Four Keys to Supporting Teens’ Spiritual Growth

“If young people, before getting entangled in worldly life, experience the bliss of meditation, they are little likely to fall victims in later years to the ubiquitous sense delusions.” 

-Paramhansa Yogananda, God Talks with Arjuna

At first glance, adolescence is all about exploration of the outer world, while spirituality is about inner awakening. If we look more closely they are two parts of an integrated whole. 

In our 30 years of experience teaching at the Living Wisdom High School we’ve found four essential themes that support a teen’s spiritual growth: Adventure, Service, Self-Discovery and Personal Excellence. We have integrated these four keys into our school. You can also use them to support teens in your life and even apply them to yourself.

❶ Adventure

Explore Larger Realities

Holistic education, schools nevada county, better schools, consciousness learning, nature education, living wisdom school, education for life, yoga meditation school, teen yoga camp, teen campsWe can support adolescents’ drive for expansion though travel and exposure to different countries and cultures. This gives teens a chance to explore other people’s realities. 

You can begin by taking them to other parts of their community, city, state or country. When traveling to another country, have them study the language and culture. Involve them in planning the trip and contributing financially. These adventures broaden their life experience and put their home environment in perspective. Travel usually results in feelings of gratitude and connection.

❷ Service

Become Part of the Solution

Teens have a growing awareness of what is happening around the world. Our role as adults is to provide opportunities for them to get involved in working to alleviate homelessness, hunger, loneliness, and disharmony. With a little bit of help, teenagers can volunteer locally at pet shelters, retirement homes, and programs for special needs children. Further afield, they can help with turtle rescue projects, orphanages, and projects alleviating climate change. 

Start small, then expand. It’s amazing to see how working on these projects can transform cynicism into hope.

❸ Self-Discovery

Strengthen Life Skills that Support Success and Well-Being

yoga and meditation high school, boarding school california, alternative high school, better schools, holistic education, living wisdom school, education for lifeDeveloping the ability to cultivate courage, choose happiness, and live truth is a tremendous asset at this (and any) age. Through these skills, teens learn how to drop habits that produce pain and replace them with actions that foster a sense of well-being. 

A negative behavior such as unkindness can be overcome by choosing to help others in a small way each day. Over time this new behavior becomes a natural way of being. In working with these skills, teens realize that their possibilities for growth and self-improvement are endless.

❹ Personal Excellence

Apply Effort and Perseverance to a Chosen Discipline

Holistic education, schools nevada county, better schools, consciousness learning, nature education, living wisdom school, education for life, yoga meditation school, teen yoga camp, teen campsTeenagers feel good when they are able to do something well. Successes form the basis for self-confidence and self-respect. 

As adults we can look for ways to motivate them to apply effort and persevere toward attaining excellence in some part of their life. Begin by identifying your teen’s existing interests (singing, cooking, math, animal care, etc.), then encourage them to attain a level of excellence in that field. Direct their passions and enthusiasm in constructive ways.


The Living Wisdom High School at Ananda Village is currently accepting mid-year and foreign applications. Scholarships are available on a basis of need and affinity with our program.

A Student’s Perspective on Adventure and Challenge

Italy/Slovenia Trip Overview

Jr. at Living Wisdom High school, Rachel Anderson

This trip was a fantastic experience for me. It combined things that were fun and enjoyable with challenges that I would never have expected. I was so glad to have had this opportunity to travel with my peers, serve internationally, experience a new culture, and challenge myself.

Every trip has its ups and downs. It’s hard to pick a favorite experience or to know what the most challenging obstacle was, but I learned more about others and myself in six weeks abroad in Italy and Slovenia than I had all summer. I feel like we were all challenged to a sufficient extent academically, physically and emotionally: it was enough of a challenge just balancing these things!

Admittedly, my academic studies suffered a little. I didn’t do as much math as usual, or read as much, and my U.S. history and biology studies were put aside for Italian history classes, the time I spent staring at bugs that I’d never seen before, and followed the Italian Living Wisdom Students in hikes through il bosco (the forest). Do I feel like I lost any knowledge? No. I have seen La Fontana di Trevi, looked over Ljubljana, cheered for the archers of San Bernadetto and sat in St. Francis’s tomb with true Franciscan monks. Pictures will never be able to do justice to the beauty of the Umbrian countryside and it is one thing to say “St. Peter was crucified in St. Peter’s square in the Vatican City bla, bla, bla….” And it’s another thing altogether to stand there. As much as those experiences will be valuable to me for the rest of my life, I feel like the more valuable thing than any of that will be the lessons I learned about myself and interacting with others.

I found that if I don’t force myself to think of exercise as an assignment, I won’t do it. I found that I prefer a schedule that tells me exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and when, as opposed to open-ended days. I found that I love trains.

Through the course of the trip I was working on ‘doing whatever I want’ – another way of saying independent thinking. It was a challenge for me, having always been eager to please everyone and avoid confrontation whenever possible. I had good examples of independent action through my peers, which helped set the wheels in motion for me to be empowered to ‘do whatever I want’. This lesson, and many others (that I can’t mention within 500 words) will be ones that I keep with me for the rest of my life.

There were challenges on the trip, of course, and looking back I see ways that they might have been avoided. Firstly, I think a trip later in the year would help the students (and the teachers) prepare academically for study outside of a set schedule. I think that researching the location and putting together a more detailed plan of what we want to do, how, when, and using the resources available would be a good exercise, and beneficial to the overall chaos- because you know there’ll be some- when we arrive. But these challenges can all be addressed, and if not addressed, overcome in the moment.

When I look back on this trip, I will remember a time of my life that tested my strengths and illustrated my weaknesses, that challenged me and forced me to think and live ‘outside my box’. But this was a trip that, in the end, improved my character, opened new doors to me, gave me new perspectives and inspiration, and taught me lessons that I will never forget.