Some of New York City’s angriest teens are learning the way to a more peaceful path with a little help from the Buddha.
NBC New York recently was given access to the Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center in Brownsville, where there was a stark contrast between the kids in their orange detention suits and the monks in their brown robes.
The group of monastics filed into the facility, and they were unlike anything these kids had seen in their neighborhood.
“It was pretty interesting," said one 15-year-old. "I didn't think they were real."
"When I saw them walk through the door, I was like, 'Whoa, who are they?'" added a 17-year-old girl who said she struggles with frustration and aggression.
The monks and nuns teach the teenagers to set themselves free with the power of meditation. They demonstrate how breathing exercises and even walking in a small circle can alleviate anger and frustration and prevent conflict.
“This is a way of regaining your freedom in a space that doesn’t feel very free or spacious for you,” said Sister True Vow. She explained that walking in a small circle can be liberating, especially when confined in a small space, as these teenagers are in detention.
“It can be calming, even when we’re angry," she said. "At least I’m walking. At least I’m walking.”
The group was brought in by The Lineage Project, which teaches yoga and meditation about 500 young people in NYC detention centers each year. Services are free to New York City.
The teenagers told NBC New York they appreciated the lesson and hoped to apply it to their lives when they leave detention.
“I'm one of the people who gets frustrated a lot," said the 17-year-old. "I'm one of the people who will usually bang on things. Now they taught me to walk around in circles and calm down. If I don't realize what I'm doing, I'm always gonna end up in a place like this.”
The 15-year-old boy described his bad decisions, which he says were driven by greed. He says if they knew some of these tricks before, he might not have ended up here in the first place.
“You gotta be mindful of your movements," he said. "Think before you act.”