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The Lioness Tale Prison Project (LiT-uPP) is a unique visionary program “lighting up” the lives of women who are doing life sentences in a maximum security prison. 

As the embers of hope and purpose, compassion and transformation are fanned into flame in each individual heart, light emanates from within to without. A group of individuals become a community. A flame becomes a fire and a fire emits  light that overcomes the darkness. The community grows, radiates a transformative power outward from its center to the prison’s circumference, changing the energy field such that the higher qualities of our human natures become the pervasive milieu of prison culture. 

This vision is manifesting at the Central California Women’s Facility. As the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. 

At CCWF there is a thoughtful, committed group of women prisoners changing their world through the LiT-uPP program. Their light reaches beyond the prison gates to enlighten the world you and I live in.

We are all connected. As the great Suquamish leader, Chief Seattle said: Everything is connected. Like the blood that unites one family, everything is connected. LIT-UPP IS ACCOMPLISHING THIS THROUGH:


The Lioness Tale, by Diane Pendola, is a spiritual novel about inner freedom. This powerful allegory of healing and transformation speaks to the human spirit. Inmate participants say that this is their story. It allows them to uncover wounds and secrets that they have kept hidden even from themselves and to shine a light of healing and awareness on them.


The Enneagram provides a framework for understanding how these wounds and secrets contribute to unconscious drives and destructive behaviors. It provides a key for unlocking the energies of conversion locked up in defensive and habitual patterns and opens the door to the essential qualities that form the ground of our fundamental goodness.


Bringing these habitual patterns under observation through centering practice helps make unconscious habits conscious, thus opening the possibilities for new and healthier choices. This attention practice also cultivates a capacity for receptivity to essential qualities such as love, hope, truth and freedom. As participants learn to quiet the chatter of the mind and the fears of the heart they drop down into the liberating ground of their own being from which genuine change arises.


If the Enneagram is a map of how personality develops and how we can use the energies locked in our personalities to reclaim our essential nature, Gestalt Awareness Practice (GAP) helps us slog through the swamps, ford the rivers and climb the mountains mapped by the Enneagram. In the process participants begin to experience the territory of their lives with all its beauty and terrors, its hidden darkness and its radiant light. And if centering practice helps us move toward the essence of who we are through detached observation, GAP allows us to actively explore what arises on this journey back to our essential ground. 

GAP is a practice of presence, and being with “what is” in a spirit of kindness towards oneself and all our experience. Participants cultivate a capacity for making contact with their experience whether pleasant or painful, by bringing awareness of breath, an attitude of kindness and a sense of spaciousness. GAP cultivates this quality of love for oneself, kindness towards one’s woundedness and compassion for one’s failures, thus nurturing and deepening respect for the totality of who we are.


In their own sketch book, participants begin to record the tale of their life. They tear images, words and phrases from magazines that speak to them of their experiences. They draw, journal and write poetry. This allows the analytical left side of the brain to rest while the right side integrates the information that is surfacing from old wounds and memories, reorganizing the material of their lives from a more expansive and purposeful point of view.


LiT-uPP circles create a sense of sanctuary in all three meanings of the word. We create a sacred place; a place of temporary refuge from imprisoning authorities; and a place of protection from abuse and violation where our innate  nature can be respected and explored. Through the deep sharing of individuals within the group, trust is built. And trust is precious within the prison context. Building trust — in oneself, in others and in the fundamental trustworthiness of reality itself  is foundational to building the strength of community that can radiate the intensity of light necessary to transform the darkness inherent in current prison culture.


After groups complete their first 48 hour LiT-uPP program, individuals are encouraged to become facilitators and prepare to share LiT-uPP through the institution by participating in the advanced Panther Awareness Development Course. The Lioness Tale is the story of a young lioness captured in her youth and forced to live her life in captivity. The Panther is the wisdom figure in the book that awakens the lioness to the liberating power within herself. The PAD course deepens the process of awakening and inner transformation and teaches the skills to accompany others in this journey.