Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Tom. I’m 37 years old, I’m from Belgium.
What is your role here?
I’m the program director and I’m a life coach. As a life coach, I do one on one sessions with people and I facilitate workshops. As a program director I manage the life coaching team, I’m involved with the application process for people wanting to come in, I’m involved in certain areas of management and organization and the program of course. The themes and how that should look like, and continuously trying to improve and adapt the program.
What does a day look like for you?
On average, I get up around 5-5:30 every day, on most days I do my own personal practice. Then the morning meeting, and usually I have sessions between 9:30 and 12:30. Then in the afternoons, depending on if I have a workshop or not, if I don’t have a workshop I am more involved in the role of program directors. Emails, admin and things like that.
What do you do in your free time?
I like cooking and gardening. I like just spending time in my house in the forest, I like just being in the forest without necessarily doing something, just observing life there. I like taking trips on my bike together with my partner, Madelaine.
What led you to New Life?
I came as a resident September 2011. What led me here is that I was quite stuck at that point in my life, I was dealing with depression and addiction and I felt I needed to make some changes because it wasn’t going anywhere, to the point where I got really concerned, I hit my personal rock bottom and I decided to do something about it.
I was a resident for two months, and then I became a volunteer with life coaching. During that time I got interested in the things that helped me, including enneagram. My life coach back then became my mentor. She gave me enneagram teacher training and I started doing courses in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, going back and forth. I had no intention of becoming a life coach, this was pure interest. I just wanted to learn more about it and my life coach recognized that and volunteered to teach me some more. Some other volunteers started approaching me about enneagram so I checked if it was OK to do some work with them in my spare time, all of that went quite well and eventually I got offered a position as a life coach. I had nothing to go back to in Belgium, no obligations. I gave up my job, I gave up my apartment, I broke up with my partner – which was all part of the struggle that I was having. So that gave me the opportunity to accept that offer, by coincidence it was offered to me on a silver platter so I happily accepted.
What is your favorite part of New Life?
That’s a tough one because I think there’s so many great things and I think it’s the combination of so many aspects here that makes it such an interesting and wonderful place to be, so to pick one is very hard for me. But I think if I would have to give it a name I would say it’s the simplicity of life here, that I like the most.
What has been the most beneficial aspect of New Life?
I think if you would take all the aspects of what we offer and just look at them one by one, I don’t think it would have the same effect. Personally, for me, for my part in the community and the foundation, I think it would be that sense of meaning, that I am contributing something to a place I really believe in, in what we’re trying to do here, and what we stand for. So being a part of that gives me a sense of purpose.
What are you working on at the moment?
It’s a bit of a continuous process and it varies, it changes, one thing leads to another. At this moment I can’t say I’m particularly working on one thing. A couple of weeks ago I was investigating more of the basic concepts in Buddhism, to gain a deeper understanding for myself, what does impermanence mean, non-self, things like that. I think the main continuous practice for me is staying close to myself and see whatever arises and what comes up. I think it’s a continuation of really staying close to myself and seeing what is happening and seeing how I can follow that movement of balance. I don’t think it’s a static thing so you have to be very much in tune with what is happening with you and your surroundings and how you are impacting people around you and being curious on a continuous basis.
What’s it like to live and work here?
I think it’s great, I really like living and working here, especially the combination of the two. It has its own challenges of course, but for me it ticks a lot of boxes, in the sense that it aligns with many of the values of how I want to live my life, it’s close to nature, it has community but I still have a lot of space and time for myself so I can a solitary life in a community. The work is very rewarding of course, it’s very challenging. It’s a good combination of tasks, I like to be challenged in different areas. As the foundation grows, the challenges keep coming and I think it’s good for my own development.
What would you like to say to anyone considering coming to New Life?
It’s a bit of a cliche when I read other people say “just come with an open mind, give it a try”. I think it’s a bit of a cliche for a reason, because I think that’s true and it would also be my answer. If you come, just throw yourself in it.
What’s an embarrassing moment that you’ve had here?
A couple of years ago, we announced something about the importance of punctuality, especially for the morning activities. About how it’s about commitment and supporting each other, just this big announcement about punctuality. Then the next day, we were teaching tai chi in the mornings, that was the one time I overslept in 6 years. So I was late the day after making this speech about not being late. It was weird because it was really the only time I could remember oversleeping.