Getting A Life at New Life Foundation

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
New Life Foundation

Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ever since I met Niamh in Nepal I had intentions of volunteering at New Life Foundation (NLF), a mindful, recovery community for those suffering from addiction and depression. Located 24km from Chiang Rai, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to settle in somewhere for an extended period of time.

The facility offers accommodation, meals, counseling, meditation, yoga and sustainable living to recovering addicts before transitioning back into society. Most of the recovering addicts are coming out of an intense detox at a monastery near Bangkok called Tam Krabock, the same program where the founders of the foundation got sober.

New Life functions with the help of many Western travelers, who for a nominal fee based on length of stay, assist with the various community chores. I was happy to get my hands dirty working in the garden and building mud huts when needed, but where I felt most useful was giving morning or afternoon yoga classes.

A typical day at NLF consists of 5:30AM Meditation; 6:00AM yoga; 7:00AM breakfast in silence; 8:00AM mandatory morning meeting where work assignments are handed out and as well as an opportunity to welcome new arrivals or bid farewell to new friends; 9:00-11:00AM work duty; 12:00PM lunch; 1:00-2:00PM free time for swimming, relaxing; 2:00PM resident's group therapy while volunteers return to afternoon work assignment; 5:00-7:00PM yoga, tai chi, basketball, art steam room, etc.; 7:00PM dinner; evenings free with options for massage class, movie night or special activity. Weekends are slightly different with an organized run to Central mall for food shopping and easy access to downtown Chiang Rai. If there isn’t a scheduled retreat, someone organizes an optional excursion to surrounding tourist attractions.

During my five week stay the maximum amount of residents, volunteers and guests combined hovered between 30 and 40 people. It is common, as in my case, for people to come for a week but stay for a month or two. Longing for consistency it was difficult to witness the ebb and flow as people transition through here but I can say that I made a couple of true friends during my stay. I think my favorite moments were: getting dirty while building a mud hut; picking fresh tomatoes, green beans and herbs from the garden and teaching yoga to those with varied abilities.

In addition to the 12 steps, NLF utilizes Enneagram testing to help those in recovery. Also available to volunteers for a fee, the Enneagram is a personality assessment based on one’s emotional outlook on life. I took the test and can’t say I was surprised to learn that I am classified as a Type One, aka The Perfectionist or The Reformer. The underlying motivation of a One is to be "right" with a global view that “Many things in the world are wrong, therefore I must correct them.” I obviously identify with the fact that the average Ones are driven by their “inner-critic” and as a One I’ve been battling that perspective my whole life. An ongoing effort, I feel working through this assessment in both individual and group sessions have helped me. I’m learning to resist that natural instinct and shift my actions to one of acceptance.

I believe NLF offers a positive environment for both residents and volunteers. In the short time I was there, I witnessed them make some necessary improvements. Ultimately everyone’s experience will differ based on who is there at the moment. I certainly learned a lot during my stay and am especially grateful to quite a few for their exemplary display of community.
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