Mindfulness Meditation for Teens

Mindfulness Meditation for Teens

Recently, we ran a 4 sessions mindfulness meditation workshop with our SLBS teens. Each session was conducted in 1 hour during the Sunday Dhamma class for 4 consecutive Sundays.

The focus was on mindfulness of the body, feelings and thoughts.

Below is a short write up (about 19 pages) on what we did with the teens.

Mindfulness Meditation for Teens

Ethics: Why keep the precepts?

Ethics: Why keep the precepts?

The very IMPORTANT aspect of Buddhist Precepts is that it offers ethics without a divine imperative, this radically differs from the usual spiritual/secular dichotomy.

What is Ethically wrong is also religiously Wrong, eg It is wrong to KILL and even Killing to make an offering is also Wrong! There is NO sacrificial lamb or worse, a Human Being being killed for YOU!

We must clearly understand that the Precepts are NOT divine commandments BUT Training rules [sikkhapadam] that we voluntarily undertake to keep to our best abilty [samadiyami].

First Precept: not to kill living beings.
The negative phrasing of the precepts is noteworthy but the First Precept also lends itself to a positive reading, the development of Metta-Karuna [Loving Kindness], the positive aspect which encourages love, compassion and kindness to all living beings.
Buddhism teaches the interdependence of all living things, there must not be callous disregard for animal life or human beings.

The First Precept offer insights onto modern medical codes of Ethics. For instance, it prohibits assisted suicide or even encouragement of suicide, though they do not condone prolonging life at all costs.

Second Precept: not to steal. 
“I take upon myself the precept of abstention from taking that which is not given.”
If someone does not give us something, it is not ours to take. Without permission, taking is stealing. However Buddhism absolves one who takes something without knowing that it belongs to another .

The positive counterpart to the Second Precept is the Buddhist virtue of generosity [Dana]. To give is a greatly meritorious act.

Third Precept: 
This precept should be read in its original language: Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.

The word kama refers to any form of sensual pleasure but with an emphasis on sexual pleasure, and a literal translation of the precept would be “I take the rule of training ( veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami) not to go the wrong way/ misconduct (micchacara) for sexual pleasure (kamesu)”.

For adolescents and other unmarried Buddhists, the precept advocates the virtue of contentment in sexual abstinence—not safe sex behavior;
for spouses, the precept calls for marital fidelity. The sexual health of everyone is thus guarded.

Although most Buddhists are not celibates, we recognize celibate monasticism as the ideal lifestyle for the attainment of Enlightenment, in which monks and nuns renounce all sexual conduct as an impediment on this path.

The positive result of keeping this Precept is obvious; for the Laypeople it assures every individual of mutual respect for the body and the instituition of marriage, and for the Monastics, of the most appropriate conditions for the path of letting go of attachments, sex being a fundamental craving [kamatanha], attachment [kama upadana] and latent defilement [kamasava].

Fourth Precept: not to tell falsehoods. 
Buddhists understand the negative consequences of lying, and this precept also covers gossip and other forms of unproductive and hurtful speech.

This precept calls Buddhists to a love of truth and clarity in thought and expression.

Fifth Precept: 
“I take upon myself the precept of abstention from taking any intoxicating drinks that give rise to carelessness/mindlessness.”

The prohibition has been extended to all intoxicants, including modern addictive drugs. The Fifth Precept is primary because of its potential comprehensiveness: break it, and the resulting mindlessness easily leads to transgression of the other four. In positive terms, the precept points up the virtue of a unclouded, disciplined, and wise mind.

Buddhism does NOT have the notion of an almighty, creator God who is the source of human ethics. There is no prologue to the precepts as there is to commandments eg: “I am the LORD your God” so do this OR….!

As Buddhists, we must understand WHY we want to keep the Precepts and do it VOLUNTARILY rather than being dictated to by an external force threatening fire and birmstone to those who disobey or lapse. The aim of the Buddha Dhamma is to enable us to evolve to be BETTER and Wiser people, to do that the change must come from WITHIN and with Insight. We keep the Precepts because we want to, not because we are ordered to.

The Buddha taught three criteria for making moral judgments.

The first is to act towards others the way we would like them to act towards us.

Eg In the Samyutta Nikaya he uses this principle to advise against adultery. He says: “What sort of Dhamma practice leads to great good for oneself?… A noble disciple should reflect like this: ‘If someone were to have sexual intercourse with my spouse I would not like it. Likewise, if I were to have sexual intercourse with another’s spouse they would not like that. For what is unpleasant to me must be unpleasant to another, and how could I burden someone with that?’ As a result of such reflection one abstains from wrong sexual desire, encourages others to abstain from it, and speaks in praise of such abstinence.”

In the Bahitika Sutta, Ananda is asked how to distinguish between praiseworthy and blameworthy behaviour.

He answers that any behaviour which causes harm to oneself and others could be called blameworthy while any behaviour that causes no harm (and which helps) oneself and others could be called praiseworthy.

Behaviour can be considered good or bad according to the consequences or effects it has and whether or not it helps us to attain our ultimate goal of Nibbana.

When asked how after his death it would be possible to know what was and was not his authentic teaching, the Buddha replied: “The doctrines of which you can say: ‘These doctrines lead to letting go, giving up, stilling, calming, higher knowledge, awakening and to Nibbana’ – you can be certain that they are Dhamma, they are discipline, they are the words of the Teacher.”

This utilitarian attitude to ethics is highlighted by the fact that the Buddha uses the term kusala to mean ‘skillful’ or ‘appropriate’ or its opposite, akusala, when evaluating behaviour.

The other thing that is important in evaluating behaviour is intention (cetana). If a deed is motivated by good (based upon generosity, love and understanding) intentions it can be considered skillful.

