Dear Parents and Teenagers,
Welcome to the Dutch Retreat!
We are happy to welcome parents and their teenagers who attend the retreat together as a family. Here is a brief summary of our program.
The teens, while on retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism, essentially follow the same schedule as the adult retreatants, however given their age, their particular needs and in order to give them the necessary space to share their experiences and be together, they have a separate group or “family” with monks, nuns and maybe one or two adult lay practitioners who have an interest in and experience with working with teenagers.
We may offer a separate orientation for teens on the first evening of the retreat. Sometimes boys and girls who have been on our retreats before and know about our practices and activities introduce those to new comers.
We clearly say to the teens that they are expected to attend the whole Dharma talk and join walking meditation with Thay and the Sangha; we also ask their parents to remind them of that expectation and when possible to be with them for the morning activities and for lunch. This creates conditions for families to be together in the practice.
In the beginning of the retreat, we invite all parents to meet our team of monks, nuns and lay staff. We share with them the spirit of the teens’ program, take care of any practical issue that may come up and arrange for the parents to join the Beginning Anew session with their children. We (monks, nuns, parents, teens and staff) are able to support each other better in the retreat thanks to meeting like this.
On the first day of the teen’s program, we usually play a few ice-breaking games which contribute to creating a first sense of family. We may set up a second-body system where each person in the group is caring for one other person and receives the care of a third person. This system is mainly meant to help us know if everyone is present when we start an activity and if someone is missing, his or her second body will let the group know the reason of that absence and if there is something we need to help him or her with.
Sometimes we also make what we call a circle of secret friends: each of us picks from a box the name of someone in the group and that person is your secret friend, you have to observe, understand, learn something about or from him or her and make a gift for him or her at the end of the week. The gift could be a flower, a pebble, a feather, a song, a dance, a letter… it is offered for example during the bonfire evening which also is a highlight of the program.
Apart from that we have mindfulness games, questions and answers with young monks and nuns, cooking or baking, hikes, singing, sharing, sports (may include taichi or kungfu) deep relaxation, arts and meals together.
In the sharing we may speak about topics such as friendship, love, stress, deep desire for our life… we normally present the Five Mindfulness Trainings and share about them as well. In past retreats, teens expressed beautifully how they wanted to experience true love and also reflected about toxic consumption amongst other things.
The most healing practice at every retreat is often the Beginning Anew session with parents. Even the families who have been coming for many years and may be practicing the fourth Mindfulness Training of loving communication at home participate wholeheartedly; everyone is helped by the collective energy to touch and speak out the love for their son, daughter, father, mother, brother and sister. Gratitude is also expressed between young friends and for staff members.
Other flowers in the program include involving the teens in Sangha service (e.g. carrying food to the serving tables, recycling, and gardening), decorating and mindfully performing for the Sangha festivals (“be-in”), and tea meditation.
What matters most to us is the love growing between the young people, between the staff, between the parents and among us all. For the teens especially, some have said they found that the practice centre is one of the rare if not the only place where they can be themselves and they are loved as they are. They also find that there are very helpful things for them to learn, like enjoying their breathing and relaxing their body.
Proper attire at the monastery
Everyone including the teens is invited to dress comfortably yet modestly. In the monastery where celibate monks and nuns live, dressing modestly means to dress in such a way that the shoulders, chest and knees are covered. We realize it is summer and the teens like to be cool as well as attractive! Some creative ways to observe our dress code is to have a light weight shirt or shawl to cover shoulders and to wear the popular leggings beneath shorts.
We deeply appreciate the parents and teens observing our dress code and adding to the collective energy of mindfulness during our Family Retreat. We invite all teens to bring appropriate clothing and shoes for outdoor sports such as hiking, working in the garden and other physical activities.
We know it is important for parents to maintain communication with their children through cell phones, however, in order to benefit the most from the practice and support the collective energy of the community and our periods of silence, everyone is requested to turn off their cell phones, mp3 players, electronic games and devices during all scheduled activities (i.e. Dharma talks, presentations, sitting and walking meditations etc).
To our joy, several teens in the past have taken the courage to set aside their gadgets including cell phones, in this way they were able to directly experience life and the connectedness with others.
We look forward to meeting you and your teen(s) for the retreat!
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
A bouquet of wildflowers,