We recently had Rosalie Dores, a trained practitioner in both Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Insight Dialogue teaching, here are New Life for two and a half months. During that time, she taught three unique MBSR courses, as well as leading two weekend Insight Dialoge retreats and several Dharma Discussions and teachings. We sat down with her to get her experience of being at New Life and teaching MBSR here.
What led you to New Life originally?
My friend Sukhacitto Bhikkhu was invited by Julien to come here and he asked me if I wanted to join. Initially, I thought Thailand was too far for a couple of weeks, but then I looked at the website and I saw the land and the pool and I thought, “yeah, I’ll come” *laughs*. When I was here I led a couple of Intro to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and I realized how powerful the work could be here, with so many battling with addiction, depression, and anxiety. That’s why I decided to come back. I was here for about 3 weeks.
What are the beneficial/healing parts of New Life in your opinion?
I think the land is tremendously beautiful and supportive. It’s so spacious, you know? There’s so much beauty around. It’s uplifting and I think that really supports the community. I think the morning meeting and weekly hugging meditation, the regular morning practice, all lend themselves to building a community of goodwill and shared aspiration. People are so generous with each other. I love the levels of authenticity. Outside of New Life, people are “keeping it together” and don’t really show what’s happening, their struggles or challenges. I deeply believe that when we are willing to show our vulnerable parts that we become closer to each other. And while I haven’t personally gauged this, I think the life coaching and workshops – a real learning environment, which is fantastic.
What made you think MBSR is good for this community?
I just know the power of MBSR training and the benefits of MBSR. It’s a systematic and very methodical course that can really help people not only develop a sustainable practice but also learn to be with challenges and difficulties in ways that don’t make it worse, to see it as an opportunity for learning and growth. When we accept something we can actually change it, whereas in resistance we’re stuck. I knew it would be helpful to people and I saw the relevance of MBSR for addiction as well.
I also taught two Insight Dialogue retreats here on the weekends, and that was also very powerful for the people that attended, and also a very transformative learning experience for me. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to offer practice here and learn the process myself. It’s a great place, isn’t it?
I think Insight Dialogue is so powerful because a lot of our stress is relational, and mostly we’re just coping with that, whether that’s through being socially entertaining or withdrawing, those two extremes, we never really get to the heart of what’s causing that. I think the Insight Dialogue practice supports people with meditative skills to begin to slow down and actually meet the turbulence of social interaction with some level of groundedness and awareness, so they begin to see their patterns and do something about it.
This is your first time doing a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course in such a condensed version – what led you to decide to do that? What were the benefits and challenges?
I knew I had two and a half months, so if I taught the conventional 8-week MBSR course, I would have only been able to do one course for the population that was here. I thought if I could condense it to 9 days I could do more courses and reach more people. I’m actually quite committed to the structure of the 8-week mindfulness based stress reduction training, so that was a radical departure for me, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think that the morning meditation here really allowed people to see its power, in a way they wouldn’t if they were back home where they don’t have the support of the community and an established space. So I think it really worked. It was intense and people got a lot out of it.
The disadvantage is that when you’re doing it over 8 weeks you have the opportunity to embed it in your actual life, while New Life is an oasis of beauty and good will that is hard to find outside. At home, people are working, struggling with relationships and finances, so when you do it in that context you have the real stuff of life.
Saying that, I think that here people do a lot more processing generally, so when people come to the MBSR it just fits into that in a very nice way.
How was your experience of teaching the MBSR training here?
People have actually come up to me and said it’s really impacted them and changed them for the better. In my last MBSR course, I could see the physical difference in a couple of people. It’s really inspiring to see people making that transformation for themselves.
What do you think you take away from New Life?
Because MBSR is a secular approach, people are almost indulging, so they’re short on the practices and being so careful, and what I realized is that the biggest service I could do is to ask people do the longer 45 minute sits. I started including them in the full day retreat, and it was so powerful, so I intend to continue to do that with my regular courses. Usually, the longest sits I do in the full day is half an hour. I think it comes out of two things: a fundamental respect for the practice and a fundamental respect for the participants capacity to do it and to do the hard stuff. Why am I trying to make it easy for them? I don’t think that’s the best thing, actually. This was especially important with people who were dealing with addiction.
It may sound strict but I always want to listen to the person and honor their needs, at the same time, I know that MBSR is a good course. So if someone came to me and said “I’m not feeling well today” I would say, “well, this is a really important session, and you’re going to miss it”. And they would often look at me with surprise, “well I really need to take care of myself”, “I need you to give me permission”. I’m not going to give you permission. I’m not going to say that you have to come, but I am going to tell you that you’re missing something.
Do you think you’ll be back to New Life?
Yes, definitely. I don’t think it will be next year because I already have some retreats booked. As much as I love traveling I’m also aware of my carbon footprint, and I feel like I need to walk my talk. So I’m thinking possibly 2019.