New Life Foundation will be three years old this weekend. It is hard to believe that in such a short time something so extraordinary has been built. Community members Claire, Doreen and Janelle felt the anniversary was the perfect excuse for a celebration.
So, from a kernel of an idea about embracing the joy in our lives, an extravaganza was born. The girls explain how it came about.
Three of us wanted to celebrate something basically. People work hard here, whether it be digging in the fields or in therapy digging up intense emotions. People are very determined in bringing forth the life changes they are here to achieve and while that is courageous and commendable, we wanted to make sure people weren’t getting stuck in their head.
We just wanted to remind people that they can be mindful and still have fun in life without alcohol or drugs or other stimulants and that we can actually get that joy from inside, which is everything that we think is in line with here.
When we mentioned the idea of a party to Julien, who manages the Foundation, he mentioned it was New Life’s third anniversary and we were delighted at the synchronicity and so the birthday party was born.
We started by just throwing ideas together and it grew a bit like New Life itself – it started with a small idea then started blooming into something even greater. Within two days we had a plan.
The fun started at afternoon workshop yesterday [Thursday] when Julien told the story of how this community started, which included his history and how he met Johan [our benefactor], then how the community grew into what it is today. It was inspiring and we wanted to do something to represent that growth so we came up with the idea to plant a tree on the island in the middle of the lake to mark the day.
In keeping with the uniqueness of New Life, rather than having a plaque for the tree, we found part of old fallen tree trunk that will be used as a sculpture in front of the tree.
Everyone in the community will be invited to decorate the trunk. People can just paint a squiggle or a mark or draw art on it, something symbolic to them. Even though each individual mark is a small touch, it adds to create a whole and this pretty much symbolises what New Life is about: we’ve got all the volunteers, the residents, the life coaches, the staff – all small pieces individually – but we come together to form a whole and that’s what makes our community work.
The fun and games start tonight, Friday, with a bonfire and a drum circle. There will no doubt be a few songs and we’ll have marshmallows and damper (bread wrapped round a stick) to toast on the fire. In keeping with the New Life theme, we’ve created the instruments for the drum circle ourselves – out of buckets, bamboo, old soda bottles, anything that makes a sound. Everything has life in New Life, it’s all reusable and we can beat a drum on anything.
The ideology of New Life is the basis for the entertainment and the recycling theme continues into Games Day tomorrow (Saturday), when part of the team challenge is to make sculptures from abandoned materials.
There’s already a huge buzz around the community about the games and while certain individuals were expected to be highly competitive, it seems the challenge may have created a few new adrenaline monsters.
One of the residents, who is part of the social anxiety club, has suddenly become drill major and is thinking of cunning, devious plans to conquer all who get in her way! Team X members had better be on guard, there was talk of 10k hike with 10kg back packs while running with an egg and spoon.
Before the games start Saturday, we have a morning workshop that will cover the things we learn here – meditation, dance, Tai Chi, movement, yoga – and how we can take those things home with us and fit them into our schedules so we can keep them in our daily practice. So we will learn how we can practice the meditation or yoga etc. in 15 minutes at home.
Then the Games will begin in the afternoon. And the team promises it’s going to be WILD!!
The girls explained that the overall aim of the games is to bring the community together, have fun and give everyone’s inner child a day out. The games are all going to be mindful but also about letting yourself go, which sometimes people can forget to do when they meditate or do yoga or get deep in the practice. As the girls explained: “When you read the spiritual books they all say, ‘Just let go, don’t think about tomorrow just think about now’. When you are trying to balance an egg on a spoon you can’t really think about tomorrow because that’s all you can really concentrate on so we’re just bringing it all together.”
There’s also the chance for a lesson in impermanence. “There will be musical chairs. You know you can’t always depend on those chairs, or that structure or person to be in your life, so you’ve always got to be open to change. So we are really incorporating what we learn here with the different games.” We try to acknowledge all different skills so it won’t only be very active games, we will also have a quiz and playing charades and more just to balance all things.
On Saturday night Julien and Tavy are going to cook us a special Mexican feast, which is something that’s creating a big buzz around the community.
Then there’s the dance mandala in the evening. We have Areerat coming in from Chiang Mai to lead this group. She was here about a month ago and there were ‘rave reviews’ about it. Those who joined in said it was like a ‘rave’, which were popular in the 90s in Europe. So we just go in to the forest hall and the dark and dance our hearts out and people realised how much fun they can have without stimulants such as drugs or alcohol.
On Sunday there is a biodanza. It’s a form of personal and human development that’s about going out of the head and into the body. In it we do movement exercises and dances, without talking, to the background of music from all over the world – salsa, rock, classical etc. The lesson is about feeling the joy and letting go of the negative, the anger and the fear, and understanding that the emotions we put a spotlight on are the ones that will grow in us.
After that it’s time to give thanks and probably pass out!