Teaching Teens the Truth
What was your experience like as a teen? How many times in high school were you invited to consider who you authentically are? And how might your life have been different if you had discovered inner resources at that age?
How to get the most out of these Wisdom Quotes:
Put aside everything you think you already know.
Open your mind and heart to receive something new.
Take your time going through each point.
Return to any points that particularly touch you.
In the coming days, listen carefully to the wisdom within you.
*All quotes (unless otherwise stated) are by Caverly Morgan, from the video: Can Teens Help Us Collectively Awaken?
1. Thirsty to Learn What's Needed
"I was teaching a workshop about the inner critic to adults. A woman approached me afterwards, her voice so clear and direct: “My high school students need what I just learned from you today. You must come visit.” And so I did.
In that hot and dry Sacramento classroom, I shared about the inner critic, I spoke about the way in which we are not our thoughts. I didn’t dumb it down.
The teens were on fire with engagement and that day ignited a flame in me as well. I realized that it’s not only possible to teach deep, contemplative practice to teens, I realized that it’s needed.
I experienced how thirsty teens are to learn about the most important subject of all: who they authentically are, who we authentically are, what 'authentically' is.
I look back at my own high school experience - the panic attacks, the confusion, the crisis around identity but, most importantly, the complete lack of any tools or language to identify and work with my inner experience.
What was your experience like as a teen? How many times in high school were you invited to consider who you authentically are? And how might your life have been different if you had discovered inner resources at that age? Most of all, what would it be like if all teens had access to contemplative tools and practices, if transformative practices weren’t simply reserves for the privileged?"
Consider the answers to the questions posed above.
2. Beginning With Wholeness
"For two days we offered a handful of 90 minute classes in which students tasted that they were not their thoughts, where they were invited to be themselves; where they, even just for a fleeting moment, were seen and heard, where they were loved - for isn’t pure attention a form of love?
So this became my passion: how can we support teens in recognizing their own inherent beauty? How can we teach what’s intrinsic, assisting teens in remembering their essence, reconnecting with it and learning to act on behalf of it?
I came into this with a question: if we begin a course with the baseline recognition of wholeness, what manifests from there?
When I had panic attacks in high school, there wasn’t even the label of panic attack for my experience, or at least, if that label existed, no-one around me used it.
Anxiety would come on before, in preparing for tests, during tests and after tests. I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but I had one take away: “There must be something wrong with me.” It didn’t occur to me to use these experiences as opportunities to explore the nature of the conditioned mind. These experiences were proof that I was flawed. Anyone relate?
Imagine a form of public education that sees this accusatory self-talk as mere conditioned belief, something to bring the mind of conscious inquiry to, not something to be assumed as truth, maintained with our attention and perpetuated through our actions."
Look at this staggering statistic: "According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 of all adolescents ages 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder."
Consider how much accusatory self-talk is affecting our young people today. What must it be like to constantly compare yourself to others in your school and on social media, to feel that you're not good enough, and to believe every negative thought you think?
How helpful would it be to see that this self-talk is coming from the conditioned mind, that it is transitory thought and not gospel truth to be believed and acted upon? What if we were taught about our innate well-being, and understood that we are whole and not broken, no matter what we think and feel? How might that change the current statistics on adolescent mental health?
3. Sharing What We Have Been Given
"I began to fall in love with these young people. It felt so easy to see them, to truly see them, to know their hearts. The veil between who they authentically are and who they’re conditioned to be, so very thin.
Somewhere along the way we have realized that something else is possible for us, that we don’t need to move through the world governed by our conditioned habits and patterns and that it’s possible not to suffer. We can recognize and know ourselves, and from this recognition we can love freely.
I can only imagine that, like me, you see your opportunity to have come upon awakened teachings as a really precious gift, perhaps more valuable to you than anything else. I see it as our duty to share what we’ve been given and to ensure that others too have this same access that we do.
I knew, going into this, that certain tools and practices would be valuable to share with teens - tools I wish I had had as a teen. Tools like being able to recognize when I’m identified with the conditioned mind and learning to disidentify from it, learning to rest in presence.
Rupert Spira’s phrase, "Love is the recognition of our shared being,” became a type of fuel in me. I felt propelled by this question: What is possible if the forms we create are manifestations of the recognition of our shared being? How does that form then impact the other? And another? The students’ family, their community, the world?"
What 'awakened teachings' have you come across that could be shared with our young people, that would make a real difference in their lives?
Can you specifically think of anyone you know who would be open to this sharing? If a name comes up in your heart, sit with it for a while and see if an opportunity arises to share something. This 30-minute video is one of the best resources to share with an open teenager.
Re-read the last paragraph of the quote above and consider the ripple effect this kind of teaching can have on the world.