Evaluating ethical behaviour in Buddhism requires more than obediently following commandments, it requires that we develop a sympathy with others, that we be aware of our thoughts, speech and actions, and that we be clear about our goals and aspirations.

My Unfindable Self, by Dr. Diong Kok Hui

My Unfindable Self, by Dr. Diong Kok Hui

I once set out to get rid of my self.

My self was causing all sorts of problems, or so I thought.

It was seeking.

It was suffering.

Telling stories of self-importance.

My sole interest was to be rid of this pesky self. All happiness would come to me, once I was rid of this damn thing, or so I thought.

But then I began to look for it instead.

Instead of trying to get rid of it, I just began to see if it was really here.

I saw a thought here or a thought there. I saw the thought, “ME,” but that wasn’t it.

The self seemed like more than that. It must be a collection of thoughts. Yet I never experience a collection. I only experience a thought, followed by another thought…none of which is a self. The notion of a “collection of thoughts” is, itself, just another thought. It is not a self.

I saw a memory here or a memory there. For example, I saw the memory of graduating high school and the memory of being with my family on a holiday. But those were memories. Each one merely a passing thought. Still no self.

Where was it?

I continued looking. There was a feeling of fear or a feeling of anger there. I placed no thoughts on these things. Instead, I just observed them without thinking. I let them be there. And not a single emotion was this self character. The emotions never said a word. They never said they belonged to a self or that they were a self. They just did the only thing they could do. Arise, then fall.

I looked at an experience here and an experience there. Each was so fleeting that, by the time I looked at it, it was over. No self there either.

I experienced all sorts of things, including spiritual experiences. Each one came and went. Not a solid, fixed, separate self in any of it. Just fleeting stuff, like butterflies flapping away in the wind until they became distant memories.

But then I thought, I must be this body. This body seems so solid, so separate, so ME. But when I looked for the body, I found only mental pictures of body parts, each one arising and falling like every other thought. Or I found sensations of touch, heat, vibration, tingling. None of these arisings were a self.

And then I looked at sentences that I would write about this self, like the one I’m writing now. I kept seeing the word “I” pop up. Could that be it? No, that’s just a letter, a scribble on a page.

I could not find my self. It’s emptiness was so apparent. It could not be found.

I still cannot find it.

And yet thought continues. Emotions continue. Experiences continue. So beautifully, so perfectly, just like before. But each so fleeting, without a hint that any of them could do anything but arise and fall away into thin air, leaving no trace. And so no suffering is left. No seeking. Just the coming and going of everything. And even if suffering or seeking were to arise, they would be bursts of energy . . . without a self to fall back into . . . only space.

Each time I hear someone talking of being free of ego, I just want to ask, “Don’t you have to find it before you can be rid of it?”

Regardless of the answer, I just go on living my life as ME, the ME that cannot be found but that somehow makes its appearance anyway. Sweet and simple! No more bells and whistles. No big spiritual experiences anymore. None needed. They wouldn’t be a self either.

Just the unfindability of this ME. And the unfindability of everything else. And somehow that’s why everything feels so alive and cool and interesting and joyful. I can no longer be at war with things that aren’t really here. So there is nothing left to do but enjoy the emptiness of all these things. There is nothing left to do but be ME.

A Little Bit More Mindful

A Little Bit More Mindful

Teacher : So…have you been practicing as I have taught?

Student : Yes, sir. Apart from my timed sittings, I have also been trying to be aware of the times when I feel happy, sad or angry.

Teacher : And have you been successful?

Student : Not really. There are times when it takes me days before I realized that I am feelinghappy or sad. But there were also times when I was able to catch it almost immediately.

Teacher : When mindfulness is strong, you will be able to notice the change in your moods quickly. When mindfulness is weak, you may not even realize that you are being made a fool by your emotions.

Student : What is mindfulness?

Teacher : The very instance that your mind becomes aware about a change in its state (eg. from happy to sad), that is the moment you have mindfulness. The moment that you “know” is when you are mindful.

Student : So, it is the moment when I know that my mind has drifted from my breath to a thought. Or the moment when I know I am feeling happy or sad. Correct?

Teacher : Yes. That is correct.

Student : I have another question. Sometimes when I try to sit in meditation, I get a lot of aches and pains, especially in my legs and my back. When that happens, I find it hard to concentrate.

Teacher : When there are aches, is the mind calm or agitated?

Student : Oh…It is agitated, for sure!

Teacher : If it is agitated, is there suffering?

Student : There is suffering.

Teacher : If that is the case, then you should make the effort to observe the mind when it is in a state of agitation and be aware that “this is suffering”.

Student : Okay. But, sir, just being aware about the pains does not solve my aches. In fact, it seems to be getting worse because I’m so fixated by it.

Teacher : Being aware is always the first step. Now, tell me what will ease your suffering.

Student : A change in position, sir.

Teacher : Then, on knowing that a change in position will relieve suffering, you should mindfully change positions.

Student : Ahhh…

Teacher : Now that you have shifted, is there still pain?

Student : No, sir. The change in positions has eased the pain.

Teacher : When there is no pain, is the mind calm or agitated?

Student : It is calm.

Teacher : When it is calm, is there suffering or not?

Student : There is no suffering.

Teacher : Very good. You have just experienced suffering and the release from suffering.

Student : Does that mean every time my leg aches, I can shift positions?

Teacher : Only after you make yourself aware of it.

Student : Okay.

Teacher : Most times, we are not aware of when we are scratching to relieve an itch, or shifting our sitting positions to relieve an ache. In fact, many are not even aware about their in and out breaths. Meditation aims to make you more aware of your own body. When you are eating, know that you are eating, when you are breathing, know that you are breathing. When you can understand your own mind, you can understand your environment.


Try to observe your breaths to see if you fall asleep on your in-breath or out-breath.