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Mindful : December 2016
It is time to say goodbye. Soon, planes and cars and vans and trains will usher them along interstates and railway tracks back to their adolescent lives—to the so-called real world of noise and notifications, social stress and parental pressure. Now, a final hour remains for farewells. The 40 teenagers and a dozen adults, ensconced in a retreat center in the rural hush of upstate New York, are arrayed on chairs, mats, and cushions in a ceremonial circle. A girl rises from the floor, leaving a small hollow between the new friends who flank her. She approaches the center of the room and bends toward the rug to claim a mallet. The collective gaze of the circle embraces the young woman. “I feel this community will always exist,” she says quickly, her shy glance cast down- ward. With a small mallet, she taps the rim of a gong—a gong that has marked the many medita- tive beginnings and endings of the last five days. A vibrant tone mingles with sporadic sniffles and the snaps of her friends’ fingers. The community she refers to is a mere five days old, the powerful creation of a teen mind- fulness retreat. Held during the summer months and throughout the country in Virginia, Colo- rado, California, and elsewhere, these residential retreats are the work of Inward Bound Mindful- ness Education (iBme). Adolescents aged 14 to 19, some nudged by parents, some acting on their own initiative, seek the silence and structure in which to develop or to deepen their practice of mindfulness. While the prog ram is not therapy, it often is deeply therapeutic. The hidden struggles that afflict teens—depression and self-loathing, anxiety and abuse, racial violence and doubts about gender and sexual identity—find a kind of hospitality that is the mark of mindfulness. The teens awaken each morning at 7, in silence, and move—some reluctantly, some grog- gily—toward the meditation hall for a 30-minute silent sit. From there the day unfolds: breakfast in silence, community chores, free time, sitting meditation, walking meditation, small group meetings, lunch, more free time, workshops, yoga, dinner, kindness meditation, wisdom talks, more small group meetings, meditation, and lights out at 11. On the first night, the teens com- mit to holding to five precepts during the retreat: to protect life, to speak truthfully and kindly, to take only what is freely offered, to abstain from drugs and alcohol, and to remain celibate. → Meditation is at the core of the teens’ retreat experiences. On the previous page, a morning practice period at a New Year’s retreat, January 2016, North Andover, MA . From left to right: Gabe J, Leilah C, Armani M, Onaje E, and Drew G. There’s also time to play. At right, participants cool off after a hot morning of meditation. 2015 summer retreat, Old Chatham, NY. From left to right, Doryn L, Timothy S, Keishantelle B, Chasidy N, Nanette M, Keenan B, Jai’Dyn L, Charlie D, and Whit W. PHOTOGRAPHCOURTESYOFIBME 64 mindful December 2016 retreat