Ahimsa Activism: The Lineage Project

Karen Schwartz: What does your organization do?

Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, Executive Director: We bring mindfulness programs to New York City’s most vulnerable youth. We go directly to where young people are, and we work inside juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, public schools and in collaboration with government community agencies that serve the most vulnerable youth across the city.

We use something called the Lineage Model. It’s a three-part model that includes meditation, mindful movement, which could be yoga, tai chi or chi gong -- we’re doing a pilot with capoeira -- and then a group discussion around a theme, which could be compassion or working with stress. Each class has all three components.

We work closely both with front line staff at a site -- counselors, teachers, administrators -- and with the people that run and work in the agencies that fund the sites. These are very difficult and demanding jobs, often with high burnout and not a lot of opportunities for self-care, so we believe that mindfulness offerings can help staff with their own self-care, and that it will hep them in terms of how they interact with the young people they serve.

KS: Can you give us an example of someone whose life has been made better through this work?

GH-P: One of the young people in our program told us about how he had used mindfulness to keep from getting in a fight. He was about to throw a punch and remembered a mindfulness teaching about taking a pause and bringing awareness to the moment. In the moment he paused, he thought about the consequences of getting into a fight -- the potential criminal justice consequences and the other consequences. He paused and he stepped away. That’s just one of many stories we’ve had young people report back about interacting differently with a police officer, or thinking about being in a fight.

Many of the young peop