Bangkok Communities: New Spirit – The Human Touch

BKK OX spoke to Kittikhun Bhukhongkha (Big), who is one member of three, who make up the organization, New Spirit. Three people, one powerful vision – a Thailand which is human again. They are re-training Thai society, and its teachers, through public forums and workshops, how to connect with their inner human.

New Spirit are swimming against the strong current of society, much like the fish in their logo. They are swimming back to the roots of humanity, human connection and face-to-face communication. They are swimming back to the old spirit, which was buried under concrete blocks.

New Spirit is a small, closely knit group of three people from the Suan Nguen Mee Ma Social Enterprise, a bookshop and green café located near Wat Rajabopit in the old town area of Bangkok. The team of three are: Woranut Churuangsuk (Mi) Nongluk Sukjaicharoenkij (Kyo) and Kittikhun Bhukhongkha (Big).

“We are not only selling books, we also sell the new paradigm of a meaningful life.”

Khun “Big” – Member of New Spirit

The technological age has created a mass of individuals who engage in less human dialogue than ever before. If people can’t engage in dialogue and share their thoughts, feelings and fears, where does it all go? Often it stays locked up inside our bodies and creates chaos. New Spirit is fighting to bring back the old human spirit to our “modern” world. 

“New spirit is the old spirit that we forgot. The spirit of community and people around the campfire sharing stories. We used to have such a warm neighbourhood, but now where is that? There are a lot of fences being built, solid, concrete walls separate us. We are trying to bring back human contact.” 

Khun “Big” – Member of New Spirit

New Spirit are one part of a growing movement here in Thailand – for a better world. They challenge the conventional path, and have been presenting an alternative way of life here for the last five years. Their bold stance is to incorporate ‘humanity’ in every aspect of life. These times are critical and intervention is needed, young people are taking their own lives in shocking numbers.

How does New Spirit work in practice? They host public forums, where people can share, listen and reconnect with themselves and others. They translate and publish international books, carefully selected and aimed at bringing new ideas to Thai society. They co-run a series of 4-5 day workshops, which provide a welcoming space for leading educators to retreat and rediscover themselves. These lecturers reclaim their feelings, their love for what they do, love for their students and consequently their passion for teaching. 

This workshop is called: “Courage to Teach”, inspired by the Parker J. Palmer book. Mr Nuttarote Wangwinyoo, founder of Kwan Pan Din Training Institution, recommended this book to be published by New Spirit. The book was translated, published and then launched as a cooperative workshop. In doing so, New Spirit and Kwan Pan Din launched a rebellion against the Thai education system, presenting Palmer’s humanist ideas that “when the person at the front of the classroom changes, the entire classroom will change also”.

After five years of relentless effort by New Spirit, positive changes have started to manifest in “mainstream” education. A growing number of Universities are incorporating humanist ideas into their curriculum design and teaching. The highest profile change to curriculum was the Communication and Leadership course, introduced to the faculty of Engineering, Kasetsart University.  In this course, students of Engineering got the opportunity to connect with each other, as humans, as well as study together.  

“Some students told us they have never shared their life with their friends, they have never got close enough to truly know their friends. So they have class mates, but they still feel lonely inside.”

Khun “Big” – Member of New Spirit

“After the Leadership and Communication workshop at Kasestart, they felt connected, like they had a second family. Someone to talk to when they fall down. The students became a community. In a society which likes to compartmentalize us into individual units, we need this human connection.”

Khun “Big” – Member of New Spirit

“Changed people change people”. How did this revolutionary change in curriculum happen? A lecturer from Kasetsart University, who attended the “Courage to Teach” workshop, organized in-house training for her fellow lecturers. The workshop inspired educators to reconsider the conventional method of teaching. In the new age, ”teaching as preaching” will soon be irrelevant as knowledge is available at the fingertips. The human aspect in teaching has never been so vital.

New Spirit receives funding from the government through money which comes from alcohol and cigarette tax. The money is used to run events, aimed at re-connecting people to their inner selves. This idea was met with suspicion when they started, but is now growing in numbers and influence all around the country. The human rebellion has begun. Education is now the talk of the town, but it took some time for the message to spread that something wasn’t right. 

“At first, even though we are a Buddhist country, when we said the word “spirit” people were not very comfortable. People are not comfortable talking about their inner landscape. They thought: Are you some kind of cult or new religion? Are you smoking a lot of weed? Now, people are getting more used to the word “spirit” in our public forums. People talk a lot more about the essence of life.”

Khun “Big” – Member of New Spirit

Creating dialogue is fundamental to the strength of any movement. New Spirit, through their public forums, are able to generate dialogue, introduce new ideas and concepts, new paradigms of life, to groups of people across Thailand. The discussion snowballs as the message is spread around the country. 

Courage to Teach, New Spirit’s powerful intervention into Thailand’s authoritarian education system, has literally impacted hundreds of thousands of lives and continues to do so today, as more institutions climb on board. 

“When a teacher comes to our workshop, we follow up with the teachers, we interview the students. In one year a teacher has, in most cases, several hundred students, and 30 teachers come to our work-shops each time, which means at least 10,000 students are being directly impacted by a single workshop.”

Khun “Big” – Member of New Spirit

New Spirit are not exclusively targeting educators, their funding is equally being spent on staging public events, such as the upcoming “Secret Garden” workshop, and “Places of the Soul”, a forum, based on a book by Christopher Day, which talks about about how the architecture and environmental design of a place, can change how we feel. 

Each event staged by New Spirit promotes inner exploration, sharing, and deep listening. This is something which is rarely promoted in society, yet affects everything we do. The well-being and happiness of the nation has played second fiddle as industrialization, modernization, numbers and statistics took over. Yet as individuals, our thoughts and feelings inside become our actions outside. Why are we surprised when we see depressed young people taking their own lives? Now the dialogue is changing, and the human movement is gaining momentum around Thailand. 

“There are many people in society who know the alternative way of life is possible, but they don’t know if it’s right or wrong, or if it’s just their imagination. When they come to our workshops, they gain confidence when they meet other people who think the same. There is an alternative way, which is outside the current of modern society.”

Khun “Big” – Member of New Spirit

“Life is not one single route, or one running track. When rebels come together that is powerful enough to make a change.”

Khun “Big” – Member of New Spirit

BKK OX is proud to support this inspiring Bangkok community, New Spirit, who seek to bring back the human connection to Thailand’s next generation. 

Upcoming Workshops:

  • “Secret Garden” – August 17th, 2019

Upcoming Public Forum (half-day):

  • “Places of the Soul” – August 31st, 2019

For news and events from the New Spirit team, please visit:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeNewSpirit

For more information and articles on the “Courage to Teach workshop”, please visit: https://kruklasorn.org/

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