Volunteering at New Life Foundation, Part II

In Part I, I wrote about why I chose to volunteer at New Life.

Part II: Farming & The Daily Routine

Each day at New Life is filled with meaningful activities that keep me occupied throughout the day. It feels nice to have a daily schedule again, a temporary relief from the chore of the constantly planning moment to moment when on the move.

Here is my daily schedule during the weekdays:

5:30am – Wake up
6-7am – Yoga or Tai Chi
7-8am – Have breakfast in silence
8-8:30am – Daily morning meeting
8:30-11:00am – Farming
11am-12pm – Break, shower
12-1pm – Lunch
1-3:30pm – More farming
4-6pm – Shower, yoga, meditation
6-7 pm- Dinner
7-9pm – Lecture, movie, group sharing
9-11pm – Reflect, write, prepare for bed

Every morning I eat breakfast in silence, reading a card with Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Five Contemplations for Mindful Eating”. Eventually, I remember this prayer:

“This food is a gift of the earth, the sun, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard work.
Let us eat with gratitude and awareness so we may be worthy to receive it.

Let us recognize and transform our unskilled states of mind, especially our greed.

Let us eat in such a way that reduces the suffering of all living beings, sustains the planet, and reverses the process of global warming.

Clearly in this food, we see the universe supporting our existence.”

I love how the prayer encapsulates gratitude (recognize the amount of work it took to bring this food to you), mindfulness (be aware of your greed and desire to eat more than you need), and environmentalism (be aware of where your food comes from, and if it’s grown in a way that is good for the planet).

How Was the Farming Experience?

Oh yea, I came here to farm…

Organic farming is hard! The weather is warm and humid. I spend five hours a day farming banana trees. This requires hoeing away weeds and pulling them out by hand (no pesticides here), which is laborious. This is followed by digging a trench around the tree, and then filling that trench with manure. Using this method, I fertilized about eight banana trees a day. There were other chores available, like waste management (sorting recyclables out of the trash, composting), milking the two cows on the farm, or building & construction. It seems like farming is the least popular of these activities since it is the most laborious, toiling away in the soil. While I am curious to milk cows ( just a little), or do some construction, I realize that I am only volunteering here two weeks. So I wanted to get as much farming experience as I could.


Digging a trench around a banana tree.


A field of banana trees and my fellow teammates.


Sometimes rain would interfere with our farming schedule; this meant free time during our scheduled shift.

After I finish farming for the day, I partake in activities like yoga or meditation before dinner. After dinner there is usually a lecture we can attend. The entire day is energizing, filled with personal growth and learning.

Do You Love Yourself?

One day I found this on the door to my room. Someone had been been assigned a random act of kindness that day. This person had left a mindful quote on everyone’s door.

Note on my door

I read the above quote, feeling it was destined for me, and reflected on it. During my Vipassana retreat, I did learn that there is a part of me that I did not love. I realize that I need to be compassionate to myself. This is a simple quote that can easily be overlooked, but I am in the right environment and state of mind to receive its blessing.

You Are Powerful Beyond Measure

There is a particularly special activity after dinner one evening in Forest Hall. I arrive to find a small group of eight people seated in a circle, Indian-style, on meditation cushions. The speaker reads the quote below. We then meditate for five minutes, reflecting on what the quote means to us. Afterwards, the floor is opened for us to provide our input, but there is no pressure to speak. The quote feels particularly significant to me, as Cherry had sent me this quote just days before.

Powerful Beyond MEasure

Being a special quote to me, I share my interpretation that evening. After a few moments of silence pass, I begin by speaking on how I had recently gone on a ten-day Vipassana retreat, and had learned about a side of myself, a side that I didn’t love. That I always wanted to be humble, but I now realized I was too humble; to the point that I was fearing my own light. I learned that I needed to focus on my brilliance, my talents, and allow my spirit to live up to its potential. I ended by expressing gratitude for having the courage to go backpacking, and to have found my way to this moment at New Life.

After I’m done speaking, others in the circle share their thoughts; some feel similar to how I did. One person describes how he had just graduated from college, and how he feels inadequate now, having done everything right, but not being able to get a job. Another person describes how she fears the darkness, not the light. Another person in the circle had just arrived at New Life this day; I could see in her face that she was uncomfortable, not ready to be vulnerable and open up to the group. It’s not easy to just open up and share your deepest feelings. And this is the beauty of New Life Foundation, to create this special environment where you can.

Through mindful eating, mindful farming, yoga, meditation, and activities like the above, my days were spent cultivating not only land, but a  healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Next post: The Weekends at New Life Foundation

2 thoughts on “Volunteering at New Life Foundation, Part II

  1. Pingback: Volunteering at New Life, Part III | Ankur Wat

  2. Pingback: Volunteering at New Life Foundation, Part I | Ankur Wat

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