|The National Jr. CHYK Camp’s debut was a holistic experience for all the attendees. It was held from June 06 to June 09, 2012 at Brownwood TX. About 75 high school children joined the camp under the auspices of Swami Mitrananda, Acharya of Chinmaya Mission, Chennai, and Director of the All India Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (AICHYK); Swami Sarveshananda, Acharya of Chinmaya Mission - DFW and National Director of Chinmaya Mission Yuva Kendra (CHYK) West; Br. Girish Chaitanya, Acharya of Chinmaya Mission - Austin; and Acharya Vivek Gupta of Chinmaya Mission Niagara Falls, Ontoraio, Canada and Deputy Director of CHYK West. This bootcamp http://cmdfwmedia.org/resources/images/Other/NJCCites.JPG was a perfect platform for the junior CHYKs to meet and network with other like-minded youth
The inaugural address clearly set the kids' expectations. Their daily routine was infused with Yoga and Meditation in the morning wherein they performed Surya Namaskar (Sun salutions) and various meditative techniques to nurture a focused mind. For example thought massage to express an awareness and gratitude to every limb and organ of our body; visualizing and reveling in the image of our istha devata or simply using a single focal point and being aware of our breath. Other activities throughout the next few days provided an integrated approach for kids to indeed understand that Life is a Jungle, Are you game to survive it? ! Group discussions and games based on talks by various acharyas were reinforced by outdoor activities that were designed to build concentration, focus, team building and leadership skills amongst the peers.
Swami Mitrananda challenged the children to become fearless and provided many anecdotes of how people developed courage. Fear binds us, stunts our growth and inhibits us from getting out of our comfort zone. He dared them to take a leap of faith - literally and figuratively! Outdoor activities such as zip-lining and archery reinforced their classroom learning. Once the inhibitions are dropped, people can certainly realize their potentials and experience joy inherent in all experiences. He also expounded on the Yagna Bhaav or the team spirit . While children noted that values such as caring, cooperation, mutual goals, trust, agreement, consensus, communication, respect, listening skills, etc. were important for team building, Swami Mitrananda reminded them of Pujya Gurudev's vision and core values that builds an effective team. These five core values are well embedded in our Chinmaya Mission pledge too - Love, Respect, Courage/Fearlessness, disciplined Service and Sacrifice - both, individually and collectively that are characteristic of an effective team. Strong youth teams can thus be nurtured through constant study and practice.
Swami Sarveshananda's session Take a Chill-Pill provided practical tips on stress management. He emphasized knowing the art of humoring oneself while going through tough situations in our life. Group discussions helped children identify the source that triggers their stress and how to cope with these demands in life. The groups listed these triggers and collectively came up with various methods to balance and handle the stress. Most groups listed parental expectations, peer pressures and sibling relationships as the stressors; and they also listed tips to manage the same. For example, time management, focus on actions and not the results, focus on the positive rather than the negative, joke often, take ownership rather than blaming others, meditation, exercises, etc.. Swami Sarveshananda reinforced that rather than falling in the trap of comparison that leads to competition; we should focus on improving our own past record. As Pujya Gurudev explained, The road to perfection is always under construction. It was a gentle reminder to accept falls gracefully and learn to glide through life experiences.
Swadharma – the million dollar question was also answered by Swami Mitrananda who encouraged the kids to find their inherent hidden talents rather than burying them. What were you born with, and what was your calling? We don't know to bring out Swadharma and we thus live an uninspired life. While we can attain fame and success, does that bring us true joy and happiness? If we find our true Swadharma we are successful. It is achieved by finding our true inner calling and attain achievements so that both the journey and the destination are enjoyable. Swamiji reminded us that Lord Shri Krishna Himself has clarified this in Bhagavad Gita. Pursuing your passion is better than attaining glory and material success in pursuing what is NOT your passion. Children engaged in a healthy debate between their assigned groups and it helped them crystallize their understanding.
Br. Girish Chaitanya delivered a simplistic explanation of the significance of performing puja. These rituals and traditions are meant to invoke divinity within us. He systematically used a Kalasha to expound upon how the coconut represents the pancha koshas (five sheaths); the threads that symbolize the 72000 naadis (passages) that keep the pranas alive; the pot and water denoting the seven subtle chakras; the mango leaves and flowers symbolic of our mind and senses. When we perform the puja by elevating our understanding, we automatically bring in a change in our attitude and the reverence permeates in our responses to all interactions. Hinduism can become a way of living only when we have had a chance to know the importance of different rituals used in our traditions.
Acharya Vivek instantly connected with the kids through Vedanta Unplugged. Who would have thought that one can understand Vedanta through movies, music and media?!! But if we drop our preconceived notions and keep an open mindset, we can tune into life’s teachings to become fearless and remain balanced. The concept of this session was to unplug the movies, music and media to make it more natural. Take it outside of the classroom setting and understand the subtle Vedantic messages. Acharya Vivek ji advised us to have faith in ourselves and unleash our divinity through ongoing study – whether it is through retreats, study groups, books, movies, music, media etc. We must rediscover our true Self and experience the joy and bliss of our own nature. A discussion on movies that carry vedantic message helped kids realize that with the right mindset we can be vigilant and our learning is endless.
While the CHYKs conducted a college seminar session for the high school children, non-CHYK volunteers were blessed to have a spontaneous Satsang: Meditation with Br. Girish Chaitanya on Meditation and Acharya Vivek on Satsang: Relationless Relationships. The traditional talent show was a treat for the audience and there never was a dull moment. Even the acharyas participated in this as Acharya Vivek Gupta demonstrated the act (or art) of juggling oranges. Even here he didn't miss an opportunity to remind us how to balance the modifications of the BMI while being a witness who observes these changes!
On the final day, a panel discussion with all the four Acharyas allowed children to address their questions and concerns about their cultural identity. Firmly rooted in their rich ancient heritage, the NJCC participants were well equipped with essential life skills as they headed home in their respective buses. They were all set to balance themselves as they took a leap of faith fearlessly to unleash their potentials!
With Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji’s blessings, the debut National Jr. CHYK Camp organized and conducted by the CHYKs will hopefully become an annual event that the high school children (and parents) can look forward to.