As a high school teacher in the Bronx for 14 years I got to meet and deeply know a lot of teens. Having those relationships taught me a lot about what makes adolescents tick. I saw that the way adults view teens impacts the way teens see themselves, and ultimately the lives they think they are capable of leading. I also witnessed how school settings can be fertile ground for greater understanding and connection, or misunderstanding and miscommunication between teachers and young adults.
One of the high schools I worked at was a traditional school, with honors classes, Advanced Placement courses, Senior trips and proms. The other was a transfer school, where students go as a last chance for a high school degree (their prior schools failing to meet these students’ needs in one way or another). In this school students call teachers by their first name, they work closely with community based organizations, and it’s where I was lucky enough to introduce mindfulness.
Both schools were Title 1 schools, which meant the majority of the students were receiving free or reduced lunch. Both had committed, caring (and overworked) administrators, staff and teachers.
Since leaving the classroom I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with teens in more affluent communities (one of the schools a mere 10 miles north of the transfer school) where kids are getting the best education and resources their parents and communities can generously give. I wasn’t surprised to also see committed, caring, and overworked administrators, staff, and teachers but I was surprised to see how much these teens were also struggling.
Even though these adolescents’ educational contexts are very different, a couple of things are true for all of them. The adolescent years are challenging, confusing, and filled with changes to the body, their brain, and relationships. Adolescence is a tumultuous time of our lives!
Let’s also not forget about technology and the impact it’s having on our children. Most of us can probably remember what it was like to be bored when we were young and not have a screen readily available. Our parents would tell us to figure it out, go outside, go play. Or they would assign us a chore to make sure we didn’t stay bored. These moments of boredom often led to free play, which is critical in child development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics free play helps children develop their imagination, curiosity, and healthy relationships with the children around them and their parents.
Whether we think the advent of technology is good or bad, it is here to stay and it is rewiring our children’s minds. Many have a harder time focusing their attention and developing relationships outside of their digital persona.
The developing brains of adolescents
When I taught mindfulness to my teens in the Bronx, I often introduced the book Brainstorm by Dr. Daniel Siegel. Even though it was a challenging text for them to get through, they were engaged with the book because it was giving them insight into the way adults looked at them. It helped them understand what was changing in their brains and effecting the way they were feeling and acting. I will summarize some of the things I shared with my students here, but if this is a topic, you think would be helpful to you or your students will find interesting, make sure to add Brainstorm to your reading list.
Myths of adolescence
The way we see adolescents becomes the way they see themselves. These misunderstandings can lead to confusion and conflict for teens and adults. Which of these myths are you familiar with?
1. Raging hormones cause teenagers to “go mad” or “lose their minds.”
According to Siegel hormones do increase, but these levels then stay consistent throughout much of adulthood. Its not the hormones that are causing behavior changes. What adolescents experience is primarily the result of natural and needed changes in their developing brains.
2. Teens are immature and need to grow up.
The risk-taking tendencies, impulsiveness, and high emotional sensitivity of teens is not a sign of immaturity but rather an outcome of exactly what they are supposed to be doing during this developmental stage—testing boundaries, creating their own view of the world, and preparing for life beyond the family home and school community.
3. Growing up requires moving from dependence on adults to total independence from them.
The healthy move to adulthood is toward interdependence, not complete do-it-yourself isolation. Giving care and receiving help from others is the model we should be supporting.
Pause, take a couple of breaths, and reflect on your own middle or high school experience. I’m sure you can understand why adolescents struggle during this time of their lives especially if the adults around them fundamentally misunderstand them. Remembering our own experience can help us be more understanding and compassionate in the interactions we have with teens.
Qualities of the adolescent mind
Dr. Siegel goes on to name the attributes of the adolescent mind as well as the benefits and challenges associated with these changes. His book also guides reader through activities that ask adolescents to reflect and bring awareness to their internal landscape, and which support healthy communication.
Increased drive for rewards and increased inner motivation to seek new experiences and feel life more fully
Enhanced peer connectedness and new friendships are explored
Emotional sensitivity increases, allowing teens to feel life experiences more intensely
Expanded sense of being leads to conceptual thinking that question status quo and approaches problems with out-of-the-box solutions
Taking these findings into account highlights why mindfulness interventions are critical at this age.
