Spiritual Environment at a Young Age


It may be strange, as I’m only 13 years old, but for several years I have sought God. It has, however, grown increasingly difficult for me. A large problem is that I live in an extremely non-spiritual environment. I’ve recently found it significantly difficult to meditate or practice spiritual activities. I feel that the world around me is forcing all this pressure on me to act non-dharmicly (including sexual pressure). There may be nothing I can do now, but I appreciate advice. God bless you

—Miles Erwin, U.S.A.


Dear Miles,

Though I do not know the specifics of your circumstances, I can recall a similar experience when I was your age. For those who have from an early age inner, spiritual consciousness, we find that as we make the all important transition from childhood towards adulthood (a life long process for most people!), we find that our spiritual longings come under attack by the world around us. This can be true even in the most spiritually supportive environment.

From your note I have to conclude that you don’t feel you can reach out to anyone or any environment that is supportive of your spirituality. Well, I hope that’s not true.

Either way, environmental influences are very, very strong during the teen years. Without knowing more about your circumstances here are some suggestions which in their totality you may find helpful.

  • Do attempt to seek others of like-mind, whether adult or teen, who share your spiritual longing.
  • Be very careful about music, movies, internet, TV, etc. that you watch. Quietly try to avoid absorbing sexual content, violence, or attitudes that are vulgar, unkind, or otherwise worldly.
  • Always have at your side (at home, at least) some spiritual reading (listening, watching) to provide daily inspiration. You may have to keep your reading material hidden from others who would mock it.
  • Seek out some spiritually mindful music, even if you have to listen to this in private, unheard by others.
  • Develop a comfortable relationship with being alone, whether at home and during spiritual activities, or on walks, hikes or even more sports or exercise oriented activities.
  • It is very, very important to get regular and vigorous exercise during this period of your life. Challenge yourself, physically, to stay active………equally important is to quietly learn to eat fresh and healthy foods and avoid too much fried, “fast,” sugary or otherwise unhealthy foods. If you are able to, limit or eliminate consumption of beef or pork, especially.
  • Without unduly exposing yourself to ridicule or abuse or bullying, be quietly friendly with family, friends and class mates. Make friends even by a quiet smile or sympathy. Never ridicule others.
  • Be helpful whenever you can, without calling too much attention to yourself. Help around the house, around school, and consider volunteer work like teaching younger students, or any other kind service work.
  • Learn to meditate; develop concentration in meditation. Do you meditate now? Do you enjoy chanting?
  • Yoga practice would be helpful, provided you don’t get harassed over it. (You can get DVD or online or do yoga in private if need be.)
  • Learn to develop private mindfulness and prayerfulness during the day, so that your thoughts go regularly to inner peace and God’s presence, asking for guidance when things get a little tough.

Well, that’s a long list. So I’ll end there!