For the past several years, Eisner Camp has made an effort to engage more staff and campers in mindfulness practices. We have written about it previously here. When we asked returning campers which Kesher classes they enjoyed the most, 20% wrote in “mindfulness” classes–that’s more than double the votes that any other subject received. This summer, we have continued to offer mindfulness Kesher classes every week.
There are other ways we have deepened and broadened our effort to expose campers and staff to mindfulness. For example, before our campers arrived, staff developed their own mindful habits. We tried a five minute guided meditation as well as a “back-to-back” breathing exercise. So that counselors can use these techniques for their own self-care, we taught them options for a “mindful hour off,” such as meditation, connecting with nature, or catching up with a friend. In-bunk counselors also received bedtime ritual booklets which outline a variety of ideas for incorporating mindfulness into campers’ bedtime routines, including everything from guided meditation to coloring to gentle reclining stretches.
Campers have reaped the benefits of a variety of mindful opportunities. Our arts periods all begin with a brief focusing moment, calling attention to the task and taking a few cleansing breaths. Nina Berkowitz, our Director of Fine Arts, says, “It’s been an easy and natural process this year, integrating mindfulness into the Arts. It was really personally important to me to start using what I call a “mindful moment” before our department meetings, and at the beginning of our chugim. All of the art instructors are trying their own methods of making that moment at the beginning (or sometimes the end) of their periods. We don’t force meditation– we do things like take five deep breaths together with our hands on the table, or pay close attention to our bodies. It’s been a beautiful way to create a space between what has just happened and what kind of creativity is about to begin.”
A few mornings a week, campers and staff have the option to practice yoga before breakfast. When the weather is nice, we practice on the dock and enjoy the sight of the lake, the feeling of the breeze, and the sounds of the birds and frogs. Campers say that they enjoy coming to yoga because it helps them to feel more relaxed throughout the day.
For a more intense experience, we are taking small groups of campers off-camp to climb Monument Mountain each Saturday. We enjoy moments of walking in silence together, noticing sights, sounds, and feelings. Even if they have done this climb before, this experience allows them to feel a new sense of appreciation and awe for their surroundings and their accomplishment.
Mindfulness is a practice. Like any skill, it requires a commitment over time and repeated efforts in order to develop. The staff leading this effort have continued to expand their own practice, and we have gradually widened the circle of interested staff and campers. Now in our fourth year, we see how this work has changed the tone of camp as well as given us the skills to navigate life outside of camp, and we imagine that its impact will only continue grow.
This week’s featured camper reading
By Chaverim campers Brian, Alex, Gideon, and Alan
Not only do we leave our legacy with our plaques, but by our actions. I want to be remembered as a good person who is nice and… as a fun kid who did crazy stuff! As a good friend, someone who did the right thing, and someone who didn’t really care what other people thought about them. I want to be remembered as a person who was willing to switch to a top bunk so a friend with an injury could be more comfortable. Think about how you would like to be remembered as we continue silently.