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Mindful : December 2016
MINDFUL RECOMMENDS with that. Are you OK with disturbing people in the hall or talking when you shouldn’t? Is that OK with you? It’s a way we trust young people to make their own decisions.” And the teens respond to that trust. The more experienced retreatants understand that any lapse from the five precepts is felt by all. “ We come together and build a community. We are all invested in it,” Richardson says. “ We think about each other; we care about every single person we see. A sexual or romantic relation- ship with someone? You’re putting energy into a specific person, instead of into the group. That energy pushes away everyone else. We build this space for each other; we make this space safe for each other; to bring that kind of energ y into it— to make it about two people—is a risk.” “The arc of the retreat is downward,” Morey says. The first day or two can be bumpy, with signs of tightness and guardedness. But by mid-retreat, the emotional tenor is deep and raw: The teens are learning to be present with difficult feelings or mind states. And there is nowhere to go. “ We bring them to a certain space of openness,” says Morey, “which often means we are touching on things that we live our lives trying not to feel: sadness, anger, shame. There can be tears and deep sharing. They start to reveal what’s going on.” Indeed, tears flow. In the evening, as the closing meditation ends, a teen begins to sob. His friends embrace him and quietly escort him from the hall. Later, on a couch in the rec room, another group of teens gathers to help a friend in crisis. An adult approaches, asking for permis- sion to sit with them. He finds himself observ- ing “a beautiful intervention” for a teen who urgently wants to self-harm. He hears the teens remind their friend of a loving-kindness medi- tation focused on benefactors—sources of love and wisdom in our lives. He listens as one teen suggests, “Maybe you can’t resist for yourself, but you can resist for the benefactor you were thinking of? And if you can’t think of a benefac- tor, then think of me.” Eventually, the struggling teen asks the adult to hold the sharp objects. “If this were a typical camp situation,” the staff member says, “ You would tell the teens, ‘ You, go talk to the g uidance counselor, and you, go to sleep. That would be the supportive model. But sometimes supporting the youth in their practice means letting them support each other.” At the heart of the retreat is the small group, in which six or seven teens meet twice daily for 75 minutes. Each group is facilitated by two adults, who check in with the teens about their practice: How is it going? What are you using as your anchor? What’s happening with your mind? The small groups can be playful or they can be raw, full of giggles and games or full of intensity and self-revelation. But the vital function is to connect: “ With adolescents what is so helpful is seeing that they are not alone and having this authentic intimacy with their peers,” Morey says. A popular small group activity is the “hot THE TEENAGE BRAIN A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults By Frances E. Jensen with Amy Ellis Nutt Harper • 2015 AGE OF OPPORTUNITY Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence By Laurence Steinberg Eamon Dolan/Mariner Books • 2015 THE MINDFUL TEEN Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time By Dzung X. Vo Instant Help • 2015 What’s Up with Teen Brains? BRAINSTORM The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain By Daniel J. Siegel TarcherPerigee • 2015 THE PRIMAL TEEN What the New Discoveries about the Teenage Brain Tell Us about Our Kids By Barbara Strauch Anchor • 2004 GROWING UP MINDFUL Essential Practices to Help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience By Christopher Willard Sounds True • 2016 68 mindful December 2016 retreat