Mitchell is a big, strong lad from the Netherlands. We were all touched by his courage and openness and he was a generous and valued member of the community. When conversing with Mitchell one knew one had his undivided attention. He was full of surprises, not least when his infectious enthusiasm gave us a farewell gift that hit just the right note…
How did you come to be at New Life?
I was in rehab with a friend of mine and their mum told me about this wonderful place in Thailand where you could get time to do some further exploration, you know after rehab when you are clean and you are left thinking, “Well what do I want to do now? What do I want to do with my life?” So I checked out New Life on the internet and fell in love immediately and sent an email asking: “Hey, can I join you somewhere in the next couple of months?” I’ve been here now 37 days.
So, you had quite high expectations of New Life before you came. Has the foundation lived up to them?
I have to be honest, you know, when I saw the website, it’s really good, it’s really solid and then I came here and I was like, wow, it’s pretty basic! I came here at 10pm at night and I opened the door to my room and I was like, “Really basic!”.
To be honest it took me some time to get used to it in a way but after two weeks I started enjoying it, how much I don’t need the other stuff, I only need basics to enjoy it.
What have you enjoyed most about the experience?
That’s a hard question. Your day is jam-packed with all different kinds of activities so the variety, and this super environment, that makes it wonderful for me.
What’s been the hardest thing for you here – other than the bed?!
I enjoy the bed actually! The hardest thing? I think in general, you know, you live in a community so some days you are struggling with something and some days others are and it is giving that respect to each other to say, “Okay let’s just relax for now and let everyone walk his own journey”. Also, something I found quite hard was the work. In some ways it’s not hard but challenging because I didn’t know what to expect each morning – what would you get to do? Every day it’s a surprise what we’re going to do next.
I thought you liked digging holes?
I do like digging holes but that took three days before I really started appreciating it because in the beginning I was also struggling a bit to adapting to the weather and the temperature over here because I was sweating so much but right now I’m more used to it.
You’re leaving tomorrow, what will you miss most about the place?
It’s a paradox actually – the liveliness of the place and the peacefulness of the place. I mean, there are always people you can chat to, they’re almost like friends, brothers and sisters sometimes, but at the same time you’ve got the peaceful surroundings of nature.
So you came to have somewhere to go after rehab, did you have any concept of what you wanted to work on after rehab?
I think, in general, after rehab I knew what I didn’t want – I didn’t want to continue the life I was leading and I also knew that I needed to do some more digging and unlearning the things that I told myself, or my parents told me. So, I was really looking forward to becoming my own man – to really think about the decisions I want to make in my life instead of doing the things you do to get recognition from people. I wanted to listen to my heart more that’s why I said I wanted to go and travel, that’s always been a dream for me, and one of my first stops would be New Life because growing in mindfulness and growing in awareness would make all the experiences that I encounter in the rest of my journey so much more intense.
Is there anything that surprised you when you started digging into yourself?
In a general way, I thought I’d done quite some digging already in rehab but there’s still some left. With my personality, you know, I thought I’d get in there and in two or three days I would dig it all out but that’s not how it works, that’s what I found out. I mean it opened the vault so when things come out, I’ll process them and I won’t stuff them in there anymore, but I can’t pull them out. I can’t go in there and dig it all out at once, it takes time. I’ve spent 24 years filling that pot so it’s gonna take time.
If there’s one thing that you are going to take away from here, that’s going to be the most valuable tool, what will that be?
I think it’s having the willingness and the energy to step back from a situation, take three big deep breaths and relax. I’m feeling I’m becoming more calm in a way and because I’m calm I’m more able to deal with the situation instead of my emotions taking over, and acting on emotions.
Will you come back to New Life?
I’m seriously considering it, yes, in a month or so.
What do you think you can still get from here?
A lot. I think right now, it’s time for some reflection, it’s time to let what I’ve learned sink in a bit and see what comes out. I tend to forget the things that I’ve learned so in some way I think coming back is a reminder, “Hey, remember the things you did here?”.
If you had a piece of advice for any future residents what would it be?
Well it’s quite funny actually because tomorrow I leave and everyone says a little bit before they leave in the morning meeting and I wrote something down. I thought about it while I was trekking during the weekend and the core message, which took me really years to see and appreciate actually, was what Gandhi used to say: “Be the change you want to see”. Before I was like, “The world is a mess but I’m okay, let’s change the world without looking at me”, but now I realise the truth was right under my nose…