4. Mindful Studies
"We named our course Mindful Studies.
First, we focus on BASIC MINDFULNESS PRACTICE - learning how to recognize how the attention habitually moves, learning how to direct it. In the language of our teens, learning how to be here and now with kindness.
Next, we focus on UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESSES OF THE CONDITIONED MIND - learning to recognize self-talk, working with the voice of the inner critic, understanding how to access the compassionate mentor within - a form teens create so that they can receive love, offer love and know themselves as love.
We teach through offering experience first. It’s only after the experience that the specific tool is named. For example, when we explore the nature of the conditioned mind, how the conditioned mind creates apparent duality, we do so through guided imagery, followed by a discussion about what was experienced. This is a model by which students can turn to their direct experience as their test of reality.
Teens learn to own their projections, to recognize them, to own them. In Mindful Studies, teens also learn how to recognize aspects of the self, conditioned survival strategies and conditioned coping mechanisms, always with sitting meditation as the backdrop, presence and the environment of care as the container.
In the last section of the course, we explore PROCESSES OF AWARENESS. We focus on the nuances of cultivating the heart of acceptance, practices of loving kindness and gratitude. Conscious, compassionate communication, relational mindfulness and the exploration of the inherent intimacy of life, the intimacy of being."
Are you aware of any mindfulness-related classes or resources that are available in your area? Try looking some up and see what you can find. I googled "Mindfulness near me" and found a couple of people and places I'd like to connect with and visit. I also looked up "Mindfulness in schools in (my county)" and was surprised to find that my local primary school (children up to age 11) has introduced mindfulness lessons! There's a video of the headteacher saying:
"Mindfulness is an exciting new area in the development of education that will provide benefits, not only educationally for our children, but also emotionally and socially. It will make our children better members of society in the future."
What kind of teachings and resources would you like to see available for young people and teenagers? Is there something that you would add to the Mindful Studies 3-point lesson structure above?
5. A Life Saving Education
"While not all our students struggle with addiction, self-harm or suicidal ideation, I wanted to touch on these things today because I see them as extreme manifestations of the isolation that teens are up against. And unfortunately they’re at a record high.
Just imagine if every person who helps raise our youth was given the training to be, first and foremost, the embodiment of presence and unconditional love.
Just imagine witnessing teens move from thoughts of isolation to thoughts of how to stay engaged with a practice of presence.
Imagine seeing teens move from thoughts that maintain the illusion of separation to thoughts of how to support themselves and each other in recognizing their inherent wholeness, inquiry into the nature of who they are and thoughts of how to be more engaged with life rather than thoughts of how to end life."
Can you think of any teenagers/young people you know who are struggling with life at the moment? Perhaps it's even your own children or the children of someone you know but you don't know how to reach out to help them.
Even without official training in mindfulness, we can be there for our young people and meet them where they are with presence and love. Begin here and realize that, simply by spending time with them without any agenda, you can make a difference.
6. Grounded in Presence
"Another of our core lessons: You are not your thoughts. You are more than your feelings: your anger, fear, uncertainty, or hopelessness.
Again and again, we see this simple yet profound lesson radically transform the perspective of both the teens and adults we serve. It helps them ask: What if there were more to my identity than this anxiety, this depression, this fear?
What if, by pausing and paying attention to my experience, I could reconnect with the part of myself that is bigger than that? The part of me that can be with any experience, no matter how challenging?
This can be hard to remember, especially when we are in the midst of great upheaval, as we are right now. Yet, if we are able to pause and go beneath the storm clouds of our more challenging emotions, we'll discover that happiness, clarity, and resilience are the very nature of our being.
In a world that is more interested in playing upon our fear or anger than reminding us of our inherent goodness and wisdom - of who we truly are beneath the fear, anger, or confusion - remembering to pause and look inward can be difficult. We habitually look to external circumstances, people, and experiences to create a sense of stability rather than the wisdom that lives inside us.
In times like these, it’s more important than ever to ground into the very thing that can sometimes appear groundless: our very being. Our direct experience of presence."
~Caverly Morgan, from the article: "Meeting the Pain of the World"
Do you watch, listen or read the news regularly? What kind of stories do you hear about teenagers? Here, in the UK, we often hear about crime and mental health issues involving our teens. By constantly broadcasting disturbing and unconscious acts, fear and anger are easily spread.
Look at the teenagers you know. Recognize the conditioning within you - the opinions and judgments that may be blocking the flow of love towards them. Can you see them, truly see them, know their hearts?
Perhaps it is through our seeing, our acknowledging and our embodiment of unconditional love and presence that they will begin to see themselves in a true way.
7. A Word of Love
In this seven-minute video, I share my heart about our young people and what they need in today's world. You can find the song I mention here.