Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from Boulder, Colorado. I’m 68. This is my third time here at New Life as one of the meditation teachers.
What does a day look like for you?
My day usually starts with leading the morning meditation at 6:30, right now it’s 3 out of 6 days. I attend the morning meetings, and then from 9:30 to 12:30 I’ll have one-on-ones, usually for blocks of an hour. Two afternoons a week I lead workshops on the topic of mindfulness and the theme of the week for residents and Introduction To Mindfulness for everyone who is new to the community. Three out of 5 days I lead a guided meditation in the late afternoon, at 5:45 for half an hour.
What do you do in your free time?
A lot of it is prep for the workshop because often it’s a topic I’ve never given a workshop on before, like relationships and mindfulness, so last night I was watching some podcasts from a meditation teacher about relationships and I’m reading a book. So when I’m not reading Dharma and trying to keep up to date or even things that people present to me in one on ones, like living with chronic pain, so I do reading around chronic pain and meditation. Other than that, getting massages here in Thailand is always a great way to relax, and enjoying how beautiful it is here, just taking walks down to the lake or to the woods or just sitting outside the roundhouse where I live and listening to the birds. Simply enjoy being in this beautiful place.
What led you to New Life?
Originally I came here because a friend of mine said “John, I think you’d like this place”. He’s an old friend from Nepal who is living in Chiang Mai and I guess he was talking to Julien when they first set up New Life. I was doing a retreat in Nepal and I decided to see what New Life is about, so I did a 5-day Vipassana retreat here and then stayed on as a volunteer. Talking to Julien about my background, he asked if I would be willing to do more with meditation. So I kind of moved into a meditation teacher role because they hadn’t really had one before. We came up with ideas to make the meditation program a stronger part of the program here. I started the idea of one on ones to help people who had questions. The morning meditations were quite small and bit by bit it grew. The meditation room was built. Now that it’s in the Forest Hall there are so many more people who come to the morning meditations.
What is your favorite part of New Life?
The people. There’s something really fantastic about the community here. I can’t put my finger on all the different components of what makes people here be so kind and accepting of each other. Even the way people listen to peoples life stories on Monday and how kind the comments are, it’s very empowering. What made me really want to come back is what people say when they leave, in the morning meeting, about how much it’s helped them, about how much it’s changed their viewpoint, how they are feeling about themselves, hearing that they have a whole new way of being, over and over again. Hearing people say it’s opened them up to a whole new way of being, that’s powerful.
What has been the most beneficial aspect of New Life?
The feeling of having something to contribute. Hearing people connect to meditation, when people say “oh I get it now, it’s finally making sense, I want to learn how to continue this further”. That inspires me to keep practicing because I have resistance sometimes too. So I think, “oh it really does work!”
What are you working on at the moment?
I actually can’t think of anything. I’m actually doing what I want to do. I’m kind of lucky that way.
What’s it like to live and work here?
I think the best thing is also the most challenging thing – the community. Also the schedule, we have a pretty full schedule so sometimes it’s challenging. Overall it’s really good to live and work here, it’s supportive. Julien is really open to new ideas, and I can meet so many people, the diversity of the people who come here. I think right now we have people from every continent represented. It’s a really diverse group to see what we have in common and appreciate our differences.
What would you like to say to anyone considering coming to New Life?
I encourage many people to come here. I would say it’s a good place to go if they have some issues in their life they want to work on and have some space in a new environment. I think what’s really unique here, because I’ve lived in other meditation centers also, is this combination of life coaching, meditation and a variety of mindfulness activities – dance, yoga. So it’s really unique.
What’s your favorite book?
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa is the book that started me on the path to spiritualism in a sort of no BS way. It’s about being honest and authentic and getting to know yourself, it’s not about trying to be some idealism self, that that’s actually an obstacle. It just seemed to down-to-Earth.