young people

Meditating teens: This is your brain on vacation (Dallas News, Texas)

ROBIN GALIANO RUSSELL, The Dallas Morning News: Teens discover special benefits from meditation

If you’re a teenager, you might be chilling out this summer with a good video game, a favorite CD or the latest movie.

But some area teens have learned how to chill through meditation, focusing on breathing and relaxing the muscles to free the mind of distractions.

And unlike other forms of relaxation, the benefits of meditation last throughout the day. Daily meditation helps reduce stress, improve focus and develop positive attitudes, says Gen Kelsang Sangye, a Buddhist monk from England who is the resident teacher at the Vajradakini Buddhist Center for Meditation in Irving.

“Meditation helps us control our mind. Rather than react, you can respond in a peaceful way with gratitude,” he says.

This year, the center offered its first Buddhist summer school for teens, aiming to teach them the fine art of doing nothing. A half-dozen Dallas-area teens enrolled. They learned how to meditate for five or 10 minutes at a time through guided instruction.

Sitting with backs straight, heads tilted slightly forward, feet flat on the floor, eyes closed and hands in laps, they focused on breathing deeply and releasing muscle tension in various body parts, from their foreheads to their toes.

“When our mind becomes still, we become happy,” Gen Sangye says later. “There is so much noise and energy going on, but you realize there is a choice. As an individual, I can choose myself. As a teen, you can be so influenced by those around us that it seems we don’t have a choice. Children have so much energy, but they can focus. It’s giving them the opportunity to do that.”


Brooke Husereau, 15, of Garland
Why she came: “I came to drawing class here a few weeks ago and wanted to learn more. I can find myself here.”

How she does it: “You focus on one thing and really get into it. You learn to take all your thoughts, put them in a bag and leave them outside.”

How meditation makes her feel: “Sometimes I feel stressed before I meditate. After, I’m very relaxed. I like to do it early in the morning when you can hear all the birds. You find yourself. You’re just happy and peaceful.”

Dhiren Parbhoo, 13, of Dallas
Why he came: “My mother signed me up. My dad does meditation. It’s really hard to lose your concentration when it’s guided.”

Why he likes meditation: “It’s calming the mind. It relieves stress and calms you down. It’s kind of a reliever.”

Robin Galiano Russell Allison Braley, 9, of Frisco
Why she likes to meditate: “My mom and dad decided to become Buddhist together. I talk about it a lot with my dad. Meditation helps us get a grasp on our religion and learn what happens to us, to our bodies.”

How she meditates: “You want to have a guided meditation at first. It’s pretty hard. It takes a few times to focus. The best place is outside on a calm, peaceful day. It’s just so calm, like the ocean when no one else is around.”

Alisha Wakefield, 14, of Dallas
Why she came: “The guided meditation keeps you on track. He’ll bring you back. This will get it flowing for me. I’ll do it before bed. Or before and after doing homework. It helps you focus on whatever you want to do.”

How she feels during meditation: “Before, I’m just normal, awake, I guess. After, you’re still kind of in a haze. You have to slowly get out of it. You don’t want to get back to the world. I want to just keep doing what I’m doing. It’s just soothing and relaxing. Like, after a day of doing everything, it’s like taking a bubble bath.”

Nathan Holloway, 15, of Mesquite
Why he came: “I was invited by a friend. I’ve been meditating for four years. I borrowed a yoga book to try it, and it brought me to a state of peace. At first, I used it as an escape. It made me more outgoing, more comfortable with myself and with others.”

How he meditates: “I play peaceful nature music in my room, and I use oil or incense and candles. I use a yoga mat. Actually, a lot of friends call me a hippie. I focus on what happened during the day. I’ve actually meditated up to 45 minutes at a time.”

How it makes him feel: “Before, I’m exhausted from the day and whatnot. During, I’m very relaxed and in a state of peace. It’s quite relaxing. After, you feel very refreshed.”

Why guys need meditation: “It’s hormones. You’re trying to show up. You have to be big and bad to fit in. To be cool, you have to fight. I just turn around and walk off.”

Suhasini Yeeda, 15, of Mesquite
Why she meditates: “When you have a lot of stress, it helps you find peace. It improves your concentration. If you repeat something, it becomes more real.”

How she meditates: “I meditate in my room in the morning. It energizes me. It both refreshes me and it energizes me. I use a meditation handbook. Physically, you feel like you’re not even there, like floating on water.”

