By Barnaby Willett, Director of Administration at Peace in Schools
A month after we moved to New York City I started high school. There were 3,000 kids and I didn't know anyone. I was too self-conscious to be seen eating alone, so I took a job in the vice-principal's office — and skipped eating lunch that first semester. At day's end I slipped out a back door to avoid the throngs of students out front. I walked to a distant bus line, so no one would see that I didn't have friends.
What was I thinking? How did I feel so isolated and alone? Why didn't I tell anyone? I had a loving family. I had inspiring teachers. But no one taught me how to be with my own thoughts and feelings.
I discovered meditation late in college. It changed my life. For the first time I saw that I am not my thoughts. That I could be present in my body. I began to see that the answers weren't outside of me. I had found a refuge — the capacity to bring my attention to the present moment.
This simple act of waking up from conditioned thoughts into the present moment is the most valuable thing I've ever learned. I still feel like a beginner, and it hasn't sorted out all my problems. But I would not give it up for all the money in the world.
For all of us at Peace in Schools, this is not a job, it is a vocation. To give young people the experience of this invaluable gift — which can never be taken away from them. We see unlimited possibility for the power of mindfulness to transform lives.
This year we created the first for-credit mindfulness class in the country. Educators from Kansas to Minnesota to Canada are asking us — how can we do this in our schools? One of the leading figures in mindfulness education, Dr. Robert Roeser, has just joined our board. We have the passion and energy of a start-up and I feel like we are only at the beginning of what we will accomplish.
Mindfulness in education is a new field — only 10 years old. Science is just catching up to the possibilities. How do we nurture this opportunity we have with Peace in Schools? How do we make this work accessible to teens, while maintaining its integrity? What positive impact will this work have on society — 5, 25, and 50 years from now?
We are sharing this vision with you and asking for your support. Will you join us in bringing this vision to life? Do you too believe that we can change the lives of teens? Do you believe that we can change our world? I do. One moment at a time.