[two_third]Beginning in 1999, the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society’s Youth Program introduced hundreds of young people and youth workers to contemplative practices. Program Director Dan Edwards taught young people contemplative methods to deal with stress, anger, and difficult situations, emphasizing nonviolence and empathy. He also trained youth workers from local community organizations how to use contemplative practices in their work with adolescents.
Our goal is to empower participants with the skills necessary to develop, promote, organize, facilitate, and implement long-term social change in their families, schools, and communities.
The Youth Program got its start when the Center, working with Tibet House, developed the youth component of “Peacemaking and the Art of Nonviolence,” a conference with the Dalai Lama and other Nobel laureates. The Center continued to work with select youth leaders in incorporating contemplative awareness into youth programs. Many of the Youth program’s activities were in the local Holyoke/Springfield, MA area, but Dan has also offered workshops across the nation.
Trainings and Workshops
MPower trains youth workers from local community organizations on how to use contemplative practices to sustain themselves and help adolescents build skills in four areas:
1) Awareness and Insight—sharpening concentration, broadening conscious awareness, increasing comprehension of cause-and-effect
2) Equanimity—cultivating acceptance, patience and an inner source of positive mood
3) Empathy—discerning feelings, perceptions, values, bias, etc. of self and other
4) Foresight—predicting the consequences of behavior and learning to make behavioral choices that achieve more satisfying results.
Our goal is to empower participants with the skills necessary to develop, organize, facilitate and implement long-term social change by effectively incorporating contemplative practice into the lives of young people, their families, schools and communities.[/two_third]
The Power of Hope unleashes the positive potential of youth through arts-centered intergenerational and multicultural learning programs that value self-awareness, leadership, community and social change.
Project AVARY’s mission is to cultivate a community of support for children whose parents are imprisoned or otherwise involved with the criminal justice system.
Brightside Center for Families and Children is a comprehensive nonprofit child welfare, mental health and family support center offering contemporary services for children, adolescents and their families.
i-2-i Training (heart2heart/soul2soul)
The i-2-i (EYE2EYE) Program is all about improving relationships and expanding our compassion capacity. The program activities focus on interpersonal interactions to foster a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. We will learn how to enhance communication and generate authentic dialogue.
Much of this work involves exposing our inner beings to one another in a way that is safe and nurturing. Through this process, I-2-I creates a space for peer-to-peer healing. Fun and playfulness are the other vital ingredients in this concoction.
Participants explore the exercises themselves, and are trained to facilitate the activities as well as create their own workshops.
i-2-i Training Exercises
Exercise 1: Deep Listening
This activity develops focusing and listening skills. It teaches us to listen from the heart as well as the intellect, giving a speaker undivided attention. This exercise is best conducted with small to medium-size groups.
- Mill around the room until you find a partner.
- Designate one person A and one B.
- Once everyone finds a partner, have the partners find a spot in the room that is comfortable for them.
- Explain to them that they will be doing a deep listening exercise that will help them develop concentration skills. The guidelines are as follows: Person A will tell their partner something about them. An examples could be to talk about a person in your life that has inspired you. What inspired you about the person? What is different about you and that person?
- Person B should be instructed to just listen to their partner’s story with no response, fighting the instinct to identify with the story. The listener’s goal is to capture the essence of the speaker’s story and relay it back to the speaker.
- Instruct the group that partner A will have about 5 minutes to speak and than you will sound a bell to let them know when to switch.
- Begin the activity, making sure to ring the bell and switch speakers after five minutes.
- When both partners are done, give them five or more minutes to give feedback to one another on what they feel their partner was saying. Inform them that it is up to the speaker to clarify any misinterpretations the listener may have summarized during the feedback process.
- Have them thank each other.
Afterwards, bring the group back together as a whole and have them share what the experience was like. Examples: How did it feel to not be able to immediately respond to what your partner was saying? How was it for people to tell their stories without any direct feedback from the listener? What came up for you?
Exercise 2: Face to Face
- Face to Face is designed to stretch our comfort zones and develop connections between participants. The facilitator should let the group know that while the activity may be uncomfortable for some, it allows us to explore our reactions and build compassion for each other. There should be no talking during this activity (except by the facilitator) and soft music in the background helps to set the tone. Face to Face may be done with a large or small group of no less than 6 people, and works well with a group that is already familiar with one another. If the group is meeting for the first time, the facilitator should notice the energy of the group and decide whether or not to use this activity as a final exercise of a day-long training. Face to Face works well with adults and youth alike, as long as the activity is put into context.
