Meditation Introduced To New York Teens

Remember how it felt to be a
teenager—the hormonal fluctuations you didn’t understand, the
social pressure from peers, teachers, and family members, your
looming emergence into adulthood and the ultimate responsibility of
yourself? Whether you were the type to act out or to tow the line,
these years are often hard in a way that we can only recognize in
retrospect. Imagine if someone pulled you aside during this time and
taught you to meditate. In Brooklyn, a unique partnership is doing just that.

The partnership between the Brooklyn
Zen Center
(BZC) and the Brooklyn
College Community Partnership
(BCCP) has been
offering mindfulness and meditation workshops in five public high
schools and teen-led classes at the BZC. The development of these
particular after-school programs has been driven in part by one teen
that took a class through an internship with the center and wanted to
share the practice with her friends. This type of quick affinity for
and resonance with these practices can be seen reflected by the many
similar
programs
that have sprung up all over the US in
recent years.

In the next few weeks, the partnership
will expand their offerings to include a program specifically
designed for Level 1 offenders. This designation refers to students
who frequently land in detention or are suspended for fighting or
causing trouble in school. These teens will now be able to opt to
take mindfulness and meditation classes rather than sitting in
detention or facing suspension.

While just getting off the ground, the
program’s evolution is very timely, as many educators are beginning
to realize that traditional punishments aren’t very effective. As
Russell Skilba, an educational psychology professor at Indiana
University, notes “suspension doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t
teach kids anything that would change their behavior.” On the other
hand, teaching mindfulness and meditation helps them better
understand their emotional swings and resist acting impulsively. As
Caroline Contillo, of Manhattan’s Interdependence Project puts it,
meditation helps teens “look at this can of worms [and] recognize
that can is them.”

Contillo also points out, “what they
do with that is up to them.” Meditation certainly won’t solve
every problem, but access to programs like this can help teens learn
more effective coping skills. In retrospect, isn’t that half the
struggle of growing up?

Do you know of
any meditation programs for teens in your area? Have you seen evidence of its influence or effects?

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