How meditation helps teens: “It helps you release attachment. With girls, it’s attachment to guys and to makeup. With guys, it’s anger.”


Gen Kelsang Sangye uses guided instruction to talk the students through the basic steps of meditation. Students are seated with backs straight, eyes closed and hands in laps as they listen:

“Focus on your own body and nothing else. From the crown of your head, down to the forehead. If you have a headache, let that go. Moving down to the face, checking out the area around your eyes, down to the jaw, relax those facial muscles. At the back of the neck, let the tension dissolve into an empty space. Just relax your shoulders. Try to lower your shoulders. Relax the chest area and the stomach. Move around to your back. Focus on your spine. Imagine you’re climbing down your spine. Now the legs, thighs, knees, calf muscles. Spread your toes and any tension dissolves.

“Now your body’s comfortable. Focus on your brain, on your breathing. Feel the breath to the tip of your nostrils,” he says, reminding them there’s a close relationship between the breath and the mind.

“If your mind has moved away from the breath, move it back once more to the sensations of the nostrils,” Gen Sangye tells them.

Gen Sangye then is silent to allow students to meditate. Advanced students might focus on Buddhist virtues such as compassion, patience and wisdom. Beginners concentrate on allowing their minds to rest as they focus only on their breathing.

After five minutes, he gently taps a bell and tells students to slowly open their eyes.

“It’s like being in Texas on a very hot day and finding cool water,” he says. “At the beginning, it’s difficult because our minds are like little fish dancing in the water. After time, our concentration gets better.”

For information on meditation programs at the Vajradakini Buddhist Center for Meditation, visit or call 972-871-2611.

Original article no longer available…

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Serenity now: Monks will help police combat teen violence

Lowell [Massachusetts]: A shaven-headed Buddhist monk in a saffron robe, the Venerable Sao Khon seems an unlikely crimefighter. But he might be one answer to violence on this city’s streets.

Police are planning to refer Southeast Asian youngsters who have run away from home to the Cambodian-born monk and his brethren to provide moral and religious guidance. Police hope to catch youngsters at a crucial point and keep their lives on track.

“They need to understand the difference between good and bad and they may not understand that,” the 68-year-old Khon said through a translator. “The kids need to talk about their problems to the monks and then the monks will show them which way is bad and which way is good.”

It is not the first time that law enforcement has turned to religious leaders for help with youth crime. Ministers were enlisted, for example, in the battle against violence in Boston’s black community in the 1990s, a program that has become a national model.

But the program is unusual in the Cambodian community in the United States. Khon, president of an association of 80 Cambodian Buddhist temples nationwide, said that he had not heard of a similar venture elsewhere.

Lowell, 30 miles north of Boston, is a former mill city with a population of about 105,000. Nearly one-fifth of the residents are of Asian descent, many of them Cambodians who arrived in the 1980s.

The Southeast Asian influence is obvious in the city’s Highlands section. Stores have signs in both English and Khmer. A playground is filled with Khmer shouts as dozens of young men play volleyball.

Straddling his bike, Kevin Yaing, 12, said he would be open to talking to a monk. “They know a lot,” he said. He also offered — quietly — that he wanted to become a monk himself, “but I know it’s a long process.”

But Vannara Nhar, 13, sat on a stoop with one hand in a bag of Cheetos and the other clutching a Kool-Aid, and said: “I think if they, like, talk to us, it would be boring. We’ll talk, but it would be boring.”

Police Capt. Bob DeMoura, who commands a precinct in the Highlands section, said he was concerned about a rising tide of violence related to Southeast Asian gang rivalries. Two weeks ago, for example, a dispute between two gangs resulted in a stabbing, followed the next day by a retaliatory shooting, he said.

The usual police tactics have not seemed to work, prompting the veteran cop to seek alternatives.

The program will focus initially on first-time runaways.

“I look at this as early intervention,” DeMoura said.

The counseling might eventually be offered to truants or as an alternative sentence for minor crimes, such as disorderly conduct.

Denise C. Lewis, a researcher at the University of Kentucky who has studied Cambodian immigrants, said that in the rural community she examined, it was not uncommon for Cambodian families to take their children, without police involvement, to a monk when they had problems.

Even in America, “there is a lot of respect, even among youth, for the Buddhist monk,” Lewis said.

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