The fourth annual Self-Realization Fellowship How-to-Live Summer Day Program for children and teens was held at the Encinitas Country Day School, a 20-acre school campus in Encinitas, California, located near the SRF Encinitas Ashram Center. Separate weeklong sessions for girls and boys took place, respectively, June 25–29 and July 2–6.
The Summer Day Program is one of many annual programs offered by SRF as a way to promote Paramahansa Yogananda’s ideal of spiritual education for young people. “The ideal of right education for youth had always been very close to my heart,” Paramahansaji wrote in his Autobiography of a Yogi. His very first formal organizational work consisted of establishing a residential yoga school for boys in Dihika, India, in 1917.
Activities Customized for Different Ages and Interests
SRF monastics and trained lay disciples led the young participants in a range of interactive activities that provided an opportunity to deeply explore the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. The spiritual principle of “will power” served as a unifying theme for both the boys and girls weeks.
Activities were customized to the needs and interests of different age groups and included daily group practice of the Energization Exercises and basic meditation techniques taught by Paramahansaji; instructional classes focusing on how young people could apply the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda in everyday life; devotional chanting; arts and crafts; group discussions about spiritual topics of interest to children and teens; and recreation.
A special highlight was a pilgrimage to the nearby SRF Ashram and Meditation Gardens overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where Paramahansaji lived and communed with God for many years. Another feature popular with participants in all age categories was a satsanga, in which monastics answered questions about Paramahansaji’s teachings that had been submitted by the children and teens.
Photos From the Girls Week:
Photos From the Boys' week
“Like Stepping Into a Higher Age”
Leaders and participants alike attested that the weeklong program was a wonderful experience with lasting benefits. Program coordinator Sister Ranjana, described it as “like stepping into a higher age.” She said: “Troubles were washed away and the world seemed distant. Truth reigned because God and Guru were so tangibly present. It was truly a special week.” The other program coordinator, Brother Sarvananda, commented that he had not seen anywhere else “a group of happier, more exuberant kids.”
One of the monks who has served at the Summer Day Program for the past four years reflected: “This year we had a huge teen group—the biggest we have ever had. Their maturity and interest in spiritual things was evident. For example, on the last day we had a satsanga, and toward the end I was concerned we perhaps had gone on too long, so I said to them: ‘I bet you are ready to stop. We’ve been talking an hour straight!’ But, in unison, they yelled, ‘No, we want to keep going!’” He also said he has observed that the participants truly appreciate the Summer Day Program as an opportunity to learn things they are not able to learn anywhere else. “These kids understand they have something special in Master’s teachings.”
Following are some of the testimonials from the young people who participated in the Summer Day Program:
“I plan to use all the lessons we learned on will power because they really taught me a lot about how to stand up for what I know is right and I want to do.” —Teenage girl
“I really learned more about won’t power and will power this year and I think I will be using this every day to make me stronger.” —11 year-old boy
“I liked connecting with other people my age who have a spiritual understanding. I don’t have this opportunity at school.” —Teenage girl
“I like to come to the Summer Day Program because it allows me to be thinking about God and the Gurus for a long amount of time without all the worldly distractions. Every year I go I get some sort of new motivation to strengthen myself both mentally and spiritually.” —Teenage boy
“I loved how calm and peaceful we all felt during the meditation and after. While using the different techniques I was able to go really deep.” —Teenage girl
“The last kirtan was an experience that I will never forget.” —Teenage boy
“I learned the Hong-Sau Technique so when everyone (like my brother) is acting crazy at home, I can use Hong-Sau to concentrate.” —11 year-old girl
“Make it longer. Make it longer. Make it longer. MAKE IT LONGER.” —12 year-old girl