It’s been nearly two weeks since I got to Chiang Mai. I am staying in a wonderful guesthouse in the old city, use a rented bicycle as my main mode of transport, and have made lots of new friends.
The Advanced course is over, I have a beautiful diploma to certify that I have passed the required level set by the State of Thailand to call myself a Thai Massage Therapist.
Now for something completely different… After a well deserved weekend, including 2 lazy morning sleep-ins, wonderful luncheons with my girlfriends and massage; I got myself back to school on Monday morning, especially early…
On the Sunday afternoon, I received a massage from Ms. V, a very famous personality here in Chiang Mai, as she uses a very special technique called the “nerve touch massage”. And yes, it is as painful as it sounds. She basically plays the nerves like one may play the guitar cords, and it’s a bit… unnerving (no pun intended) and particularly painful.
I asked her to focus on my shoulder injury, since it still does not have the mobility and confidence the other one has. She was quite perplexed as to why it took such a long time to heal. She got to work on my cervicales, thoracic cage, shoulder and down my arm.
I did shed a tear for the work she did on the web between my thumb and my index finger on the left side. Horrendous pain!
When I got up, not only could I move my arm in all directions (I broke my clavicle in 2 places, with a displacement one and a half year ago) but it felt free and normal! The predomimant feeling was actually the lack of feeling: the tension had simply disappeared. I was impressed.
Of course she told me I had to use the arm, and do specific exercices everyday and for a while if I wanted the mobility to stay. I’ve been swimming in Thailand, and she suggested Yoga also.
So I applied her advice the following morning. 7am is yoga class at the Sunshine School… A very early start, especially that I am not a morning person. ANyway I made it,only to discover that I was the only one attending, and I got personal tuition with the sweetest teacher I have ever met. She is very tolerant with my lack of flexibility. Compared to a Westerner, I amactually relatively flexible. Compared to Thai people, I am the stiffest person they’ve ever met. She is very patient and teaching me the basic moves of Ashtanga yoga. I am told it is not the best way to start Yoga, but it suits me because the other types I find just too boring.
After a good hour of yoga, a cold shower and a rice soup, I was ready to go to my Chi class. Chi is the name for energy in Chinese Medicine. It is very different from Thai. Chi travels along meridiens (that are slightly different to the Thai ones) and have trigger points (much like the ones Baaw taught me) that correspond to organs or specific diseases.
It is very interesting stuff. The techniques are easy for me, as they resemble the ones I have learnt at osteopathy school in my visceral class. I have impressed everyone with my knowledge of visceral anatomy. Even the teacher. And that’s a problem because I know more than her on that point, and her knowledge is, well, bad. So once I got over this frustrating point, I have really enjoyed the course.
The teacher is a little bit “airy-fairy” but it’s not surprising as we are working on meridiens, rather than actual physical points. We’re doing some wonderful techniques, and she brings a lot of case histories and talks about her “miracle” patients. I have not heard her use that name, but that’s what I like to call the people that see such a difference after treatment they want to kiss my feet/marry me/give me lots of money.
The problem with working only on the abdomen 6h a day, is that is gets sore. We get traditional Thai Herbal Compresses at the end of the day, but it’s not enough. And my gut have been playing up. And it’s horrible to be worked on after breakfast or lunch. So I got an idea. A fast.
I have been eating foods that are very different to what I am used to, since I only stick to Thai food here (very different from a lot of tourists who seem to alternate between pizzas and burgers) and I’ve been doing well gut-wise so far. But it seemed like the right time to really flush out my system and strengthen my immune system. The course is not really challenging, so it is ok if I am feeling a bit weak or tired.
Monday was my detox day, I had very simple foods with basic rice soup in the morning, broth for lunch, and a non-spice mushroom soup for dinner. Tuesday I started on water. Yoga felt wonderful, I could feel my body in a very intense way.
