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Shira reclining on her bed at home, smiling at the ceiling

How teen camp helped Shira find a new way of living she had only dreamed was possible.

Shira shared her Odyssey Teen Camp story with us. We hope you enjoy it!

“Someone the other day asked me what was the correlation between who I am, who I want to be, and who I think I should be? And I could confidently answer that they were all aligned. I am in many ways the person I always dreamed I would be. I can proudly say that I would not be this person if I had not gone to OTC. OTC provided a container for me to heal myself. I was able to explore who I am and at OTC I was given the tools to learn how to do that safely. OTC has been so influential in my life that I actually wrote my college admissions essay about my experiences there and I continue to reference OTC in programs and scholarships that I apply for. A story I fondly reference is when I took a workshop offered by one of the counselors at camp called “The Phat Buddha.” The workshop gave campers a peek into the life of a Buddhist and explained the basic tenets of Buddhism. I still have my journal from that workshop and reference those notes often. After leaving camp that summer I ended up buying a couple of the books the counselor recommended. That workshop planted seeds in my mind of the possibility of a new religion and way of life that I only dreamed of living.

I took that workshop when I was 14 years old…fast forward years later and I am taking a Buddhist Studies course in college at the age of 19…I was already ahead of the class because of the workshop that I had taken, and at that point Buddhism was all that I wanted to study and practice. I ended up going to study abroad in monasteries in India, Nepal,and China, getting immersed in Buddhist studies and practice. I currently identify as a Buddhist and have a lovely Sangha (community) that I practice with here in Los Angeles. I practice meditation every morning for at least 30 minutes, and my whole world has transformed since I begun this journey at OTC. When people ask me what I love about Buddhism or what has changed for me since I became a Buddhist, I say two things: first, it has helped me to develop a deeper understanding of my parents as human beings, as people who suffer, and if I can’t find compassion for my parents then I can’t find compassion for anyone else; second, since I have became a Buddhist it feels like doors just keep opening for me, one after the other.

This second realization I actually owe to OTC, since I became a camper at OTC, doors open one after the other. I believe this to be true because OTC helped me to cultivate a more open mind. It helped me to see that as human beings we could operate in more kind and loving ways. It showed me that I am enough and I can do anything I set my mind to, but that things take time to grow. When I was 14 years old I wanted to be the badass Buddhist that I am today but I first had to go through a ton of healing, processing, and growing fueled by sunshine, rain, mud, and muck. At times, I doubted that I would ever be where I am today, but I stuck through it all, and not alone, OTC also gave me a sustainable support system and friends who I still look to for guidance today.”

If you’re interested in registering for our teen summer camp and experiencing it for yourself, you’re in luck! We’re offering a 10% discount for campers who register before February 15th. Check out our dates and rates by clicking here!

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