Mindfulness Meditation and At-Risk Youths

John McCabe shares his experience teaching meditation to youths at a juvenile detention center in Kansas.

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The final 15 years of my professional ministry as a United Methodist pastor were focused on substance abuse prevention. During my last 3 years in the prevention field, I began leading monthly sessions with small groups of youths at the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) in Johnson County, KS. As I reflected on my previous experiences and training, I concluded that the most valuable skill I could offer these youths was stress reduction using mindfulness meditation.


After a recent session, one of the JDC officers told me about one young man who had participated in the class and continued using mindfulness meditation every day, especially to get to sleep at night. On several occasions, the officer noticed this youth beginning to become angry and found that he had an effective intervention—he told he young man, “Just use the meditation method that helps you get to sleep.” And it worked to relieve his anger!


In developing and leading these sessions, with a different small group each month, I drew upon two resources. The first, and usually the most popular, was session three of the TV mini-series Healing from Within, hosted by Bill Moyers. The other, which appealed more to some…