Modeling a United Community

As I prepare for my 8th year of teaching high school science, I once again ponder the message I want to share with my students to inspire their dreams. Our communities continue to be divided, and without a vision to unite our efforts, it’s difficult to get teenagers to invest in the future. We push kids towards individual success, encouraging them to outperform their peers in academics, sports, and socially, and this adds to the volume of greed, fear, and anger driving their lives. Deep down, we all want to live in loving and supportive communities, but how do we build these communities with so much division?

As an individual, my daily Vipassana practice challenges me to align my life each day with unconditional love. Meditation seems like a tool that can help bring us together and align our efforts to build a healthy and vibrant future, but the effort to keep the teachings pure also isolates Vipassana meditators from their communities. While it’s a nice idea that communities would be drawn to pursue 10-day courses and 2 hour daily practice schedules, I have not observed this outcome. Instead, the choice I’ve observed more consistently is people either stepping away from their communities to pursue the purification of their mind through this practice, or people abandoning their practice to stay connected to their communities.

While annual 10-day courses and daily 2 hour sittings may be requirements to pursue liberation, they also create a barrier between the meditators and their communities. Unconditional love asks us to accept people exactly as they are, welcoming and supporting them on their life journey. Having taught Anapana in my classroom for 7 years, I’ve learned that even a small amount of meditation can help redirect my students’ lives. While the 10-day course is certainly a hurdle along the path, daily practice can help anyone align their lives with unconditional love. Meditating as a class helps to build a safe and compassionate classroom culture. There must be a bridge that can introduce teenagers to the beauty of Dhamma that strengthens our communities without contaminating the practice.

So how can I inspire my students to build healthier united communities with the help of meditation? If you’re a school teacher and Vipassana meditator asking the same question, let me know. Maybe we can find a path forward.

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