There is promising, if nascent evidence, that mindfulness can support adolescent well-being by supporting development of their prefrontal cortex (where empathy, thinking of consequences, and other executive function skills live), by enhancing their ability to focus, and helping them name and regulate their emotions. In addition, studies of adults participating in mindfulness interventions like Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction “suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.” These research studies, coupled with my experience teaching adolescent, makes it easy to argue for introducing mindfulness interventions to adolescents.
Introducing mindfulness to teens can be especially rewarding and challenging. Working with adolescents can bring to the surface the unresolved feelings and painful experiences we faced as adolescent. To be effective with this age group, we must reflect and turn to our own practice. We also have to make sure that when we offer mindfulness to adolescents it is relevant and engaging otherwise we won’t be able to truly support them.
Working with teens
Some of these apply to all age groups, but they hold special importance when working with adolescents. Adolescence spans from the ages of 12 to 24. This is one of the most confusing times of our lives, even when things are going well.
Article appeared at Art of Living Retreat Center
Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor. He has 14 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY. Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY and Lead Teacher for Mindful School’s Mindful Teacher yearlong certification program.
In this Blog post Dr. Harrison Graves, MD a volunteer at the Art of Living Retreat Center in beautiful North Carolina, explains us why “selfless service” is a way of life and how you can do it too.
“The best seva is helping someone understand this eternal nature of life.”
Seva is often defined as “selfless service,” service with no expectation of reward. It is that — and much more. In today’s blog I’ll share with you why I volunteer, or do seva, and suggest ways you can too. True seva is a way of life — an inner attitude of giving.
Ram Dass explains seva beautifully: “Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.” (Ram Dass was a co-founder of the Seva Foundation. Seva is best known for their work restoring eyesight to over 3 million blind people suffering from cataract blindness in places like Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and throughout sub-Saharan Africa.)
How Seva Can Help You, the Giver
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shares how seva also benefits the giver:
To increase our joy we must share joy with others. Giving is essential for spiritual growth. A willingness to share what we have and to help others is called seva.
Seva connects us to others and makes them a part of us. The barriers dissolve that separate our happiness from their happiness. Lingering moods of unhappiness or depression dissipate when our focus is on helping someone else.
Seva can become complementary medicine for those who suffer with anxiety and depression. Both ailments can vanish when we focus on selfless service.
How to Serve
There are endless ways of doing seva. All it takes is creativity and imagination. Make seva your way of life. If you are helping to mentor a son or daughter, that is family seva. If you adopt a pet from the shelter, that is pet seva. Anytime you willingly donate your time and love to help others, you are doing seva. And there are many such projects that Art of Living members have voluntarily taken up as a way to give back through seva. Whether it’s providing service to prison inmates or supporting schools for under-served students in the developing world or projects in your own neighborhood, there are so many ways to serve.
Service, whatever form it takes, is the flow of love from one human being to another. This desire to share is our basic nature. Sincere giving — without any expectation of return — breaks the boundaries of conditional love and expands our ability to love every human being unconditionally. Perhaps the best seva is helping someone understand this eternal nature of life.
My Experience With Seva at the Art of Living Retreat Center
Soon after beginning my seva at the Art of Living Retreat Center, I realized how much I was receiving: the opportunity to be at America’s top rated and most scenic Ayurvedic Spa, in a setting of Blue Ridge Mountain beauty. Then there is the daily Yoga, meditation, satsang and kirtan. Also, each month I am privileged to meet kindred yogi and yogini spirits from around the world, each of whom seems to have an amazing talent to share: writers, artists, musicians and Yoga/meditation teachers.
Seva at the retreat center might include helping in the kitchen, working in the organic garden or assisting at reception. During Art of Living courses, voluntary opportunities to participate in seva activities are often part of the daily routine, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening or childcare.
Service is the expression of love. Serve in whatever possible manner you can. Ask yourself, “How can I be useful to people around me, and to the whole world?” Then your heart starts blossoming and a completely new level begins. Otherwise we’re always thinking, “What about me, what about me?” It’s nothing! Ask, “How can I be useful, how can I give to the world?
Seva is our own inner joy pouring forth into action.
This Blog post originally was published here
Pic: Fire-circle at the Art of Living Retreat Center in North Carolina. See program guide
Pic: Hermann Wenng, Elemental Beings
A Sixth Sense experience
I had following experience and that was in reality just one from many, but it taught me that I can trust my sixth sense.
