|Sunflowers stretch their faces to the sky at the retreat|
center. (Photo: Lu Hanessian/Photo provided)
[Our comment: It's a sad comment on our culture that we have to go to "mindfulness camp" to find peace, genuine communication with others, contact with nature. When we were growing up, we played in the yard, we enjoyed picnics and long walks in parks, a childhood without any distraction from digital technology.]
Dozens of teens, no wifi, no phones ... now what?
by Tammy Paolino, @CP_TammyPaolino, courierpostonline.com, 22 July 2916
My boys just returned from a retreat in Virginia.
You’re thinking, “Ri-i-ight, and how long did that last?”
A week, actually.
Thirty-five teens immersed in nature, simplicity, peaceful communication, authentic connection, and collaborative community.
Welcome to mindfulness camp.
Kids 15 to 19, from around the United States and abroad. The receiving staff ask each attendee how he or she prefers to be woken up in the morning. Some ask for a soft bell, some want music, and others choose a gentle nudge. This kind of check-in is not what most of these kids, or any kids for that matter, are used to. Many teens confess they are exhausted and “numb” from constantly feeling pressured and stressed from school work to home life.
From the moment they arrive, they enter a safe, open and compassionate space where their needs are respected, while they are also encouraged to expand the walls of their perceptions and step a little outside their comfort zones to discover who they are beyond their rigid perceptions or false beliefs. Every teen has a chosen task for the week, like gardening, dorm clean-up, kitchen. Those in the garden pick the salad greens for meals.
Some teens choose to lead workshops. My son, 17, was inspired to lead a percussion workshop. Kids are not obliged to join in activities. All are aware, through wisdom talks and group discussion, of paying attention to what they feel and need in the moment.
In introductions, teens learn the art of non-judgmental communication — especially toward themselves. Over the hours and days of the week, 35 teenagers bond fast and tightly, without FaceTime but real face time. They learn about our innate human need for curiosity, about asking questions with a child’s mind regardless of age, about the need for awe and wonder in an age of distraction and sometimes cynicism, about the places within them where resistance lives, and the power of cultivating a quiet mind in the storms of chaos.
They practice mindfulness in an age of mindlessness.
And … they love it.
They find a place of unexpected peace and self-acceptance that makes forgiveness possible, learning unlimited and connection profound. They want to take care of the planet, and each other.
You may be wondering … how do teens transition from this realm of calm, tolerance, creativity, belonging and joy where they are not feeling compelled to check their phones every 45 seconds … to the high-stress world of distractions, deadlines, frustrations, fears, anxieties and instant gratification?
Practice. Like a musician gets to Carnegie Hall. Practice.
My son, 14, has brought his practice home, and, for the last three weeks. has intentionally sustained what he achieved in the woods.
But, there’s a key piece: us.
When we practice mindfulness, as adults, as parents, professionals—as human beings—we reap huge rewards for our own health and relationships. Especially with our kids.
Our classrooms and families and offices and public places stand to gain immense benefit from us all practicing even a glimpse of mindfulness. Our capacity to pause, to find a still moment, notice our breath and our thoughts, and stop judging ourselves so harshly … is right at our fingertips. Right under our feet. Right where we are.
There is no right way to connect back to who we are, back to nature, back to each other. There is no correct way to be mindful. There is only this moment in time to be grateful for a chance to see and be anew.
Lu Hanessian is an award-winning science journalist, author, speaker, educator, former NBC anchor and Discovery Health Channel host, and the founder of WYSH wear your spirit for humanity and Parent2ParentU.com. Her two upcoming books are due out in 2016.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For information about year-round teen mindfulness retreats, visit iBme.info