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Jolly Roger: Drake Student Finds Peace at Spirit Rock

Teen tunes into meditation and finds the Valley staple a place for reflection.

Jolly Roger: Drake Student Finds Peace at Spirit Rock

At The Jolly Roger Corner, you get a glimpse into Drake's oldest high school newspaper  The Jolly Roger. These stories are written by Drake students, published in the Jolly Roger, and republished here with permission. Check out more articles, photos, reviews and insight into our local school at  drakejr.com.


This story is essentially the experience of one of our staff at the youth-friendly meditation center, Spirit Rock.

Wheeler has been meditating on and off at Woodacre’s Spirit Rock Meditation Center for her whole life. She is currently in the high school meditation class, and also volunteers at the centers Family Days. Spirit Rock, one of the first and most well-known meditation centers in the country, offers a welcoming place to meditate for a community of both Buddhist and non-Buddhist identified meditators, loosely based on the Vipassana tradition of Buddhism.


Almost every Marin teen’s parents forced them to do an extracurricular activity as a kid —for some, perhaps it was soccer or even ballroom dancing, but for me it was meditation. Back in the day, it wasn’t that cool, but it grew on me anyways.

As I gradually moved up from Spirit Rock kid’s classes in the yurt (teepee-esque room) to more mature middle school ones, and then to the high school sessions I’m about to graduate from, meditation became more that just another thing I do. Once the mindfulness practice from class integrated itself into my daily life, attending class became a conscious choice to pursue what I had learned to love.

From Vipassana romances (meditation crushes), to hot seats (hard-core meditative 20 questions), to Hey Big Buddha (meditative Hey Big Booty), to teen retreats (sitting still for a really long time, with some really awesome people), my quirky mindfulness community somehow managed to help form the individual that I am today.

I found that by continuously going to a weekend class, the ideas taught there affected my decisions and thinking throughout the week. From homework to intoxicants, meditation classes helped me to make decisions that were aligned with what I believed, instead of just doing things without awareness. Basically, I learned how to keep it real, Vipassana style.

My meditation friend Kiana Souza said about the topic, “The realest experiences of my life have arrived thanks to Spirit Rock…the thought of my life without this class is surreal.”

Although still uncommon, communities of meditating teenagers are growing in popularity. When I was a freshman or sophomore, my high school meditation sangha (community of meditators) consisted of a random assortment of about 15 people. Now the class average is closer to 40. As friends bring friends, old people bring new people, and everyone that’s meant to be there finds their way there, the community is still growing.

There must be something that makes people come back to sit still and focus on their breath every week. Said my fellow long-time meditator, Julian Von Nagel, during our last meditation class, “I don’t really like meditating that much, but every 99 mediocre meditations you have are worth that one mind-blowing experience.”

That’s one way to look at it, but I think the real reason people come is more than just the meditation. Spending a Sunday night with a group of mindful teenagers who just want to be real with each other affects your mindset during the rest of the week. Said meditator, Amory Mowrey, “I really love Spirit Rock because of the community - it’s what keeps bringing me back. I can meditate anywhere I want, but there’s not a lot of places where I can meditate in a room full of beautiful people who really just want to love you.”

The structure of a Spirit Rock teen meditation class is loose, consisting of between 15 to 30 or even 45 minutes of meditation; brief check-ins with the sangha; council (a longer check-in where people share their thoughts or personal stories on a mindfulness topic such as right speech, right action, or right sexuality), games, and dharma talks (our lovely volunteer teachers sharing the Buddha’s wisdom).

People tend to be more open with themselves and each other during a meditation class, because of the accepting mood that is set and adopted by the meditators. The openness sprouts many close friendships and relationships, which grow during the course of a session that lasts about six weeks or longer. During a session, teenagers from high schools throughout the Bay Area get to know each other on what our meditation teachers would call a ‘deeper level.’

That said, ‘deeper level’ stuff might not be for you. Given, there are a lot of hippies (something I’ve been called myself) found at any kind of westernized meditation class. But to me, meditation is less about free love and interconnectedness—those ideals are easy to talk about but difficult to truly practice—and more about training the mind and keeping sane and grounded throughout the week, month, year, high school, and beyond. If you’re interested, hey, maybe it’s meant to be.

Do you meditate?

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