Sheriff's Department and church provide 'Unconventional' treatment of stress

Tuesday November 6, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Despite nearly 35 people huddled in a room at the George Crane Memorial Center Monday evening. It was almost dead silent sans some belly-growling and nose-sniffling.

One person especially quiet was Pittsfield resident Matt Brennan. A quiet, peaceful meditation is just what he said he was wanting, especially after a history involving substance abuse and incarceration.

"I’ve always wanted to meditate," said Brennan, a father and husband who has been clean since being released from the county jail in April 2011. "I was over the things like substance abuse, but there was still the everyday stresses of life to cope with."

And already, after one session, Brennan feels good.

"I have a hard time focusing, so this was really good for me," he said.

Monday’s one-hour meditation was the first of weekly sessions in a collaboration between the Berk shire County Sheriff’s Office and the Unitarian Uni versalists of Pitts field. Meditation is a different approach to public outreach and hopefully will cut down crime -- and give those with a criminal past the peace of mind to start anew.

"In meditation, you can really feel the kindness and compassion for all beings while doing it," said Pema Tara, the coordinator for the Pittsfield Meditation Sangha. "It can also help with addiction."

Frank Busner, the county’s re-integration officer, has meditated for more than 10 years. It’s helped him sleep better and better respond to people, he said. His hopes are that it will help calm community members as much as it has him.

"If some of the conventional things we do aren’t helping, we have to try other things that work," Busner said. "It’s pretty obvious when a community’s hurting spiritually, mentally, physically."

The attendees took off their shoes to allow for optimum relaxation inside the George Crane Memorial Center at 81 Linden St. The meditation was led by Maureen Daley and Paul Glavin of the Unitarian Universalists of Pittsfield. It was only supposed to last 10 minutes, but ended up lasting 12 minutes because the attendees were so quiet and in-tune to the meditation. The chime from a small gong signified the beginning and end of the meditation.

"It went by so fast," Sue Durfee said afterward. "It’s different being with people than when you do it by yourself."

The session also included a talk about compassion toward others.

The new weekly meditation services are just one of the services provided to the community by the sheriff’s office and the center. Programs for fathers and 12-step support groups are also available.

"We want to get into the community and do more than just put people in jail," Busner said.

At the request of Busner, Brennan has taken part in both.

"These are places that I can be and my family knows I’m 100 percent safe," Brennan said. "My self-esteem is better, and I see that life is not as bad as it sometimes seems to be."

To reach Adam Poulisse:,

or (413) 496-6214.

On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse


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