Jocelyn Pacheco enters a classroom at Sunnyside High School, grabs a large pillow and a special Tibetan bell and sits on the ground.
She folds her legs and closes her eyes.
“Anything you feel is OK,” the 16-year-old says. “Even if you can’t feel anything at all.”
Her teacher, Everardo Pedraza, typically teaches English, but he’s also started a Mindfulness Club at the school that promotes meditation, peace and personal development.
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“I used to have such a quick temper. Anything would just get me mad,” said Pacheco, president of the club. “So I would just, like, breathe in and breathe out. My mom says that I always have a huge smile afterward because I realize there’s no point in getting mad. You breathe in, you breathe out, you become aware, and you move on.”
On Wednesday, the club installed a peace pole on campus that says “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in Armenian, Cambodian, English, French, Hindi, Hmong, Spanish and Swahili.
Pedraza, who meditates 40 minutes every day, says the club works to promote a culture of positivity at Sunnyside, and that the benefits of self-awareness are showing in his students’ academics and their attitudes.
If something’s bothering you, you can clear it out of your mind. You can let it go.
Sunnyside High student Kevin Vazquez
“It gives you a tool to navigate through everyday life and to transform emotions and transcend emotions, and to integrate them in a healthy way,” he said. “By bringing a passion of mine that’s a big part of my life outside of school into school, it’s enriched my relationships with my students. By living out loud a passion of mine and sharing it, I’m much more alive on campus and at home and everywhere.”
Sudarshan Kapoor, a community activist who oversees Fresno State’s Peace Garden, attended Wednesday’s event and urged students to understand others and to reject violence.
“You already know how much violence we have around us. I don’t have to tell you. You already see and hear on the television, in the media. Why all of it’s happening, I don’t have any one answer,” he said. “But we have to learn how to train our minds – how to train ourselves to live peacefully with our sisters and brothers on this planet.”
Sunnyside student Kevin Vazquez, 18, said that when he stumbled upon Pedraza’s club, he felt “good vibes” and thinks he was destined to meet the teacher that day.
“If something’s bothering you, you can clear it out of your mind. You can let it go,” Vazquez said. “All day we’re doing things, and we don’t get that time to ourselves. It’s about concentrating on your body and how you feel. Do you feel good inside?”