Episode 5: Prison Work & Living Spirit in Action - with Damon Azali-Rojas

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This week we’re tuning in to the power of our spirit!

Spiritual energy is a sustainable resource. The connection we have with our inner spirit is a source of motivation and strength. It also provides a sense of purpose and direction. We can lean on our spiritual connection to guide and sustain us in all matters.

My guest is Damon Azali-Rojas. Damon is a trained community organizer, coach trainer and professional coach. He’s a high priest of Ifa, which is a Yoruba spiritual tradition. He is also a founder and director of Coaching for Healing and Nonviolence, which is a program that brings coaching into prisons and teaches prisoners how to coach. In this interview, Damon shares about his work in prisons, his spiritual path and how he lives spirit in action.

Coaching for Healing and Nonviolence was launched in 2018 through California State Prison in Lancaster, California. Damon and his colleague, Amanda Berger, brought coaching skills and training to the prisoners there on Yard A. These prisoners are men serving life or life without parole sentences. A few have spent over two decades in solitary confinement while serving their sentences. Through this program, these men have experienced healing, freedom and a sense of inner power and self worth within the context of their incarceration.

To get a sense of the depth of their exploration, Damon shares about a circle process he led for the men. This process uncovered that the behavior around their crimes was motivated - in every case - by a desire for acceptance and inclusion. One man opened up (maybe for the first time) to share as follows:

“I was born a product of rape. At the age of 5 I had been in 48 different foster homes with my little brother. I am in here because I killed the man that sexually assaulted me and my little brother. Even though the lawyers knew what he did to us, I didn’t have the ability to say so. I was afraid that they would call me names, that they would say that I was gay. So I just stayed quiet and didn’t say anything. That was 19 years ago.” - Excerpted from Damon’s write up about that circle process here.

Damon leads men in a transformational training. To understand the value of this program, it’s important to understand that coaching is a growth modality that aligns you with your true self. For an illustration of how that works, read Damon’s summary of a group coaching session on toxic masculinity where a prisoner asked for coaching “around defining masculinity - what it means to truly be a man.”

How does one be in the depths of human suffering and not be consumed by it?

For Damon, the key is being connected to your divine essence and seeing the divine in one another. Damon bears witness to the divinity in others. And through his work, men heal and become agents of transformation.

Damon’s work is not only informed by his spiritual connection, but is an expression of it. Spirituality is not the same as religion. Not for Damon anyway. Damon understands that we are all living expressions of the divine. As such, we each have a direct line to our higher self. We can turn to our higher selves to get the best answers for us. Damon engages his higher self for guidance and direction all the time, including when he’s teaching and facilitating trainings. It is why he is effective. He empowers others to tap into the resource of their spiritual connection in the same way.

If your spirit is called into action, please donate and let others know about the work of Coaching for Healing and Nonviolence. Your contribution has a direct and meaningful impact and enables prisoners to experience profound personal healing and transformation. All donations are U.S. tax deductible. Funds need to be raised for this program to continue and expand to serve women.

Enjoy this episode!

In this Episode

  • Teaching coaching skills to prisoners and launching a coach training program in California State Prison [01:12]

  • Uniqueness of coaching and how it connects prisoners with their inner power and enables an experience of freedom [06:35]

  • Committing crimes to secure acceptance from others and finding self-love and self-compassion in prison [08:20]

  • Damon’s path into prison work and his start as a community organizer [12:12]

  • Growing up Roman Catholic and becoming an Ifa high priest [15:56]

  • Discovering that his spiritual work and community organizing work were one and the same [18:23]

  • Directly connecting to and asking questions of his higher self [19:59]

  • How to contribute to the efforts of Coaching for Healing and Nonviolence [23:25]

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