Elfi, an Austrian now living in Thailand, learned about New Life Foundation from an email forwarded by a friend. As soon as she saw the retreat announcement, Elfi decided she’d attend without even knowing the details. She came to recover from a serious medical condition. Only two weeks ago, she had stents put in her heart after suffering a heart attack.
She says at New Life there are so many different nationalities and people of ages who live in friendship together, and this is hard to find. She also sees that New Life gives volunteers and residents “the time to create.” For example, the mud brick building team has been building a new meditation hall for several months. She thought it was wonderful to be able to hold our first retreat in the new hall, which has a warm, earthy feel. Elfi noticed that New Life staff and team leaders don’t order people around; everyone has to find himself. She believes New Life is a great place for retirees to volunteer.
Regarding Lama Rinchen, a Tibetan lama (Buddhist monk), who was born in Tibet and now lives in Nepal, Elfi says, “he’s a very nice guy, very friendly, very open. He told us interesting stories about the life of the Buddha, but he’s not forcing us to change our religion. The Lama teaches about helping yourself first before you’re able to help others.” Elfi loved his good sense of humor and that he’s very down-to-earth.
Monica, from Holland, heard about New Life through a friend who is enthusiastic about the retreats here. She was hesitant about a ten-day retreat, but five days was just perfect. She really enjoyed the silent breakfast. Monica said she was very happy to see the energy, power, and good intentions at New Life. She also loves the beautiful area in which New Life is located. Being interested in mud brick building, she will definitely return as a volunteer to work on earth building.
She found Lama Rinchen to be knowledgeable and profound. She especially liked his teachings about laziness and forgetfulness as hindrances to meditation and Buddhist practice. Often the Lama would laugh a hearty belly laugh after making a comment.
Monica’s take-away from the retreat: in meditation it’s most important to practice, practice, practice.
Yuzu, from Chiang Mai, learned about the New Life from the Green Papaya Sangha’s website. She sees great intentions and great surroundings at New Life. “It’s also well-organized and professional. All her emails were answered quickly,” she says.
Yuzu had never studied Tibetan Buddhism. Although she has meditated many times, she had never meditated with her eyes half-open until this retreat. Surprisingly, she liked it and wants to continue at home. She found the Lama’s teachings structured and informative. She plans to come back to New Life as a volunteer.
Amber, from the United States, learned about New Life from Julien, our co-director. She attended a retreat at New Life a year ago. Having enjoyed it, she decided to return. She says New Life “has grown in a positive way.”
Monica thinks in the West Buddhism is la-la-la. By this, she means that Buddhism is sometimes just the vogue or fashionable thing to study and the teachings aren’t taken seriously. But at New Life she found real teachers and real teachings that have been passed on through the centuries.
Monica says, “all transformations are already inside us. We can be given tools, but in the end, it’s about being able to go inward.” She notes that New Life gives people the opportunity to find, or rediscover, themselves and that Buddhism gives us the opportunity to go beyond the idea of self. She says, “New Life can talk about addicts staying clean and give them tools to help but in the end the addict must use them.”
Ram, from Bangkok, learned about New Life from littlebang.org. She attended previous New Life retreats. She really likes the agricultural projects here. She thinks that trying to be self-sufficient is excellent. She also respects that New Life is helping people to recover their mind.
Ram had studied meditation before, but she was usually given just vague instructions. She liked that Lama Rinchen gives antidotes for difficulties in meditation. For example, anger is a hindrance to meditation. An effective antidote is regularly practice metta (loving kindness) meditation. Another hindrance to meditation is drowsiness. Antidotes are getting enough sleep each night and eating well.
During the retreat, the Lama also explained the nature of things. For example, when we look at ourselves, we name ourselves; but we weren’t born with a name. He also teaches about emptiness–there’s no real substance to anything. There’s no real chair, no real building. Knowing this helps us to think more clearly and gain more clarity with our feelings, emotions and reactions.