I wish my school was like this.
12 year-old girl
“Spiritualizing Relationships” was the theme explored at Self-Realization Fellowship’s third annual How-to-Live Summer Day Program for children and teens, held in summer 2017 on the 20-acre campus of the Encinitas Country Day School near the SRF Encinitas Ashram Center in California.
The young participants were led by experienced monastics and lay teachers to focus on qualities integrally related to this year’s theme—such as respect, loyalty, and selflessness—which are necessary in building divine friendships, living in harmony with others, and getting along with oneself. A desire to have meaningful interactions with others based on spiritual principles is prevalent amongst the students that attend the program, and this year’s theme allowed for that concern to be deeply explored.
Classes Tailored to Meet the Needs of Different Ages
As one of the program coordinators, Sister Ranjana, explained: “Our SRF youth are longing to find ways to successfully navigate the complexities and pressure they confront in daily life, with unique challenges for each age group. There is a growing desire in these children and teens to receive Paramahansa Yogananda’s high spiritual ideals and practical instruction, and apply them in the situations they face.”
To accommodate this need, the program’s classes and activities were structured within eight groups over an eleven-year age range of students, allowing instructors to craft discussions and creative projects suited to the particular stage of learning and interests of each class.
The students enjoyed that each group was named after a place associated with Paramahansaji’s life in India—such as “Garpar Road,” the street where his family resided in Kolkata; or “Ranchi,” the location of his first permanent school and ashram, established in 1918.
Group practice of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Energization Exercises began each day at 9:00 a.m....
…and was followed by group prayer, devotional chanting, and meditation.
Daily activities include classes and discussions, sports, theatrical improvisation, crafts projects, science experiments, and quiet time for journaling and introspection.
Friendship with the guru was the theme of one of the week’s craft activities.
A Foundation in Meditation
Fulfilling a vital need for the development of character, self-esteem, and moral strength in young people, the SRF programs for youth teach that Self-realization through yoga meditation is the fountainhead of true happiness.
Paramahansaji said, “God has given us the power of spiritual inspiration—realization of the pure bliss of His presence within us....Ever strive to establish the divine consciousness in your children by teaching them to meditate.” During the Summer Day Program, eligible students received personal instruction in the Hong-Sau and Aum meditation techniques from SRF monastics.
Sister Ranjana observed, “Many of the students, from the youngest to the oldest, commented on how much the meditation periods helped them to let go of underlying tensions, relaxing body and mind, and to experience peace within. They said that they were able to feel Paramahansaji’s presence—giving them the assurance that God is with them, guiding and blessing their lives.”
Testimonials from this year’s Summer Day Program
- “I practiced kindness a lot this week. I think this is the best camp ever.” —10 year-old girl
- “My favorite activities were the Energization Exercises and meditation. Thank you for organizing this program; it has changed my life for the better!” —12 year-old girl
- “My favorite activity was going to the Hermitage. I loved meditating there. I could feel the presence of Master.” —12 year-old girl
- “I’m going home with positive thoughts that are helpful for life.” —9 year-old girl
- “I plan on taking home the affirmation technique because I can use that to resist the forces of maya and the ego.” —15 year-old boy
- “I loved the week. I loved the history behind Yogananda explaining the science of yoga. I also really like the Aum Technique.” —13 year-old boy
- “I liked the kirtan because I really got into it and felt God.” —16 year-old boy
- “I am taking home love, faith, and belief in God and Gurus.” —11 year-old boy
- “This experience has been life changing for my son and our family. After his participation last year, he had taken all the things he had learned and implemented them. He started doing daily meditation, and we noticed an increased ability to handle stress and cope with his very busy academic schedule in high school.” —Parent of 15 year-old boy
- “I wish there were schools like this! It’s incredible how my daughter changed after these few days.” —Mother of 7 year-old gir