the mental health and well-being of inmates and even many staff members.

Teaching IAM in El Paso County began with networking to find out how to teach the inmates in the jail system, one of the top goals of the North American IAM program. Connection within the IAM teacher network resulted in communication with two lieutenants in separate jail systems. Then, after months of waiting, events started to flow in synchrony—jail procedures and security training, computer training, background checks and fingerprinting, as well as blood tests for antibodies to illnesses, and a set of vaccinations.  

Niraga describes her experience, “In the beginning, I felt a certain level of intimidation going into the heavily guarded environment with multiple locked doors, to teach the female inmates, but knew that I had been divinely guided and felt protected. I instinctively knew that showing respect to gain respect would help things go more smoothly. I started by shaking hands with each student inmate and concentrated on learning their first names, so that I could speak to them directly with a caring voice. Their respect was reciprocated, with only occasional chatting and giggling during the class. Tears sometimes flowed as well, but both the giggling and the tears can be a release of tension or of energetic blocks, so are expected and accepted in a setting such as this.”

Niraga taught this class weekly, and after a few months into the program, another fellow IAM instructor, Cathy Morrissey, joined the team. After 18 months, the jail’s program manager saw the success, and from hearing the guards say how peaceful their ward was after the class, asked if they could bring in a male teacher to teach male inmates. This is when IAM instructor Michael Mendenall stepped in to help and co-taught with either Niraga or Cathy. The men responded well to Michael and his ability to connect with them due to his communication style and straight-forward approach. He eventually taught many of the future classes on his own.

There were many positive outcomes of this training. To quote Niraga, “We always left feeling peace and joy, and knowing that by sharing this technique of bringing peace within, there had been a difference in the inmates’ lives. Also, the guards and sheriffs began asking if we would teach a class for them, so we taught a three-week class for them too! After two more years, the jail asked if we could expand again and teach a second men’s class for the veterans. Eventually, our instructor team taught three classes a week, reaping the benefits for ourselves and enjoying the positive outcome of the inmate students.”

The impact on the inmates’ lives is shown by their comments:

• “I never knew I could feel so relaxed, calm and peaceful.”
• “For just a little while I let go of all my worries and fears”
• “This is the most peaceful I’ve ever felt.”
• “I forgot I was in jail.”
• “I look forward to this class all week!”
• “I feel the most peaceful and relaxed the day of this class and it’s the one day I sleep    deeply and well.”
• “Will you come every week?”
• "I never knew I could feel this way!"
• "I feel integrity."
• "We look forward to this all week, could you come more often?"
• “I never knew I could feel this peaceful. This is better than any drug I ever took.” “I feel like. . . integrity!”
• “Just for a while I felt like I was not in jail.”

One of the former inmates, who was enrolled at the local college, told Cathy that the way the IAM instructors treated the inmates with respect, and the practice of IAM-20, turned her life around and that her aspiration was to get a college degree so she could become a drug and alcohol counselor.

Niraga states, “Some of the many positive differences in our own lives, and in the inmates’ lives, are a feeling of joy and peace, and feeling more balanced with fewer ups and downs. We experience subtle changes as well, which are personal and hard to put into words. The fulfillment for us as teachers is what has kept the program going for so many years. We feel deep gratitude that Amma has allowed us to share her gift with other people.”

CLICK HERE to view our current schedule of IAM meditation offerings.

Please email us at iamamericas@ammagroups.org if you are connected with a group that is interested in learning the IAM technique, so that we may put you in touch with an IAM® instructor in your area.