The road to self realisation can be filled with surprises. Quite often here at New Life Foundation people come for one reason and end up staying for another. For Jack the twist was changing from the volunteer to the resident program.
What inspired you to come to New Life?
I found NLF through the HelpX website, which is a site for volunteering opportunities worldwide. I was looking for volunteering or some kind of spiritual practice. New Life really stood out because it had so many different things – it wasn’t just a yoga place or organic farming, this had yoga, meditation, it had mindfulness underpinning everything and then it offered the opportunity to do life coaching and Enneagram. It was almost too good to believe that one place had all of those things.
When you came you were a volunteer but then switched to being a resident, what motivated you to do that?
Why did I choose to be a volunteer in the first place? Well, I guess in my mind there was a divide between the residents and volunteers – residents looked more like ex-addicts, drug addicts etc, which I wasn’t so I thought I fitted more in the volunteer section. But I realised I needed to do the life coaching quite quickly and so I signed up for that, then after two weeks I changed to [being a] resident – partly after working afternoons in the sun which was too hot but also because as I was doing work on myself it made more sense to really do it, really go for it and throw myself in, because there’s not much point just poking round the edges.
What was it you were hoping to work on when you came here?
I didn’t have that clear in my mind because I had been a bit lost on this trip. I was stuck in Bangkok and it was just, ‘Ahhh, this would be a good place to be’, it wasn’t with a clear personal objective in mind. After being here a little while, I started to think about what my objective was, which was basically the objective of this whole year off – to answer the questions [such as], ‘Who am I?’, ‘What are my passions?’, ‘What do I want to do?’, and ‘What will make me happy?’, so yeah, it was to try and answer those questions.
Are you making progress on them?
Yeah, I am answering the question, ‘Who am I?’ – I am starting to challenge not just what I do but why I do it, which is not always what you first think. I’m also trying to set life goals and answer questions like, ‘What makes me happy?’. That’s really difficult for me so I’m trying to understand why it’s difficult. It’s very interesting and I’m still quite at the beginning of it.
As part of the residents’ program you are working in the school teaching English to the kids, what do you get out of it?
It’s great to work with the kids and to be in the community of the village rather than just New Life Foundation. It’s also about challenging yourself – they can’t speak English, you can’t speak much Thai, how do you communicate and get them to do what you want them to do? It’s about how to cope with a situation when you’ve lost control or an exercise has fallen flat on its face and you have to think on your feet. It’s also just good to be around kids and remembering how kids play and stuff like that. It’s been fun and exciting.
What is it about here that works for you?
I think the opportunity to have life coaching and getting to work with more than one life coach is amazing given it’s cheap to come here and for me that feels very, very lucky and gives me lots of opportunities to discuss things and get practical homework and try things out. Also, having my first experience of group therapy and seeing what it is and how it can be very beneficial and what you can learn from it was a real eye-opener.
What’s brought you most joy here?
I really enjoyed the Biodanza on Sunday morning. It was really emotional, it was also a deep meditation, everyone who was in the room really became surprisingly connected and soft. Yeah it was really moving.
What did the Biodanza involve?
It’s a kind of personal growth therapy through dance and movement and finding out and testing your boundaries with yourself and your body and then with other people, whether it’s walking hand-in-hand or dancing. Some things feel like a real joy and a pleasure and other things feel more challenging and uncomfortable.
So, if you had any advice for future residents coming here, what would it be?
I would definitely recommend them coming here in the first place and I would say try to be as open as possible to all of the parts of the program – to try and be open and honest in groups and share and be vulnerable. Also, maybe be brave enough if you think that something could be changed or it could be better or it’s not quite working for you – offer suggestions on how it could be better as well because it’s constantly changing and growing and evolving.