Why ten days as a volunteer turned into four months as a resident

By Yael

Yael, TestimonialI came to New Life as a volunteer and the idea was to stay for ten days and then move on to India. I really did not know what to expect and I thought I’d just do some nice volunteer work for ten days.

I was so wrong!

After a few days, some of the issues I have been dealing with came up and I realised I was in the right place at the right time to work on them. I had done some meaningful therapy process in the past but never in a setting like this, working on myself everyday, with like minded people surrounding me and with support all over from staff and life coaches. In less than a week I switched to being a resident and stayed as a resident for four months in total (with a one month break after six weeks).

I would do things to escape from any moment that didnt feel “good”

Leaving New Life after just six weeks, I was able to see how much I had changed in such a short while. In this month away travelling, I felt so much gratitude just for being alive and well. I realised I learned to enjoy the simple things life had to offer me. Being in nature or eating a nice meal or just being with good friends. I realised how lucky I am to be where I was and to be given this once in a lifetime opportunity to work on myself in order to heal and to flourish.

Although I didn’t come to New Life because of addiction issues in the traditional sense, I do think that, like many people, I was addicted (and probably still am to some degree) to disassociation. Meaning I would do things to escape from any moment that didnt feel “good” or pleasant. I’d use various forms of escape, from occasional substance abuse to social media.

“Mindfulness helped me to be more connected to whatever it is that is happening at the moment”

I had looked into mindfulness before I came to New Life, but I never established a routine practice. Having experienced the daily mindfulness practices at New Life, I quickly found that this helps me be more connected to whatever it is that is happening at the moment, more connected to myself, to other people, and to nature. I am trying to keep up with the practice and I notice the change it brings into my life.

There were so many things I liked about being in New Life. I liked the daily schedule, waking up to a walk around the beautiful lake at sunrise, eating a healthy breakfast in the beautiful gardens, and spending the rest of the day being mindful in every activity. I also loved the weekends, resting by the pool or just hanging out with friends.

A real challenge for me in the beginning of the experience was the weekly hugging meditation. This practice seemed weird to me, too intimate and maybe even a bit fake.
After a few weeks, it became the meditation practice I actually looked forward to all week long. In many cases, the intimacy I felt with other people during hugging meditation would turn my day around and make me feel connected, loving and loved. It reminded me of how much we all need human connection, how much we all need a comforting touch. It was simple and beautiful and it warmed my heart almost every time.

“I feel I have learned how to be more honest with myself”

I think it’s safe to say that what I liked most about New Life were the amazing people I had the opportunity to meet. People from all over the world, all there to make a difference in their lives, to learn more about themselves and to develop. I feel so grateful to have met some of the people I have and these are friendships I will take with me for life.

Having lived at New Life for four months, my life was impacted in so many ways. I feel that my communication with people has improved, I learned how to be more honest,  which allows others to do the same. Moreover, I feel I have learned how to be more honest with myself, learning to identify, and then to accept, how I feel.  Feeling my emotions to the extent they need to be felt, and then letting them go without attaching to the story my mind tells me about them (It is a process;)).

“Self-compassion helped me stay present through the rough times at New Life”

Also of great importance to me, was learning to accept, even appreciate, my own defense mechanisms. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and they helped me survive when nothing else worked. Today I have a lot of respect for the ways I handled things in the past. I understand that some of the behaviors I used to be ashamed of, were, simply, me doing the best I could in order to cope with reality. I can respect this today and be kinder to myself as a result.

One teaching that helped me stay present through the rough times at New Life was self-compassion. I slowly learned that, especially in the hard times, being kind, accepting and loving (yes, loving..!) to myself is the most skilful thing that I can do. With acceptance, change of habitual thoughts or ideas often follows naturally.

“We all deal with the same stuff, only from different angles”

I came to New Life with the intention to go to India soon after. My money (most of it loans) was literally running out and there was no way for me to fund more of the residence program. However, I knew how important the experience was for my healing process. I applied for a scholarship and was given a one month scholarship and another second month for half the price. I could not have done it any other way and I will be forever grateful to New Life for allowing me this life changing experience.

I think the most precious gift I received from my stay at New Life was the gift of common humanity. Living in an open and honest community where sharing one’s feelings openly is accepted and even encouraged, has taught me that we all share the same insecurities, the same anxieties and worries. We all deal with the same stuff, only from different angles. At the end, we all just want to be loved and accepted. This realization is a corner stone on the path of self-compassion and self-love.

As a non-profit foundation, we are reliant on the support of paying volunteers and the generosity of our donors and supporters. Last year we were able to offer 28 scholarships thanks to your valued contributions. We need 900,000 baht ($25,000) in order to offer 3 full scholarships per month, with the average length of scholarship being approx. 3 months. Please help us to maintain the scholarship program for 2016 by sponsoring a resident.

Read more inspiring New Life testimonials:

Marisha’s story: “How the New Life scholarship literally saved my life”

Jorn’s story: “Why I would recommend New Life to anyone considering recovery”

Jojo’s story: The scholarship program “gave me breathing space to heal”

Joey’s story: “Coming to New Life has been the most transformative experience in my life”

Patrick’s story: “The tools I learned at New Life gave me a newfound balance in my life”

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