Renowned spiritual leader Sita Lozoff told a San Quentin audience that people can change their lives and be free, no matter where they are.
Sita visited San Quentin 10 years ago with her husband, the late Bo Lozoff. Many men in attendance remembered meeting them. She returned July 31, when the Catholic Chapel was alive with chanting, meditation and spiritual harmony as Lozoff inspired the men to change their lives.
Bo Lozoff’s book entitled, We’re All Doing Time, published in 1985, is often referred to as the prisoner’s bible.
Bo Lozoff died in 2012. However, Sita said she has been carrying on the work of their organization, Human Kindness Foundation. Sita has been having what she calls “conversations” with inmates since Bo’s passing. Sita said that she felt Bo was speaking to the men through her.
Catholic Chaplain Father George Williams introduced Sita. Williams first met Bo and Sita many years ago in Boston. Williams said he was studying for the priesthood at a time when the church was going through trials and tribulations of its own. He said that he had begun to question whether the priesthood was really his path.
Bo was able to cut through the meaningless and get to the only thing that mattered, said Williams.
“Don’t be a priest for the church,” Lozoff said, “be a priest for God.”
In the chapel, Sita described the spiritual journey that she and her husband traveled.
In the heyday of the hippie movement, Sita and Bo were in the middle of LSD experimentation, protests and social movements. She said she remembers when she and Bo were “sitting in the middle of hundreds of black people, and we were the only white people in the crowd.”
Sita commented that it was “a little unsettling when the speakers started preaching to ‘Kill whitie.’”
The chapel crowd laughed when she said, “I was a little concerned.”
After she and Bo were married in 1966, Bo founded the Prison-Ashram Project. They began going to prisons and auditoriums and engaging in conversations about inner peace. They wrote letters of advice, compassion and instruction to hundreds of inmates around the United States.
Juan Haines, managing editor of the San Quentin News, said when he was in Soledad State Prison he heard Bo interviewed on KPFA. “His explanation of spirituality and inner peace made sense,” Haines said.
At the close of the radio interview, Bo offered to send the book to any inmate who was listening. Haines wrote to him in North Carolina and received the book two weeks later.
“It was plainly written, easy to understand and it wasn’t religious,” Haines said. The book incorporates elements of all the great world religions and ties them together.
As the title indicates, Lozoff’s message is that we are all imprisoned—whether physically in prison or not—by unhappiness, mortality and limitations on our love and understanding. It is like a guidebook on how to live life, according to Haines, on how to meet challenges and understand adversity.
“I’ve read that book one time and still here it is 30 years later, it still resonates with me the same way,” Haines said.
The prison project founded by Lozoff has become the Human Kindness Foundation. It’s a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to encourage more kindness in the world. The project encourages inmates to use prison time to focus and develop their spiritual growth.
Although Bo wrote several books, more than 400,000 copies of We’re All Doing Time have been printed, and many present and former inmates revere it. The book has been hailed around the world for its street-wise presentation of spiritual truths from all traditions.
The Village Voice reported “We’re All Doing Time is one of the 10 books everyone in the world should read…”
We’re All Doing Time is scheduled to be reviewed in an upcoming issue of San Quentin News.