By Trenna Ahlstrom
When you picture how troubled teens might spend their day, practicing mindfulness probably does not rank high on the list of possible activities. At RedCliff Ascent, our students sit for a Mindfulness meditation practice almost every day. According to Assistant Field Director Gordon Harris, spending at least 10 minutes a day in an intentional mindful practice each day has a positive benefit for mental health. Gordon is the person who designed the Mindfulness program at RedCliff Ascent.
Gordon loves his job. He has a loving relationship with his wife, and many supportive friends. When he was younger, he did not imagine that he would be at this place in his life at 49 years-old. He did not think that he would be “on this side of the grass”.
Gordon can relate to the struggles that the teens at RedCliff Ascent experience. He went through many of his own struggles when he was younger.
“I lived the majority of my life trying to find myself through understanding the world. So, I did not understand myself or the world or my relationship to it and life was confusing. I didn’t see what other people saw. I sought relief from my anxieties and emotions primarily through drugs and alcohol,”
Gordon was able to transform his life by following a combination 12 step program, and mindfulness practice. He credits mindfulness with helping him find lasting satisfaction in his life.
When RedCliff Ascent wanted to introduce a mindfulness program, he took his experience with meditation to help shape the current Mindfulness Program. He isolated three practices that he believed would also help the teens at RedCliff Ascent. “Living in our modern society, we are forced into almost constant states of fearing the future or of resenting the past,” Gordon said. Many of the teens who come to RedCliff Ascent share those dissatisfied feelings.
Mindfulness practice helps people to focus on the immediate moment, and let go of negative thoughts and feelings. Gordon compares mindfulness to baseball. If you want to be a good baseball player, you practice playing baseball. If you want to be a more mindful person, then you practice mindfulness.
The Loving-Kindness Meditation is a guided meditation. It invites students to improve their feelings toward themselves and others. The Loving-Kindness Meditation is something that Gordon has practiced for many years. He suggested the meditation for inclusion in the RedCliff Ascent program because it directly addresses the RCA core value of improving students relationships with their families and themselves.
Square Breathing is a form of breath control. Using Square Breathing can improve students control over their fight or flight response. It is also known as Combat Breathing because it is so effective that soldiers train in it in order to remain calm and focused in high-stress situations like combat!
Noting Meditation helps to anchor the awareness in the present moment by "noting" sensations in the body and thoughts in the mind. This form of meditation helps to cultivate acceptance and equanimity. Noting Meditation can be practiced anywhere, almost anytime. Because this practice is so versatile, it can be especially useful in helping students to address feelings of fear and anxiety.
During the next few weeks, each of these practices will be explored in greater detail. You will get a better understanding of Mindfulness Practice at RedCliff Ascent, and how these practices can help troubled teens. You may even discover how valuable a regular mindfulness practice can be in your own life.