Saturday, June 19, 2010

Teen Dharma

After the sangha tonight, one of the longtime participants approached me with an idea to write a book about the dharma of being a teenager. Much of her insight was based on the graduation ceremony we both attended at the middle school where her daughter and my stepson were students. 

There were several kids who gave speeches, and they were as self-possessed as you can possibly imagine a person being, no matter what their age. Then there was the vast majority of the other students who deal with mortifying shyness, low self-esteem, crises of confidence, and just plain suffering as they continually want things to be other than the way they are.

I can remember being fourteen, and it was torture. I can vividly recall the feeling that everyone was watching me, and that my every move and every word were being harshly judged by my peers. My parents had by now been relegated to deep background. They could drive me to a dance or party, but that was it - no coming into the house to meet the other parents, and no loitering to make sure I made it into the school gymnasium safely.

I suppose not all kids that age feel the way I did, but I know a lot of them do. They are poster children, if you will, for how the mind creates its own suffering through the stories it weaves about the world. They are perfect examples of how taking things personally, even things that have nothing to do with them, leads to clinging and aversion and thus even more suffering. 

It is a syndrome many of us never really outgrow. These outworn and useless habits of mind continue to cause us to suffer even into old age. I don't know how qualified I would be to write a book on the subject of adapting the Dharma to help kids deal with their world more effectively. However, it is really the same thing that I am helping adults deal with in every teaching setting I have. 

Perhaps because these habits of mind have been with us for so long, we have difficulty letting them go. They are like old friends. So the next time you encounter one of these old feelings that have led you to a place of suffering, see if you can gently, lovingly, and compassionately, tell the mind that it's time to stop thinking this way. Come back to a present-moment sensory reality, such as the feeling of the breath, and let the old, old thought go. I guess we all have to graduate sometime.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I still think you should write that book.