I was at that time of that experience 25 years old. I lived and worked on a High Plateau in the Austrian Alps which was located in magnificent landscapes surrounded by high mountains and forests. It was a foggy November day and in Austria this means autumn time. I had half a day off in the afternoon and decided on that day as like so many other days to go for a long walk alone into the forest, something I profoundly enjoyed to do in my free time. The settlement I lived in had several guesthouses, cafes and restaurants, gardens, farmland with cows and horses. I knew everyone in this settlement in which about 130 people lived. As I worked in the hospitality part, I knew the guests that stayed here over their holidays and at that time in the year we did not have many of them as the weather was not the nicest.
So I set out for my walk, which let me through a part of the very beautiful settlement and then behind the houses I would enter the forest which leads towards a path that goes through the dense forest for about 40 minutes and then open up to a street higher up on the mountain on which I could walk back to the settlement. The path in the forest was quite narrow and should ever something come up on that path from which I had to run from, there was literally no escape.
But such thoughts did not even enter my mind at that time, I fearlessly entered the forest and took in the fresh mountain air. All of a sudden I felt a strange sensation around me. Also a bird started to sing a short song and an inner perception formed itself inside of me and appeared as the sentence “This is a messenger of death” in my head.
At the same moment while this popped up in my head I had the sensation that something was stopping me from walking on. To make more sense to what I am about to say, I must explain that on that day I already in the morning at work, felt very dreamy as if I was a bit in a trance state, something that was a bit unusual for me. I did not make anything about it, as I knew in the afternoon I had my time off and could indulge in that dreamy state and daydream along. Why not.
But here I was in the forest and all of a sudden “saw” with my inner eyes shadowy beings standing themselves in my way. I have only walked into the forest for a couple of minutes and was still able to see some of the houses from the settlement I lived in.
A sense of “do not walk into the forest today” came up in me and also from these shadowy beings that stood in my way it was as if they wanted me to turn back.
The impressions made me think about turning back, but then my intellect took over, It started to criticize myself for having hallucinations and what a weirdo I am, again. I shook these impressions off and continued with my walk. But it took just a few minutes when I had the same sensation, only this time even stronger. It was to me as if figures where placing themselves in my way and urging me to turn around. Perhaps similar to the picture above, as if they were standing, waving their arms and urging me to turn back. But my head told me that as I am so dreamy today I am just fantasying and that all of that is in my own head and I again pushed these impressions away as a product of my own imagination.
So I walked on and came to a significant point on my path where it would make a sharp left turn and lead downwards into an area of the path that was quite narrow for a while and then leading slowly upwards the mountain for about 20 more minutes. I turned around this sharp corner, when all of a sudden I could see little gnomes in front of me on the forest floor. And no I have never seen anything like that before, only once when we got lost in the mountain and I was fearing for my life while climbing up a hill with dangerous, moving stones, then I also had the impression of such a being present. Here I was surprised that they appeared and their colour was similar of the surrounding earth and they frantically seemed to want to warn me from something. I had the inner perception of them screaming at me and telling me to hide behind a thick bush which they pointed me to.
I was so shocked about that experience that my first impulse was to move towards that bush on the left, but then my intellect, my head voice started to convince me otherwise, “this cannot be true, you are silly, you are fantasizing all of that, there are no gnomes”. So I stopped moving towards the bush and just stood still for a few seconds, when I all of a sudden had a severe pain in my Solar Plexus region, as if someone was pushing a large and heavy rock into my inside.
I turned around and looked back to the curve of the path I was just coming from a couple of minutes ago……… when I saw a “huge monster” coming towards me with my inner eyes. Bloodthirsty and cruel looking. “Hide, hide, hide” screamed the little gnomes. But again my head said, this cannot be real. And in that second when I was thinking that………………………..a tall muscular man came around that corner. Dressed in a beige and elegant suite in the middle of the forest, completely unsuitably dressed for an autumn walk in a mountain forest and his face was so pale it looked like a grayish white. I saw his ice cold eyes and all of a sudden I knew in my heart without any fraction of a doubt that this man wanted to harm even kill me. I felt his ice cold energy into every part of my body. This impression came in a split second and I knew from the depth of my heart that this was so. Being completely used to meeting all kinds of people in the forest the impressions I have received in that split second were completely different to anything I have ever experienced before and all in me knew that I was in serious danger.
