From Poor Beginnings to Building a Sustainable Future

Earth BuildingIn early May, 2012, New Life Foundation hosted the ‘Earth Breathing, Breathing Earth’ Retreat.  The retreat was lead by Jon Jandai, also known as PeeJo, of Pun Pun, a center for self-reliance in Chiang Mai, Thailand. PeeJo provided extensive instruction in mindfulness-awareness, as well as bodywork techniques, opening, stabilizing and extending awareness according to the Tibetan Buddhist teachings. PeeJo came from humble beginnings, and throughout his adolescents suffered from deep rooted fears. Through meditation and mindfulness PeeJo has overcame his fears and now uses his personal experience to help others learn mindfulness.
PeeJo was raised in a poor family in northeast Thailand, and due to his poverty he was insecure and felt like a second-class citizen. He normally ran away from his problems, and looked to escape his suffering through entertainment. One day, at the age of 19 he realized the need to change; his release was found through sitting with his suffering instead of escaping it.

Jon JandiaPeeJo became a novice Buddhist monk for four years, mainly to get an education, since he was so poor.  After he left the temple, he experienced more suffering, “only fear used to come up.”  He thought to run away from his fears again, but through this he knew he would never end his suffering.   His greatest fear was ghosts.   Attempting a very extreme solution, he spent seven months alone in the forest – only being visited once a month by family and friends to make sure he was okay.  To get over his fear of ghosts, he said he “had to be in the darkness alone and be with the fear.”  During his time in the forest he was still afraid to be alone. He could not sleep at night, and only slept a couple of hours during the day.  After seven days alone, he realized that his fear decreased by more than half. PeeJo continued to work on himself even after leaving the forest, and today used his personal experiences to help others.

Three months ago, PeeJo joined the Board of Directors of ‘New Life,’ due to his experience with organic gardening and mud-brick building.  PeeJo sees life as meditation.  He says, “if we study meditation, it becomes philosophy.  If we use meditation in our life, it becomes a part of our life.”  When asked if he meditates often, he remarks, “I don’t sit and meditate much.  I use work as meditation. When I’m hot, when people blame me, it’s a good time to meditate because it brings me back to myself.”

Currently PeeJo’s work is focused on organic farming and helping farmers who are struggling. He receives letters from farmers all over Thailand, requesting seeds — which willingly gives away, for free.  He doesn’t think about helping people, because people need to help themselves; but he gives them a chance. He believes, people must change their minds by themselves.

Sitting on the Board of Directors for the New Life Foundation, PeeJo says:  “we should provide a good atmosphere here, so residents see the easy path and will want to change.”

Written by Julie, New Life resident

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