(30 Dec '08)
AYUDH Youth Meet 27 -29 Dec 2008
The 2nd annual AYUDH (USA) Youth Meet held at the M.A. Center in San Ramon, California saw the arrival of young people from all over the country to participate in a 3-day program. Themed “Compassion in Action,” the retreat delved into the complex meaning of compassion, and explored the ways that we can be compassionate to each other, our communities, and to our planet.
Each morning began with a guided meditation, a small puja, and a session of yoga. Other activities for the weekend included spiritual talks, daily bhajans and meditation, tree plantings, a music workshop with professional musicians, and group activities and discussion sessions on the myriad of issues that youth face in their daily lives.
Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya led participants in a discussion on the practical meanings of compassion in action. Groups were given real-life scenarios that individuals had faced, and were instructed to act out solutions to the problems that were the most compassionate.
Speaking to the youths via webcast from Amritapuri Ashram, Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri exhorted youths to make a practice of remembering Amma and a special experience with her just three times a day. He noted that it had been his experience that when one called to Amma with longing, She would surely respond. Individuals were able to interact with Swamiji and asked a number of questions.
Project leaders from Common Vision, an Earth education and ecological awareness group, spoke to participants about the ideology of permaculture and also instructed us on how to properly plant the trees to ensure their survival and longevity. Retreatants spent a number of hours on a lush green hill overlooking the M.A. Center grounds, planting trees that would eventually contribute to a new, thriving mini ecosystem. By the conclusion of the retreat, 100 trees had been planted by AYUDH members.
A Toastmaster leader (from an international public speaking and leadership promotion group) led retreatants in various activities that helped individuals improve their ease and comfort in speaking in front of a large group of people.
A Music Workshop was run by professional musicians, who provided informative tips on how to optimize one’s vocal capacity and vocal tone. After some diligent practice, the hall resounded with youthful voices singing in unison, joyful and full of hope.
The retreatants had some quality time with Br. Dayamrita in an informal question and answer session — relating to spiritual practice, how to maintain one’s values and beliefs in the outside world, and how to negotiate interpersonal conflict.
At the conclusion of the program, youths also made individual pledges to themselves, which they wrote on small paper doves, the international symbol of AYUDH. The doves were mounted and hung in Amrita Hall, a symbol of our promises to ourselves, each other, and to our beloved Amma.