Due to the increasing speed with which we live our lives, our inability to live in the moment and practice mindfulness is a fading reality. For many of us our bountiful opportunities for active meditations such as walking, cooking or simply reading have dwindled due to hectic transit, fast food and technological interruptions. The Western world has begun to turn to Eastern philosophies and practices in an attempt to find a balance in this new millennium.
In 2010 Belgian entrepreneur Johan Hansen was interested in the healing powers of Buddhism and mindfulness, and wanted to provide a program for those in need. He bought 63 acres of property near the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and donated the land to establishing a community where people from all over the world could take the time to start a new life. Thus the non-profit New Life Foundation was born.
The foundation offers an affordable healing space to those suffering from burnout, stress, abuse, trauma, and depression. Therapies offered include mindfulness, meditation, and yoga classes, workshops, life coaching sessions, and various support groups that address issues such as social anxiety and addiction.
Community members share the workload in the kitchen, help with general maintenance of the foundation, and engage in sustainable farming and earth building. At New Life everyone is connected by a common purpose and actively engage in learning from each other: staff, residents and volunteers. There is even the opportunity to care for a family of rambunctious dairy cows and a flock of highly-strung ducks.
“Over the past decades researchers and mental health professionals have been discovering that mindfulness practice can alleviate many kinds of psychological suffering. Mindfulness helps us understand what lies at the root of our behaviour and thus it has the power to transform negative habits, making our lives rich and meaningful.”
New Life aims to provide a unique learning environment where residents can learn to nurture and maintain their recovery.
Many people who come to New Life have benefited from the support offered by the caring community, the regular mindfulness practices based primarily on Buddhist techniques, as well as the close connection to nature that can be found at the foundation, which is set amongst hills, lakes, and forestland.
“Our philosophy is that we believe that mindfulness will help us face our everyday and long-term loss, disappointments, and difficulties. We enjoy the life we have, instead of escaping or fantasising about some other life. By being more aware of our body, thoughts and emotions we will receive signals about what is out of balance. Mindfulness teaches us to respect and welcome these signals instead of pushing them away.”
The response to the project has been amazing and the foundation is expanding so fast that more space was needed for life coaching and therapy. Without skipping a beat, the New Life crew enthusiastically put together a fundraising flash mob in June, and successfully raised more than 12,000 USD towards a new adobe building. Volunteers will begin construction after the Thai rain season ends in October.
As it grows, New Life continues to be a thriving, eclectic community where many inspiring people from all walks of life come to learn, heal, and support one another. For more information or to get involved please check out the foundation’s website www.newlifethaifoundation.com
A big thank you to Tavy Vorng and Roberta Margison from the team at New Life for sharing your story with us.
*If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, Pocket Robin encourages you to search for a local helpline or centre near you.