by Karin Hallberg
Jocel’s time at the New Life Foundation has confronted her with a lot of challenges. However, she has found that her greatest joys come from going through these challenges and coming out on the other side as a stronger and more confident person. Opening up to a whole new range of possibilities for what she wants to do in life, she is determined to one day return as New Life’s greatest success story.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Jocel, I am 25 years old and I come from Los Angeles, California. I have been in Thailand since 2nd October  and came to New Life on November 4th.
How long are you staying altogether?
It will be a total of 6 months, I am scheduled to leave on May 5th, but that might change since I might want to stay longer.
How did you hear about the New Life Foundation and what made you interested in coming?
I started my time in Thailand at a monastery called Thamkrabok, and the nuns and the English-speaking monks suggested to me to go to New Life after I left from there. My original plan was just to stay at the monastery for a month and then go back home, but I found out about New Life, made a booking and since then I have been here! I got interested in coming since I heard that a few monks who had lived in Thamkrabok built this place, and that it was a good place for people who wanted to continue their recovery. I got interested since New Life offers tools such as mindfulness and other things to help in your journey of self development. After coming here I realized that New Life has turned into something so much bigger than that, and people come here as volunteers, guests and residents for all sorts of personal issues; addiction, stress, burnout – all sorts of addiction actually. It is a great place for anyone who wants to do some inner work and who wants to learn and discover things about themselves. This place is very diverse, I met all sorts of people while I was here.
What have been the greatest joys and challenges while being at the New Life Foundation?
There have been quite a few challenges – everything is actually quite challenging for me here, from social interaction to the intimacy of the community. I have never before been exposed to this kind of intimacy with new people, it is like openness and closeness at the same time. I find that a bit difficult since I have some traumas from the past which made me scared of getting close to people, but I begin to open up here. Moreover, I have problems with social anxiety which is very challenging because this is a very social place. It has also been challenging to do all this inner work, to be honest with people, with the life coaches, in the workshops, and with myself. The meditation is challenging because you have to sit still, focus your mind and concentrate, and the schedule can be challenging as well. So there are a lot of challenges, but the greatest joys are the benefits you enjoy from going through them! After you have challenged yourself to do something that is outside of your comfort zone you become stronger, you become more confident. Just being able to build relationships with people, to build friendships with people who are so warm and kind and open to you and your journey, and who also share their own journey with you, that in itself is a joy!
A couple of weeks ago you told us that, “Now I have finally arrived here”. What did that arrival feel like?
Yes, now I am finally arriving, after 3 months! I had actually taken a break, last December I went home to see my family, and I felt that the first month that I had been here in New Life I didn’t take everything that seriously, I was kind of just floating around. But when I came back I felt that I started to open up to the experience, to what New Life and the people have to offer. It has been very rewarding, and I now feel that I have started to actually do some work! When you open yourself up, the rewards just keep coming, you keep growing and growing and it’s beautiful!
Is there anything special that you have learned here that you will take with you when you leave?
I have learned a ton here, I don’t even know where to begin! Learning ways to be mindful and to approach life mindfully, that has been a very good tool for my recovery. The meditation has been great, I feel that I have calmed down a lot. Somebody recently told me that I have a “serene aura” around me, which nobody would usually say about me! I have learned to be courageous and to open myself to others, to be honest. My life coaches have been great, they have taught me a lot and only being here to experience this place has taught me something different. In general, I am determined to take my whole experience in Thailand and New Life home with me.
When you go home, what does a New Life look like to you?
A healthy life, a mindful life! It is a very good question and I am not sure exactly how to answer it, but it will be a lot better life! I work in an office back home, but I am also considering going back to school. I have learned so much here and I want to open up to all these new possibilities about what I want to do with my life. But whatever I decide to do, I definitely want to come back here one day, as New Life’s biggest success story!