The Reciprocity Foundation: Holistic Meditation and High-Risk Youth


UPDATE from Jeanine Greenleaf ~ 12/13/2013

Our mission at Samadhi Cushions is to support the practice of mindfulness meditation as a way to inspire a sane society. We have done this over the years in our support for retreat centers like our neighbor Karme Choling, which provide a place for busy people to slow down and meet their mind and heart.

At the same time, retreat centers are, by and large, privileged places for privileged people. I am so delighted that Samadhi Cushions is also able to support the retreats for less privileged youth like the one’s created by the Reciprocity Foundation.

Back in September we were able to make a meaningful pledge of support to Reciprocity–the New York based foundation that serves homeless and at-risk youth with mindfulness programs and retreats. We offered 10% of our September sales to the foundation. This month we fulfilled this pledge. Today, the co-director of this foundation, Taz Tagore, sent us the following email:

‘The Reciprocity Foundation is going to use the gift from Samadhi Cushions to send 30 homeless youth on retreat in 2014. This will give urban youth–most of whom have never left New York City–achance to experience meditation, nature walks and a healthy lifestyle. We are so grateful for this gift…’   

Holistic Meditation and At-Risk Youth

The Reciprocity Foundation is an award-winning nonprofit organization based in New York City that helps homeless and foster care youth break the cycle of poverty by advancing their education and orienting toward a meaningful life and career.

Our success is predicated on a unique process rooted in Contemplative Practice—which helps youth develop an aspirational and yet realistic Life Plan. Our coaching includes holistic meditation, mindfulness and contemplation, helping youth cultivate inner clarity rather than focusing exclusively on external outcomes. Finally, our one-on-one and group programming uses a Whole Person framework—endeavoring to address a youth’s mental, physical and spiritual needs.

New York City’s homeless, runaway, and foster care youth are among the most disconnected and high-risk young people in the city. Compared to their peers, they face grave challenges: they lack strong family support, face housing and educational instability and risk involvement with the juvenile justice system. Common mental health issues for this population include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide ideation/attempts, and substance abuse/dependency.

The Reciprocity Foundation has been a pioneer in developing and delivering Contemplative & Wellness programming to high-risk youth in America.  We began our wellness programming in 2005 with meditation and yoga classes. Since then, we have developed a world-class roster of wellness instructors, programs and tools that support  “Inner Growth and Outer Achievement” for homeless and foster care youth.

In 2011, we created the first holistic center for homeless youth in the country on New York City’s west side to deliver our Contemplative programs in a holistic, healing setting.  Our center opened in November 2011 and includes a dedicated healing space, a meditation room (with meditation cushions and a gong provided by Samadhi Cushions,) a media lab, a fully-equipped kitchen and a large multi-purpose area for yoga classes, career training classes, film screenings, etc. Since opening our new center, we have doubled the number and variety of Contemplative Programming offered from our center.

Last year, we expanded our 1- and 3-day holistic retreats from New York City to upstate New York at the Omega Institute and Shambhala’s Sky Lake Lodge. Youth attendees deepened their contemplative practice and engaged in whole-person practices such as yoga, walking/seated meditation, massage and mindful movement.

The meditation and retreat program at Reciprocity is having an enormous impact on the lives of homeless youth. What I find most moving is hearing first-hand how these practices affect our students.  Here are a few quotes that illustrate the power of meditation on the lives of homeless young people:

Every time I struggle and feel like I want to do something that was part of my old street life…I go to Reciprocity. They have a very nice meditation room there. I just go there and meditate. 10 minutes can make such a huge difference. Now I know how to make different choices so that I can stay off the streets.  

I was told by Reciprocity staff that I should come here everyday, sit in the meditation room and breathe.   I am not sure what’s happening but my life is getting so much better. I feel like I am leaving some of the old pain behind and slowly getting excited about being alive again.

My religious parents told me that they wished that I died because I am gay and that brings shame to our family. They disowned me. But, now I found a new family…my Reciprocity family. I feel loved here and I am working on building a new future for myself.

I love coming to Reciprocity. Every Thursday night we sit in meditation, have candlelit dinners and eat vegetarian meals.  I feel so energized by this way of life.  I had no idea that such simple things—like breathing and eating vegetables—could make me feel so good.  

Years of abuse left me with nightmares. After my first acupuncture session at reciprocity I was able to sleep again. This was the first time I had a good night sleep in years.

After going on retreat with Reciprocity, I went back to my shelter and started a weekly meditation group in the chapel.  I know that meditating is one of the most important ways for me to change my life and leave behind the negativity and anger that I grew up with.

Editors Note: This month (September 2013), 10% of ALL SALES at Samadhi Store will be donated to the Reciprocity Foundation. Help give the gift of holistic meditation–for yourself, or someone you care for and, this month, for at-risk youth.

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