passing on the lineage

further adventures of soren gordhamer

Devotion abides at the heart of all activism. In our summer issue of 2001, we looked into the hearts of devotees, and featured the work of Soren Gordhamer and the Lineage Foundation. The Lineage Project is dedicated to teaching mediation and yoga practices to at risk and incarcerated youth. At that time, Soren was bringing these practices to the juvenile halls of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem. Much has changed for the Lineage Project and for Soren since he wrote "Accident Prone," an article about his work and devotion to the inherent potential of each human being. Here he gives us the latest on a major shift.

"As someone who went through a great deal of pain as a teen, I remember that first moment when the world seemed to get bigger, when something opened. I certainly still had pain and difficulty, but something else emerged. While I cannot magically wave a wand and make everything better for these youth, I can help create an environment where the possibility of opening and healing is ever so slightly more possible. As a wise person once said, "Enlightenment is an accident; we practise to become accident prone."

Soren Gordhamer
from "Accident Prone

Dear ascent,

It has been the busiest year of my life since the ascent article appeared, but I'm not sure how much I can blame ascent for that. I wrote a piece on the Lineage Project, a nonprofit organization I started in order to teach meditation and yoga to at-risk and incarcerated teens. At the time we were teaching classes exclusively in NYC juvenile halls. In January of this year, we got the funding to open a centre in the heart of the south Bronx called "The Zone: A Teen Center for the Mind, Body and Heart." As there are so many centres offering these practices in well-off neighbourhoods, it seemed useful to start a centre in the middle of a community that is one of the highest crime neighbourhoods in the five boroughs.

The vision of the centre is to help support youth after they get out of, and better yet before they might go to, a juvenile hall. It has been a major undertaking, one that has been much more challenging and more needed than any of us had previously thought. The reception we have received from the community has generally been wonderful. We usually hear, "Thank goodness you decided to do this in the Bronx. Boy, can we use you here."

read soren's original article:
accident prone
from ascent #10, summer 2001

I have great trust that the centre will find its place in the community. Just recently, a mother and her son stopped by the centre looking for a bathroom the son could use. "What is this place?" the mom asked me while her son was in the bathroom. I explained our work, to which she responded, "I have been praying for something like this.

Can I come to your adults' class? This is what I have been asking God for. God works in such mysterious ways." A week later she came back with her nine-year-old son, wanting some reading material. When her son heard about our work, he immediately went down into a shoulder stand to show what he knew about yoga. He said he does it every morning for ten minutes. He did not remember where he had learned it. He then sat down on a zafu like he had been doing it all his life. It is moments like this when I know something is happening that is much bigger than me. The universe is looking after the work. The right people are finding their way.

It has been seven years since my friend Andrew Getz and I had the idea for the Lineage Project. Not only has the Lineage Project grown, but more groups have surfaced with a similar commitment to youth, which is great to see. However, as the Lineage Project changes, so too do I. My time in New York City is coming to a close for now. I am changing my role in the organization, as I see the need to take time to replenish myself, pass on most responsibilities to someone else, and begin to "practise what I preach." It has been a hard decision, but my energy for the day-to-day running of the organization has waned. For me now, this means taking time for my own body, mind and heart, and to seek a more rural, nature-filled place to live for awhile. I also have the pleasure of a three-month-old baby in my life who needs more of my attention.

My hope now is to support this work through other means. I plan to write a book about the work, while continuing to help the Lineage Project develop, and to support the people who wish to do this work. After that, I am not sure what is next. My wife and I moved to NYC only knowing a few people and with very little money, and somehow this great centre was birthed. I certainly could not have seen then how it could come together. So now I am moving out of NYC also without knowing what may lie ahead, only trusting that the universe has a way of keeping me busy. My challenge is not to try to figure out what lies ahead, but to enter each moment not knowing, and notice what presents itself.

A part of me thinks if I were a true social activist, I would dedicate my life to youth in the Bronx. But I know that I must go where my heart is, and this is really the best action I can do for the world. I don't think the world needs more stressed-out and resentful activists. Indeed, the biggest lesson in all this change has been in looking at how I define myself. I see how much of my life has been identified with my work as a "teacher to youth" and "do-gooder." Not that I now care about the need or importance of the work any less, but this change has helped me look at the ways I've been stuck in a certain role, and thus not able to carry forth the true heart of this work.

So I learn, I contemplate, I look back, I look ahead, and I see that the world is so much more mysterious, tricky and amazing than even my best-laid plans. All I can do is let go and make room for the universe to guide me on the path. Every time I try to control life for fear that I will fall off the path, I come to realize that the path is huge, it's edgeless, there is no falling off, only learning, growth and much mystery.

Soren Gordhamer

For more info on the Lineage Project and The Zone: A Teen Center For The Mind, Body and Heart:

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