Several times a year I am invited to teach the Buddhist point of view at local high schools when they offer courses on world religions. I count this as a privilege. Since I am now many years away from that age group, I need to relearn how to see through the eyes of a teenager. Amidst the wisdom of aging, we sometimes lose our sense of wide-eyed discovery in which anything is possible. Although I still feel connected to a quality of innocent inquiry, my older age habits of mind tend to filter my questions.
This week I met individually with eight high school students to help with writing topics they chose centered on aspects of Buddhism. Their questions were insightful, revealing they are immersed in a journey of self-discovery while making important life choices. They also struggle with pressure to succeed while multitasking in maze of studies. Social media grabs much of their time and attention—something I never experienced. Amidst all the distractions and drive to achieve, these students recognize the importance of discovering something new. They still have a foot in the childhood they are outgrowing.
I also notice some of the students are becoming tired of their distractions—precisely because multi-media distractions have become so pervasive. A few of the students with whom I met indicated they were weary of the smart phone. They recognize how dumb it makes us. I see this as a very good sign. Maybe we will wake up from the somnolency produce by our media addictions.
It is possible the youth of today will become champions of mindfulness, severing the invisible tether of technology while finding a way to use it more wisely. I am grateful to play some small role in this change by planting Dharma seeds in the freshly tilled soil of youth. I know these seeds will sprout and grow in some life. Actually, I am confident they will mature in this life. Young minds are very fertile and I sense an acceleration of growth in this chaotic time. We certainly need fresh voices reminding us to open our minds and pay better attention—for the benefit of all beings.