In this video, Sujatha Baliga, Director, Restorative Justice Project, and Senior Program Specialist, National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), gives a fascinating 12-minute talk linking her own Buddhist meditation practice to the concepts of restorative justice and restorative practices.
Baliga first recounts her own personal journey. As a victim of sexual abuse by her father, she first became a victim advocate before deciding to attend law school, initially to become a prosecutor. Just before beginning law school, however, she had a personally transformative experience during a 10-day silent mediation retreat which changed her course, and she is now what she now calls a "restorative lawyer." Rather than being a participant in an adversarial legal system, Baliga says she aims to be equally partial to all participants and adopt a "non-binary" approach to her work, which she believes is consistent with both restorative justice and meditation.
Baliga talks about some of the parallels she sees between the mindfulness required in both meditation practice and the practice of restorative justice. For instance, she describes the talking circle, in which everyone gets to speak by passing a talking stick and therefore all stand on an equal playing field. She believes that the listening and patience required during this process, in which everyone gets their turn to speak, is akin to what is needed while sitting mindfully in silent meditation.
Baliga says that restorative justice "is also about mindful, deliberative communication that is not attached to outcome." Like meditation, she says, restorative justice is neither about instant resolution nor is it outcome-directed. Restorative justice is about observation and process.
Thirdly, Baliga says that when things are taking a long time, or when people are clearly experiencing emotional pain and suffering during a restorative process, recalling the breath exercises she has learned in meditation help her through those moments.
Baliga exemplifies this by briefly discussing the restorative conference for a murder case she facilitated two years ago that was the subject of a recent New York Times article. She says that without the centering ability developed through her meditation practice, she wouldn't have been able to bear the intensity of the emotions that came out during that process.
In response to a question, Baliga explains how traditional forms of parenting or discipline are consistent with a compassionate and loving spiritual perspective. She gives the classic example of a child who has hit a baseball through the neighbor's window. She says that the parent's act of taking the child by the ear next door to apologize and make amends is truly loving. "Holding people accountable to the collective moral good is absolutely compassionate," Baliga says.
Watch the entire talk below or at youtube.