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Lions Roar : July 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2011 52 many of which aren’t particularly helpful, such as worries and judgments about oneself or others. People need to think about the past and future, but if teens can focus more on the present mo- ment it might mitigate some of the mental and physical problems that come from spending so much time in their heads. Being in the Body When the day to go snorkeling arrived, I had knots in my stom- ach and my hands were a little shaky. My body was sending out “red flags” that I was not doing okay. I was still absorbed in thinking about the worst possible outcomes. A great interven- tion for teens is to get them to use the red flags their body gives off, which they usually don’t notice. Many teens, and adults for that matter, are cut off from their bodies and spend most of the time in their heads. Encouraging teens to notice their breath or even count their breaths can help. For example, asking them to notice their breath and say to themselves, “Breathing in, one; breathing out, one; breathing in, two; breathing out, two,” for a count of ten will connect them to their body. It will give them a moment to just be with their breath and body, which unfortunately teens often don’t do these days. Taking several conscious breaths can give teens a few moments before they act or react, either toward themselves or someone else. It can be a good anger management strategy, or possibly prevent a teen from engaging in a self-de- structive behavior like cutting. Probing and Listening I felt sick as I got on the boat, and it wasn’t even moving yet. I was convinced that the boat ride and the snorkeling were not going to be fun. I had predetermined the outcome, something teens often do. Try asking them, “If this situation in your life was a movie, how would the end play out?” Their response will give you an insight into their world and a vantage point from which to help and support them. I’ve learned so many times that some- thing that might appear quite small to us could be a teen’s Achil- les heel or the biggest trauma they’re facing in their life at that particular moment. Try to respect teens where they are, even if you don’t agree with them about what is important. Doing this will get you far. The opposite will stop you in your tracks. Mindful listening and respect are offerings you can give no matter what role you play in a teen’s life. Teens often don’t feel heard, particularly by adults. If you can provide a different experi- ence for them, you might be able to build a stronger relationship. You might be surprised by the quality of the communication and the respect you get back. Listening and showing respect are not new concepts, but being present in a mindful way deepens the shared experience. ILLUSTRATIONBYERICHANSEN