Chaya Ellenbogen spent part of the summer with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education.
Why did you choose to participate in a high school summer program?
I think my Mom had suggested it as something I might be interested in and might find helpful.
How did you decide which program or camp was right for you?
I was looking for some new tools and experiences to help me in my life. The first retreat I went on, I was ready to run for the hills! But I started to get interested in that feeling, and it was the first time I had treated my emotions with curiosity and kindness, and the staff were very supportive. It was a judgement-free zone.
What was a typical day in your summer program?
Inward Bound Mindfulness Education is very structured, which allows for less anxiety in what you're going to do. We start the day with stretching and a morning meditation, followed by breakfast in silence. Then the retreat manager will talk about what's going to happen in the day to break the silence. There's some free time, and then our morning meditation practice, and that's sitting and walking meditation, with some guidance.
Everyone in the retreat breaks up into small groups to talk and reflect on what the retreat experience is like and to share a little bit about what their life is like. After that we have lunch and some free time, and then we go do a whole range of workshops: writing, more active workshops, deep talks and discussions. Then we have yoga with some awesome yoga teachers, dinner and then a kindness sit and a talk, and they offer an important different type of meditation and you get to hear a lot about the teachers and how they've used the practices in their lives.
What was the most memorable moment of your summer?
This summer I was lucky enough to attend 2 iBme teen retreats where I met some of the greatest people I will ever know, and got to spend time with people that I have come to hold close to my heart. The kind of honest and curious connection felt with others on retreat that has proven an invaluable experience time and time again.
Likewise, the understanding, acceptance and perspective I've gained of people and our environments while on retreat continues to guide me through the chaos of existing. I cannot thank the retreat staff enough for creating the uniquely kind and caring (and entertaining) space they do, for all of us teens to explore mindfulness and meditation! The staff of iBme have all added to the part of role model in my life that I have often lacked and for that I am not only grateful but proud have something so inspiring to look up to.
What advice do you have for teens looking at summer programs or camps?
I believe as a teenager that going on a meditation retreat is something every teen should do, so I'd tell people who haven't meditated before that it's a powerful experience, but very deep and personal. It's helped me recognize my own impulsivity and not just snap back and things like that. Taking things in the moment has helped me figure out what I need in my life.