Zen for high schoolers: ‘Notice the anxiety. Notice the fear.’
The New York Times reports not only that Brooklyn high-schoolers are attending weekly meditation sessions meant to help them handle the challenges of growing up in the city, but that Zen meditation is being offered as an alternative to traditional detentions.
The meditation sessions are taking place in the Brooklyn Zen Center, where Zen priest Greg Snyder is involved in the center’s Awake Youth Project, which includes weekly workshops in five public high schools as well as teenager-led sessions at the center.
Now, Mr. Snyder is taking on the tougher task of teaching meditation to Level 1 offenders— students who are frequently put in detention or suspended because they start fights or cause trouble — at Bushwick High School. Administrators at the school approved the program April 5 and plan to start it in coming weeks.
Students in trouble are given the choice of traditional punishments or participating in the meditation program, where Mr. Snyder will teach them how to meditate, understand volatile emotions and curb impulsive behavior. He intends to take the program to other schools as well.
One of the students reports that the meditation has been helpful in dealing with tensions at school and with her mother, who works with the mentally impaired. “It’s hard, because she has to go work with them and then comes back to us. Maybe a year ago, I’d have talked back and had a bad attitude, but now I let it go through me and accept it.”
“For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could relieve the stress on my shoulders,” another student says.
Snyder is reported as using the trauma students experience as fodder for meditation:
“This is where you actually use this. Notice the thought. That’s fine. Notice the anxiety. Notice the fear. Use the meditation to focus your mind. Are you with me?”