Wednesday was more difficult. The second day for me is the tough day. I felt dizzy as soon as I stood up, felt weak in the legs and generally felt ill and nauseous. I could not cope with Yoga so my teacher gave me a relaxing face massage instead. My classmates helped me out too, and after class four of them were working on me, massaging my feet, doing herbal compresses on my tummy and chest, and working on my head and neck. Wonderful feeling.
Today was my third day on water. I felt much better than yesterday, even though we stuck with Yoga on the floor (no standing poses) and I got another neck massage! I am spoilt!
For lunch, I diluted two tablespoons of filtered, organic beetroot juice into my glass of water, if felt great! The afternoon passed smoothly, as the change of taste helped me out.
Tonight I was treated to more herbal compresses, and one of the girls treated my legs. The warmth I felt down my legs as she was working was astonishing. Such a big effect after only a few minutes… This girl is very talented, she studies with one of the masters here in Chiang Mai and is very special.
Tonight, I will stick to water, and tomorrow I may start having more diluted juices. I found a great organic shop close to school where I can purchase them very cheaply.
Tomorrow is the last day, I guess we will have an examination on what we have learned this week. I am not particularly worried as the hands-on stuff is easy and I’ve been working on the theory and doing homework every night of the week.
What I particularly appreciate about this class and the group of people I am doing it with, is that here everyone has that particular sensitivity I seem to have developed. Feeling heat from the patient is normal, getting pins and needles in the hands and feet, having flashes… is part of everyday treatment life. The teacher actually diagnoses from smells, she can smell a bad gall bladder, or an enlarged kidney… Which is amazing! And it’s not the farts she’s smelling! It’s the general body odour, and the specific smells on the person.
Today, she worked on a guy who must be in his sixties – an American hippy I have a lot of respect for, who went onhunger strike against the Vietnam War and now lives in India – who has a weak heart valve. As she worked on the heart area, this insane smell of burnt filled my nostrils. She mentioned it also, most the others could not smell anything. I checked the Chinese Medicine chart: burnt smell corresponds to a burned out heart, like in heart failure or weak valves. Wow.
I am in awe with all the small things I have discovered so far this week. Not so much the techniques, or even the course; but this first approach to Chinese Medicine and the wonderful people I am surrounded with is the best way I could have spent my week.
I love the idea that I am not a freak… and I feel like I am touching one of the reasons I came out here and took this year for in the first place. I am starting to get answers, and I will continue my research in Chine directly, after my travels to Australia and the Aboriginals.
The prospect is so incredible exciting!
And of course I miss my family, my friends, my lifestyle, my job, my patients, French food… but what I have found out about this week, learning to know about this part of me, makes it all worth it.
Next week, and once I have resumed to normal eating habits, I have planned to go even deeper and really find out more stuff about myself: I am going to do a 10-day silent meditation retreat in a temple outside Chiang Mai.
Apparently, the rules are strict: everyone must wear white at all times, no music, no books, no talking (except to your tutor once a day, to see how you are getting on), no chewing after midday (which means food is served only in the morning, and that’s very basic vegetarian food) and lots of quiet time.
After the last marathon few months, planning my departure, learning lots and getting treatment by many different people, so time alone will do me good. Which means from Monday I will not have any Internet connexion for 10 days approximately, so no freaking out!
Until then, I am making the most of my time, I will be visiting temples this weekend to decide which I like best, getting back to delicious Thai food, but only after a day or two of juices and fruit, simple foods and probably no meat until I finish my retreat. Since we won’t be eating much at the Temple, I am glad to be fasting now, so as to keep my stomach nice and small and not get hungry all the time!
I have talked to other people who have done it before, and they said the food eating patterns were actually fine.
I am looking forward to it all, I am learning so much about so many things! It makes me tired and I get to bed around 9pm… Feels fantastic.
This is a video of one of the masters in Thai Massage in Chiang Mai, to give you an idea of the sort of stuff I am learning here.