ChildLight Yoga's Lisa Flynn posted an introductory article, Practice Peace: Yoga Principles for Children #1, which discussed supporting the practice and understanding of peace for children. This follow-up article focuses on an inquiry into peace for teens.
Travel the halls of any middle or high school, and you'll notice signs of peace everywhere. Literally. On t-shirts, backpacks, necklaces, hairbands, socks, sneakers, binders, book jackets. The list goes on. Young people are naturally attracted to the idea of peace and are enthusiastic promoters of non-violent idealism.
As a mother of teenagers, I can attest first-hand to the world-loving, tree-hugging attitude. We even catch and release mosquitoes and ticks in our househould - proof positive of my teens' commitment to the values of life and peace. And yet, life in my house is far from peaceful. Young people seem to suffer a disconnect between the idea of peace and what that means in a global arena, versus how to actually be peaceful in thought, word and deed.
As parents, we first need to understand that this is a normal developmental issue. Teens need to challenge their parents in order to assert their independence – a process that is anything but peaceful. On the other hand, what a ripe opportunity to plant seeds for future growth!
As a yoga teacher, I find peace (which we call ahimsa, or non-violence, in yoga-speak) is a topic that invites introspection and sharing. Ask teens questions that encourage self-reflection: What does peace mean to you? How do you practice peace in your life? How do you feel peace within yourself? How do you uphold peace even when you have to tell a hurtful truth? Facilitate a group discussion, and ask teens to provide specific details about their own personal practice of peace. If you'd like, you can even ask them to explore times they don't feel so peaceful. After all, it's all about self-discovery – for better or for worse.
Abby Wills of Shanti Generation posted a somewhat different approach on her blog. Called The Sound of Peace, Abby invites her students to consider what peace sounds like to them. This is a wonderful exercise that integrates sensory awareness and conceptual thought. Surely psychologists and educators have a clinical word to describe that! So, let's extrapolate: What does peace taste like? Feel like? Smell like? Look like?
Close the activity by inviting teens into a meditation on peace. This meditation is best practiced outside or by an open window, although you can also play a disc of nature sounds. Ask students to sit comfortably with their hands resting on their thighs. Draw their attention to their quiet and gentle breath. While remaining focused on their breathing, ask them to ask notice the sounds and sensations around them: maybe birds are singing, perhaps a gentle breeze is blowing; they may hear the shouts and laughter of children playing nearby, a dog barking, or the noise of passing traffic. They don't all have to be peace-evoking sounds. Life isn't always peaceful, so it's helpful to learn to integrate and accept abrasive sounds along with those that inspire tranquility.
Instruct the children to collect all of these sounds, like elements of a collage, and mentally overlap them until they begin to blend into one sound. Invite them to draw this universal sound into their inner selves. Notice the sensations these sounds create inside their bodies and minds. Ask them: Can you feel joy? Can you sense the peace of all things being connected together? Can you connect to the world around you and feel this peace inside of yourself?
Maybe, just maybe, they'll take a little of this peace experience home with them. And think how their parents will appreciate that.
Lisa Burk-McCoy is working toward a 500 hour teaching certificate in Classical Yoga from the YogaLife Institute. She also holds a prenatal yoga certification, and children's yoga certifications from ChildLight Yoga and Itsy Bitsy Yoga. Lisa currently serves as an instructor and business consultant for ChildLight Yoga. When not practicing yoga, she dabbles as a musician, playing flute in a local contradance band and teaching classical flute lessons to children and adults. She is blessed with a wonderful family–a husband, son and daughter, and a menagerie of pets. They make their home in Exeter, NH