Yomi came to New Life as a volunteer for a couple of months as part of year-long adventure of discovery and travel. With his big personality and infectious laugh he soon became an integral part of the community, bringing enthusiasm, laughter and fun everywhere he went. Yomi chats to us about what he took away with him from New Life, and explains how working with the Enneagram helped him towards greater self-understanding and personal growth.
Why did you choose to come to New Life?
My background is in finance in the ‘profit’ side of it so I was looking to try the other side for a year, volunteering with different non-profit organisations. I was kind of looking at maybe teaching but I wanted something more diverse, kind of sustainability, organic farming things like that so this was perfect because I got to do that and learn more about meditation and mindfulness, which is something I’ve always been interested in. It has been a great choice because my experience here has been amazing.
How has your time here compared to other volunteer work you have done this year?
This has been the first stop on the journey, which has actually made it so much better because I can’t imagine how my experience would have been without being here first.
So what volunteer work have you been able to do here?
I started off digging holes and planting banana trees around the path lake as part of a project to make it a nice place for people to walk. I did that for the first couple of weeks then started teaching English at the local school a couple of times a week. Working with the kids, I didn’t realise the experience was going to be so beneficial to me. I had looked at it as a way to give back and get involved with the local community. To be honest, the idea of not being out in the hot sun digging had its attraction too! I have had some experience with kids, I have two little brothers and have kind of helped raise them – babysitting and stuff – but the teaching was just so different. I went in there thinking I’d just be teaching them, I didn’t realise how much they would touch me or how it would allow me to open up. My personality is not one to go kind of deep with emotions, you know, it’s very surface a lot of the times but with the kids you’re kind of forced to open up and yeah, they’re just great kids.
What else have you been doing?
More recently I’ve been helping out the permanent volunteer organiser [Mark]. So, I organised the working meditation, filling in for him for the past couple of weeks while he was on vacation. That experience allowed me to use some of the personal tools I’ve learned here with the Enneagram. It put me in positions where I could test my new skills and grow.
In what way?
With the Enneagram I found out about my tendencies in dealing with different situations and that allowed me to behave probably differently than I would have done in the past.
So you found the Enneagram quite beneficial?
Yeah it was great. I keep going on about it and it’s kind of a running joke with some of the people I am close with, they kind of tease me, because every sharing opportunity is always about Enneagram. There are so many great things you do here but the Enneagram was probably the best way for me to open up because it is definitely more of a science and that’s kind of the way I learn things, how I accept things, with them presented very methodically and very structured. If I would have maybe done life coaching, or traditional life coaching, I probably would have struggled to open up as much. Once into the Enneagram you go deeper and start to realise the true purpose and true reason of it. With the Enneagram it was almost like destiny to do it and I was able to grow more because I just felt so connected to it, it was so familiar.
And your Enneagram personality type number?
My number, I am a three, which is, I guess an achiever is what they call it and coming to that conclusion was a little bit of a process, I thought I was some other numbers but yeah, no doubt about being three. But it’s good because the Enneagram is not like the typical personality test which is like okay, this is who you are, these are your tendencies, now strengthen your strengths and weaken your weaknesses. It’s not really about that, it’s about realising about what your tendencies are and what you are and realising that you don’t have to be that so to me that’s great.
What’s the thing you’ve enjoyed most here?
Enneag…no, just kidding. I’ve really enjoyed Enneagram but I think for me the meditation and Tai Chi and just all the different things I’ve never experienced before – like dance mandala and biodanza, all those things I probably would have never tried on my own, even swing dancing, or boogie woogie as they call it. Doing all those things have been great. And to be perfectly honest, even the working meditation has been really great. It’s really just about being in situations or conditions that you might not necessarily like – like digging holes in the hot sun – but instead of focussing on that or the accomplishment of having to plant 10 trees, you just focus on being there. It’s about the feelings that come up and instead of reacting to them you just observe them. If you can learn those skill sets and apply them out there digging holes, it can easily be transferred to your daily work with stress for example. That’s been a great experience. While I’m probably not there yet – in theory all that stuff I understand but in practice I probably have a ways to go – it definitely gave me some opportunities to at least try it and see how it works, and it did work.
Any advice for future volunteers?
Really test out being mindful. In theory it sounds so simple, in practice it’s definitely difficult but really if you can learn, if you can practice, if you can train yourself to be more aware to not react to things, to just observe your feelings and observe things, you can solve a lot of things.
I feel like for me, in my personal life, if I’m irritated or trying to have a goal of eating better but having all those cravings, instead of just reacting to them, “Oh I want this”, and just going for it I can just observe it. Really, mindfulness is just the answer to everything I can think of that I might consider a problem in life so I would say take it seriously. Don’t be hard on yourself, though, just try to learn and really train yourself to just stop, observe, be aware and not to react all the time.
How’s community living been for you?
I like it. The last time I can remember living like this was in college, which for me was an amazing experience and so, yeah, it brought back a lot of good memories. Here I like the fact there’s so many people so that if you want companionship you can easily go to the dining hall and join in with people but also if you want to be alone you can just find a spot to do that so it’s the best of both worlds.