He stood about 20 meter from me, he looked at me, I looked at him, when he all of a sudden turned to the nearby forest floor and seemed to search for something, I supposed a stick and it sounded like it as his movements made a lot of noise on the forest floor. All of that happened in the frame of seconds. I realised at that moment that all the time these helping beings worked on my intuition and worked on my finer bodies to help me recognise the upcoming danger. I also had a strong sensation of a crossroad I was on in that moment. Either life or death today. Either opening up for this invisible help, or being murdered today. Either eventually trusting my inner voice or dying as I only believe in my intellect.
In the background I heard this man frantically searching on the forest floor under the autumn leaves, while I started to pray now consciously for help. I said something like that: You helped me all along and tried to warn me, please help me now so I can escape this danger. And I seemed to hear or perceive internally the following guidance: “E……. now you can prove your trust. Walk TOWARDS THAT MAN, we surround you with light, start walking now and pass him and don’t look into his eyes. I repeat don’t look into this man’s eyes. Walk now. When you have passed him, run for your life. “
I pushed at that moment consciously everything away that my head wanted to direct me to, as to now walk towards that man, with these cruel looking eyes, and this long stick in his hand and now he had also already moved towards me and was nearer to me but standing there as if waiting for something, was the last thing my head wanted to do. I trusted in the help that was apparently around me all the time and the help from Above and I walked calmly towards this man. I had the sensation as if a Wall of Light was building around me from these helpers of the finer world.
This man was so surprised that I walked towards him instead of running away from him,that he stood there, not moving. I kept my face calm and completely peaceful, only focusing and connecting to the help I felt and that light that surrounded me and although being aware of my incredibly fear as well, I did not allow that fear to come into my being as I knew it would destroy that wall of light, but to hold onto that help that I felt and I passed him by, and how I was advised I did not look into his eyes. When I passed him I physically felt that the Wall of Light was so strong around me that nothing could enter it and I feel that sensation when I think on it, still in all details today. When I passed this man for some reason all was dead silence around us and that man did not move an inch. I passed him and then I started to run. I did run for 15 minutes without looking back until I reached the settlement. I knew would I had try to run away from him into the other direction, I would not had a chance to find any help as the path was only leading deeper into the forest. When I returned to the settlement, I entered into the place where I lived and also worked and one of my co-workers saw me in the foyer of the house, looking at me and asking, “What on earth happened to you?” as I was shaking so much, I felt completely traumatized, I started to cry and they brought a nurse to look after me. I told her what happened. I was allowed to have a day off and my superiors who were very friendly and helpful people talked to me about that incident. Police were informed and I gave a description, which in turn then resulted in a warning to everyone that for the time being no one should go for walks in the forest alone especially not women.
For myself this experience had such a profound effect on me, that I always started to have symptoms of a panic attack for years while passing that place in the forest where this man searched for the stick and where I passed him, when I was walking with my husband or friends in the forest, as from that day on I would not go for walks in the forest alone for a long time. Heart racing, tension, my solar plexus started to feel very upset etc. Until I assimilated that experience and understood, that when I would had listened to these fine warnings right from the start, I would not had come into such a situation at all. Then I returned to my walks again but this time with an open intuition.
I know that many people have similar experiences in their life, when they out of the blue feel energetic reality whereas there is no physical prove or indication of any danger on the physical level. It sensitized me a lot in regards to these finer energy levels that we are continuously connected with, and although I am aware that this was now a long and somewhat unusual example and although I am aware that there is no need to “see” gnomes or similar I hope someone can find it useful.
Author: Edeltraud Grace email@example.com
Have you made an experience with the Sixth Sense?
Spirituality is not just about religion. It is about the connection you feel to the world as a whole. Human beings were not meant to feel alone. We are social creatures that have, throughout our history, felt ourselves as a part of nature – one that has its own spirit, and is not simply a vessel of nerves and muscles. It’s not uncommon to find yourself drifting away from that feeling of soul and spirit. Spiritual healing retreats are designed to bring you back. Each retreat is its own unique experience designed to rejuvenate the soul and restore your sense of spirituality.
What’s Involved in Spiritual Healing Retreats?
Every retreat has its own unique character and personality. What you are looking for with any spiritual retreat is a variety of features that are unique to you. For example:
Spiritual Healing Retreats at the Art of Living Retreat Center
When you feel more in touch with your spiritual side, it is something that reverberates through other areas of your life as well, including how you feel at work, the motivation you have to manage your home life, and so much more. For more information about our spiritual healing retreats in North Carolina, please feel free and view our calendar or call us to find out about our upcoming retreats.
This article originally appeared on artoflivingretreatcenter.org/blog
Edeltraud Jakob Grace:
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