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young woman meditatingYouth is supposed to be carefree. But being young, especially in a big city, comes with a heavy handbag of challenges and stressors, like low salaries and high rent and the ups and downs of dating.

“It’s a time when people are still figuring out their lives and have many questions,” says Brandon Rennels, one of the organizers of the Wake Up US Tour. “They are particularly vulnerable to stress, depression and anxiety in today’s 21st century environment.”

Rennels and the other members of the tour—5 monks, 5 nuns, and 3 lay people, all students of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh—believe that cultivating mindfulness can help.

Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, is one of the world’s most renowned Buddhist leaders, sitting right below the Dalai Lama in terms of influence. And for the past two weeks, the tour has been bringing his message and teachings to university campuses throughout the Northeast.

students of Thich Nhat Hanh Monks
These monks are students of Thich Nhat Hanh

Today, they’ll be at Columbia, where they’ll host a free afternoon mindfulness workshop for people between the ages of 17 and 35. They’ll teach techniques like breath awareness, walking mediation, and mindful eating, all of which are calming tools for well-being (and New York living).

The hope is you’ll carry the practice with you as you get older, hopefully contributing to a more peaceful world. After all, says Rennels, despite the stress, “this age combines ambitious energy with an ability to make a difference in the world.”

Wake Up US Tour 2011, Afternoon of Mindfulness at Columbia, Wed., November 9, 2:00–6:00 p.m., us.wkup.org