By Roberta Margison
Taylor from Canada came to New Life on a spiritual journey, hoping to reconnect to his creative side. Directing the Song for Space Fundraising Flashmob gave him the outlet he craved while giving him the chance to inspire and support more than 30 members of the community in exploring their creative talents and performing to the rhythm of New Life. In the process, Taylor and his flashmobbers managed to raise an incredible 400,000 baht (USD 12,000) for a much-needed adobe life coaching building for the foundation. In this blog he talks to us about his passion for dance, movement and creativity, and his idea to capture the spirit of the New Life journey in the flashmob.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My background is in musical theatre as a performer, director and producer. I also have culinary training from Cordon Bleu in San Francisco. My passion is to create new musical theatre pieces and my hobby is to cook for friends and family. I came to Thailand in 2013 on a spiritual journey after spending a week in Hawaii at a life altering retreat.
How did you hear about the foundation and what made you want to come here?
I heard about New Life through a yoga instructor in Chiang Mai, where I had been spending my last two winters. Vince Cullen was running a one week ‘Hungry Ghost’ meditation retreat in March so I came to check it out. I liked the experience and extended my stay for 3 months as a resident.
I decided to be a resident at New Life because the unique combination of what was on offer: life coaching, working meditation on the farm, and the mindfulness, offered what I was looking for to help me with my recovery from substance misuse. I found that I could really start to dig deep in myself about how these things have affected my life and focus on how I could start to make the changes to go in a different direction. Being part of a community is what I needed to be successful in my recovery and to rest and heal from burn out.
Had you tried mindfulness meditation before you came to New Life, and what did you think of it?
I did a Vipassana meditation retreat in Chiang Mai some time ago and I’ve enjoyed the mindfulness meditation at New Life. I see it as a way of bringing everyone together to harmonise differences and focus on a common purpose. It has helped me enjoy everyday living, live moment to moment and remain balanced, focused and grounded. I view mindfulness meditation as a natural way to regulate my feelings without medication.
At New Life I’ve been exposed to many things – creative workshops, yoga, TRE (Trauma Release Exercises) and the DanceMANDALA in addition to the core program. I really like that community members offer their skills and have learned from workshops such as the Journey Dance offered by Tammy, a workshop on self esteem, gifts and capacities by Roberta, and yoga by Kim. One of my aims was to reconnect to my creative theatre side and being at New Life has given me that opportunity as I’ve been involved in creating a flashmob.
Can you tell us a bit more about the flashmob?
New Life decided to fundraise to build a new life coaching building to provide more space for more [therapeutic] services. One idea was to hold a flashmob which would take place in the local shopping mall. I was approached by Julien and other community members and asked if I would take the lead in orchestrating and directing the process of creating the flashmob. This gave me the opportunity to offer workshops to the community.
We used our own stories and created an organic performance piece that is told in seven scenes. This was accomplished through improvisation: games and theatre exercises and asking questions such as, “What does New Life mean to you?” The community came up with seven different words that represent the heart of New Life Foundation. From there we were able to build seven scenes and tableaux representing ‘transformation’, ‘growing’, ‘courage’, ‘embrace’, ‘inclusion’, ‘mindfulness’ and ‘community’.
We added movement and choreography to start linking the scenes together. We created our own song and music to accompany ourselves. We were under a lot of time constraints, usually it would take about 100 hours to put something like this together and we were able to do it in under 15 hours over a 3 week period!
The flashmob brings together elements of theatre and storytelling and performing live was a benefit to the New Life community. A lot of people come here to step outside of their comfort zone and drop their masks. The aim was not to ignore the baggage in our lives but to release it by honouring, acknowledging and expressing it through the performance we developed. Theatre is a great way to express our selves, our stories and who we are. Our own ideas are challenged in a creative way. Our performance became a testament to the program here at New Life – the support of a community provides a safe space to share and explore, to create change in your life.
What have been your greatest joys and challenges while at New Life?
There have been many joys including working meditation and the creation and building of the round house. The greatest joy however has been working with my life coaches Samina and Al. They supported me to find things that I was able to connect with and use as an outlet to explore the issues in my life. Doing lots of bodywork with Samina led me to exploring Biodanza and DanceMANDALA.
Al and Samina were my shoulder to cry on, a cheerleader and a non-judgmental sounding board. The more you’re willing to go, the more they are able to help you awaken your true purpose. I didn’t have to hide and I’m now on the way to living the truer me. My biggest challenge was definitely giving myself permission to just be me!