- In silence, have the group form two lines facing each other. If it is a large group, four lines may need to be formed. There is also the option of separating men and women.
- Once lines are formed, have the participants greet each other with a silent head nod or your own preference. Check and see if there are any tense body postures (such as crossed arms) and gently ask everyone to notice if they are tense. Tell them to relax and let the shoulders drop. Have the group close their eyes and take a few deep breaths to get focused. Ask the group to notice their internal shifts: “Notice what is going on inside.” Have the group take one last breath together before opening their eyes and looking into the eyes of the person across from them, without breaking eye contact. Say, “Now open your eyes and look into the eyes of the person across from you. Notice how you feel inside, but at the same time stay connected to your partner.” Let them know that is okay to giggle or smile. Wait for about twenty seconds before proceeding to the next step.
- Make the following statements in a calm and clear voice, allowing 15-20 seconds between each. It is up to the facilitator to generate the appropriate statements for the group. These are guideline statements to serve as examples, but they often work really well.
- What do you see in this person?
- The person across from you has brought many smiles to many faces.
- This person has felt heartache.
- This person has been teased.
- This person across from you has the ability to love unconditionally.
- Wish them well in your own special way.
- Shift the lines. At this point, if in a large group, the facilitator may wish to shift the lines so that each person has a new partner. Say, “I need everyone to shift one person to the right”. If everyone is standing in a rectangle, the shift should cause the person on the far right of each line to cross over to the opposite side. In general, the facilitator should feel this out, snd if the group shows signs of weariness, you may not want to shift more than three times, with five or six statements for each shift. If the group is small, then you may not need to shift; make more statements.
- After the shift, say:
- What do you see in this person?
- This person isn’t perfect.
- The person across from you has cried/laughed.
- The person across from you has the ability to change the world.
- This person has the potential to have a great positive impact on your life.
- This person–just like you–has the ability to give tremendous amounts of hope to others.
- The person across from you is human.
- Wish them well in your own special way.
Your last statement should contain a tone of completion. This activity can evoke serious emotions depending on the group, so after the last statements and well-wishing, let the group work out their “stuff”. Afterwards, process the group and gather feedback.
Jedeye Project – the contemplative obstacle course
JP is a well-rounded contemplative training package for youth. Developed in 1999 as a workshop and later modified into a complete project, the Jedeye Project is designed to create and enhance the contemplative aspect of summer gatherings for youth (such as camps, conferences, etc.) and is facilitated by trained instructors. JP makes contemplative practices a fun and enriching summer experience for youth.
Peaceful Images Project
The Peaceful Images Project (PIP) is a project that is designed to provide youth with a contemplative and creative approach to self expression. By using writing, photography and/or video, PIP guides participants on an exploration of self, and the self in society. PIP opens doors for participants to learn about other cultures from the stories of their peers. The nature of the assignment allows the participants to reflect on their own lives, family, and community.
The objective is for youth to learn and/or reexamine:
- the use and importance of contemplative practices
- the importance of nonviolent means of expression
- the cultural roots of family
- their definition and methods of obtaining personal, family, school, and community peace
- how to manifest and document the autobiography
- technical skills involving the use of photo/video cameras
Peaceful Images Project (PIP) Sample Exercises
Materials: Cameras for each person in the group; art paper, glue, glitter, markers, crayons, magazines, etc.
Inform the group that this is an art assignment that can be challenging and fun.
- Give each person in the group a camera.
- Instruct the group to take their cameras home and
A) take pictures of people or objects that inspire them to remain positive.
B) Take pictures of items that reflect their cultural heritage.
C) Take pictures of objects in their neighborhood that speak to them (not literally!)
Emphasize or reemphasize that this is not an opportunity to fill the camera with pictures of friends or cliched/staged photos.
- Give the group a realistic time frame to complete their photos. If you are using disposable cameras (recommended), collect them and develop the photos. If you have digital cameras, download all the images and print them out.
- When all of the participants have completed their photos, have them create either
A) a personal collage using the photos, arts supplies, and other images or
B) an altar or community mandala that incorporates photos from the entire group.
- Allow time for the group to check out each others’ pictures.
- Once the group is back together, encourage participants to speak about their pictures.
- Process the group: How was this project? What did you learn about yourself? What is the importance of doing a project like this?
PIP has the ability to generate rich dialogue within the group, and serve as a platform to deepen mindfulness practice via cultural roots.