In June and July 2013, Self-Realization Fellowship’s “How-to-Live” Summer Youth Programs for boys and girls were held at Camp Arbolado in California’s San Bernardino mountains. The weeklong programs (held separately for boys and for girls) were attended by children and teens between the ages of ten to sixteen, and were conducted by SRF monastics and trained lay disciples. As with SRF's other programs for children and teens, the strength of these summer programs lies in their foundation upon Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual ideals of all-round development of body, mind, and soul.
For both the girls’ and boys’ programs, SRF monastics led meditations, answered questions, shared stories of Paramahansa Yogananda, and conveyed personal instruction in the SRF techniques of meditation. Activities included twice-daily practice of the Energization Exercises, group meditations, devotional chanting (kirtan), classes on Paramahansaji’s “How-to-Live” teachings, periods of silence and personal introspection, asana classes (Hatha Yoga postures), water sports, crafts, nature hikes, archery, biking, and other fun activities.
Girls' Program, June 29 – July 5
Above: Sister Chinmayi with some of the happy campers.
Courage was the theme of the Girls’ program this year. In interactive classes and workshops girls discovered ways to develop and deepen this spiritual quality in their lives.
—Girl, age 13
Left: Brahmacharini Angelina leads girls in morning meditation; and (right) conducts a satsanga (informal discussion of the spiritual life) under the trees.
Left: A hike to the lake where girls canoed and meditated in nature. Right: Girls participate in team-building games, developing friendships and self-confidence.
—Girl, age 15
—Girl, age 17
Left: Sister Chinmayi leads group prayers for world peace and practice of the SRF healing technique. Right: Teen meditations include monastic instruction and group practice of the SRF techniques of meditation.
—Girl, age 11
Left: Sister Premamayee with a group of teens. Right: Older girls meditate, study, and journal during a retreat in the forest.
—Girl, age 14
Left: A highlight of the girls’ program is a devotional ceremony on the final day, including a procession of palanquins with pictures of the SRF Gurus and Indian-style artistic dances. Right: Some of the staff-in-training who participated in the dances.
—Girl, age 11
Boys' Program, June 22–29
Above: Campers and SRF monastics, group leaders, and staff at 2013 Boys’ Youth Program.
—Boy, age 11
—Boy, age 13
Above: SRF minister Brother Pranavananda conducts a satsanga—informal discussion on spiritual living—with the boys.
—Boy, age 17
Left: Brother Balananda shares inspirational stories of Paramahansa Yogananda with campers. Right: A focus on character-building through the cultivation of values such as caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility are part of the camp experience.
—Boy, age 14
—Boy, age 14
A Teen Testifies to the Power of Meditation
One of the campers during Boy’s Youth Program, 2013 wrote:
“When I was ten, I learned the Hong-Sau technique of concentration during my week at Boys’ Youth Program. It wasn’t until I was 15 and a sophomore in high school when I realized what meditation could potentially do. During my sophomore year I started meditating more just to see if it would really do anything for me. What I quickly learned was that meditation indeed helped my focus and helped me to concentrate more at school. During that year, Calculus AB was the class I was struggling the most in, and what I found was that having a clear focused mind definitely helped me to understand and effectively retain more complex topics.
“That was when I began experimenting with meditation. Whenever we got tests back, I would analyze them and notice that many of the mistakes I would make could have been so easily avoided if I were slightly more focused. The year was approaching its end and my grade was wavering at 88%. I had worked so hard to raise my grade from the beginning of the year, and it now was riding on the final.
“The night before my final test I meditated deeply until I felt the peace of the Hong-Sau. The next day when I walked into first period I was calm and collected. When we got the results back I screamed in joy: I was the only one in the class to get a perfect score, and I had finally secured my ‘A’ in my Calculus class. That was when I realized everyone knows the concepts and formulas. It’s just retrieving them in times of stress, like during a test, that’s the hard part. Meditation helped me to be able to focus and concentrate more greatly, and that is what truly helped me in school.” —N.B., age 16