The primary purpose of the teen programs is study and practice of the Self-Realization Fellowship teachings. Meetings include group instruction and practice of the Energization Exercises and meditation. Other spiritual activities such as kirtan (devotional chanting), the practice of affirmations, introspection, and observance of commemoration days for the SRF Gurus also take place (programs at each location may vary).
Discussion periods offer teens an opportunity to reflect on how Paramahansa Yogananda’s How-to-Live principles apply to their daily lives. Often they are able to share with each other how the practice of these teachings assists them in meeting the challenges of being a teenager in today’s world. At this important time in their lives, teens can greatly benefit from developing friendships and spending time with peers who are striving to live Paramahansaji’s teachings, meditating, and seeking God’s direction in their lives. As Paramahansa Yogananda said, “When souls seek progress together in God, then divine friendship flowers. If the qualities of the heart are spiritualized and perfected with sincere friends, and that circle of love is expanded until it is all-inclusive, then one finds the Friend of all friends.”
In addition to regular meetings, teen programs also include fellowship events, service opportunities (including assisting with younger children in Sunday School), and satsangas (informal talks) with a minister. Periodically, special retreats and pilgrimages for teens are conducted at SRF temples and ashram centers.
Self-Realization Fellowship conducts two one-day retreat programs each year for teens, ages 13 to 18 years, one in the spring and one in the fall. Both retreats are led by SRF monastics, who provide guidance on how to strengthen one’s connection to the spiritual life and how to apply the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda to become a true success in the world. During each full-day retreat, participants receive instruction in the SRF Energization Exercises and meditation, and receive answers to their questions during satsangas (informal talks) led by the monastics. Each year the locations of the boys and girls retreats alternate between the SRF Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, California, and the SRF Hermitage, Retreat, and Meditation Gardens in Encinitas, California.
Teen Retreat at SRF Lake Shrine
Teens attending the retreat at the SRF Lake Shrine, in Pacific Palisades, have the opportunity to meditate in the historic houseboat that Paramahansaji used for meditation and divine communion during the time he was supervising the Lake Shrine’s construction, and will be given a special tour of the Windmill Chapel. After a satsanga with the monastics, there is the opportunity to visit the many special places around the lake, including the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, the Court of Religions, and the Sunken Gardens, while enjoying Lake Shrine’s beauty and serenity—experiencing why this is a spiritual oasis for all who seek refuge from the frenetic pace of the world. A visit to the Lake Shrine’s museum, offers a viewing of several of Paramahansaji’s personal items and provides a glimpse of the history of SRF. In addition, the program includes lunch, recreation, and time for spiritual fellowship with other SRF teens.
Teen Retreat in Encinitas
Teens attending the retreat at the SRF Encinitas Hermitage, Retreat, and Meditation Gardens enjoy a program which includes an introduction and visit to the Hermitage, where Paramahansaji wrote his Autobiography of a Yogi, gave informal classes, and received guests. Additionally, there are periods of meditation and a satsanga with the monastics in the Retreat Chapel; and a tour of the Encinitas Meditation Gardens, where the Guru strolled and meditated, fed the fish in the koi ponds, enjoyed the great expanse of ocean and sky, and built the Golden Lotus Temple, always communing with God. As they take in the sacred places where Paramahansaji lived, the teens are told many stories about his life at the Hermitage. Lunch is provided, followed by recreation, allowing participants an opportunity to develop friendships with other SRF teens.
Regional Day Programs
Self-Realization Fellowship will be scheduling one-day events at various locations in the U.S. where young devotees can gather from a particular region to spend a day of spiritual fellowship, learning, and creativity with SRF monastics, lay member disciples, and like-minded friends. Regional Day Programs are one-day versions of the Summer Day Program. The theme and activities will mirror the Summer Day Program agenda for each respective year.
Regional Day Programs are for ages 7-18, but focus on different activities for children (7-12) and teens (13-18), emphasizing for each group those questions, conversations, and helpful insights that matter most to them at this stage of their spiritual journey. Separate events are held for boys and girls (see schedule below for dates and locations). Activities for parents are also part of the day.