Conference Meets Heart

Teaching_Mindfulness30COLUMN: Youth and Family
Teaching Mindfulness and Compassion to Youth

article by Leslie Gossett, Column Editor
photos by Mark Anderson

We recently hosted a conference in Northern California at which the presenters said it was unlike any other conference they’d been to. It was like… conference meets heart.

With about 70 people in the shrine room, there was a long table with 8 Bay Area luminaries sitting in front of the microphones. The sun was shining through the windows, and the Ikebana arrangements were as sparkling as the conversation.

Every person in that room had come to explore our inspiration for teaching mindfulness to children and youth. That’s what we called it: Teaching Mindfulness and Compassion in Schools and Community Youth Organizations. It was the next in a series of programs called Follow Your Inspiration. The first classes had been general gatherings of inspired folks. We worked on skill building and connecting to resources. We quickly found that what we really needed was to be incredibly specific. That’s when we narrowed the theme to mindfulness and youth. So many people were coming to the programs wanting to do this work.

So this program was born of mutual inspiration. Of a desire to connect inspiration to resources, to guide people toward trainings, connections, and experiences that would help them do this work. Create good human society.

We were so fortunate to have some of the most incredible leaders and community organizers there with us that weekend to talk about their work, their training, their practice, and to give advice. The presenters are listed below, if you’re curious about who they are and what they do.

Teaching_Mindfulness28We spent some of the time hearing from each presenter about how they are working with youth. There were many manifestations represented: school board members, doctors, teen retreat programs, programs for incarcerated teens, school districts, elementary schools, Stanford researchers. All doing one thing: finding ways to teach mindfulness and compassion.

We had plenty of time for discussions amongst presenters, audience question and answer, and general sharing of ideas and resources. There was sitting meditation time, contemplation practice, and dyad sharing. Some of the presenters offered experiential activities, leading us through exercises which we could then teach to our children.

I find it hard to try and convey the magic of this program in words. What I know is that my heart is full of awe for this. Here we all are in a room. The majority of folks have never set foot in a Shambhala Center before. The presenters represent many different backgrounds – Buddhist, secular, scientific, and so many more. And here we are sharing this one thing: that we believe in the goodness of our children and youth. And we are all willing to do whatever we can to teach them how to relate with their minds and worlds skillfully and heartfully. And we are in it together, uplifting and supporting one another. Connecting and sharing. Creating enlightened society.

The next program around this topic was born out of conversations with presenters and participants. October 18th, Teaching Mindfulness to Youth: A Diverse Exploration. We will have the tender conversation about diversity and creating an inclusive culture.

And meanwhile, our series continues throughout the year with emphases on business, healthcare, social justice, family, and the arts. For more information visit

Teaching_Mindfulness06Jessica Morey, BA is the Executive Director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme). She began practicing mindfulness meditation at age 14 on teen retreats offered by the Insight Meditation Society (IMS). She is now a founding board member and lead teacher for iBme teen retreats.

Ida Oberman, PhD is the Executive Director of Community School for Creative Education, the country’s first urban multi cultural Waldorf inspired charter. Her personal meditation practice is rooted in Tibetan Buddhism, Dutch Reform Theology and Anthroposophy.

Meena Srinivasan, MA is part of the Social Emotional Learning & Leadership Team for the Oakland Unified School District. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and was a leader in India’s Mindfulness in Education Movement. She has taught mindfulness to 6th through 12th graders in Brazil, India, and California.

John Rettger, PhD is the Director of Mindfulness Program for the Stanford University Early Life Stress and Pediatric Anxiety Program. He has trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and has taught mindfulness in a variety of settings. He also teaches yoga.

Sam Himelstein, PhD is the Program Director of the Mind Body Awareness Program. He is passionate about working with young people involved in the juvenile justice system and speaks nationally and internationally on topics related to working clinically with youth.

Amy Saltzman, MD is the Director of The Still Quiet Place. She has offered mindfulness to young people from pre-K to college undergrads in socioeconomically diverse school, and community settings as well as conducted two research studies.

Gale Young, PhD is Professor Emerita and Chair of the Communications Department at Cal State East Bay. She is a student of intercultural relations, difficult dialogues, and reconciliation.

Rees Sweeney-Taylor is the Program Director for SquashDrive. He works directly with youth cultivating awareness and confidence. He also is a student of Shambhala Buddhism and works teaching mindfulness and meditation to people of all ages.

Nicole Abaté Ducarroz, Sonoma Valley Unified School District School Board member since 2004, Waldorf Charter School founding board member, mother of 3: Nikita (17), Jonas (15), Julien (10), wife to Jean-Francois, retired software engineer.