I have just finished my fourth week at the International Thai Massage School in Chiang Mai. Exams were passed and diplomas awarded, but I feel that I have barely scratched the surface. It was an amazing experience and I look forward to getting back home and practicing on some willing bodies. Because that is what I need: lots and lots of practice. Knowing the movements is one thing; making it flow together seamlessly with the correct pressure is something else. I realize that I am at the beginning of a long journey, rather similar to the feeling that I had when I finished teacher training for yoga – I felt like I was ready to start to learn. It was not the finish of a learning program but rather the beginning of a practicum.
I must say that this ancient form of Thai massage – Nuad Bo-Rarn – never ceases to amaze me. Each time that I have laid down and given my body for someone else's practice, I have closed my eyes and just floated off to some other place. As soon as their hands touched my feet, I was gone, in some other Universe. It was extraordinary. It felt like the rhythmic movements were directly in synch with the natural frequency of my body. When thumbs or fingers touched those acupressure points or stimulated those “SEN” energy lines I could feel buzzing all down my legs and arms. I walked back from class at the end of each day and my legs were like jelly. This was no ordinary massage; this was different.
At the beginning, when we practiced, we had difficulty in locating the acupressure points, since they are very precise. But now, when someone finds one on my leg or arm or torso, it is like an electric shock through my nervous system. My whole body lights up as the energy is stimulated – chi or ki or prana or whatever you wish to call it. This truly is the Universe at work.
It is at times like this that I feel a renewal of faith, a sense of comfort that at the heart of things, at the center of all of us, is an energy, a chi, a life force, a soul or spirit. It is not dependent on breath or food for its existence; it exists already. That spirit is not dependent on other people to maintain its purity or to prepare it for a better life: it needs no third party or translator. It just needs our own attention.
I believe this: we are given bodies for a while to allow the chi to move and live in a different dimension, a physical form. Then, when that time is over, there is another form, maybe the original or real form to which we revert. And that is why I realize now that I am not afraid of the concept of death; it is just a transition from one form to another. But the energy, the chi, the soul or spirit, will continue unaffected. I may regret that physical loss or even fear the act of dying, but the result is inevitable: I live now so that I may die at some future point. Bearing that in mind certainly helps me keep a perspective on the world around me. Remember the Delai Lama's comments on the humanity of Man.
There is a writing in the Bahá'i faith that draws a perfect analogy:
“To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed after the cage is broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the destruction of the cage.”
A good friend of mine sent me those words after Marianne died. They helped me then and they continue to help me now.
Each time I have practiced this ancient form of massage I have been reminded that the chi is there within me. I cannot measure it on an instrument; I cannot see it deflect a dial. But I can recognize its presence in the buzzing in my limbs, in the way I feel. It is my job to cherish it, to maintain it, to protect it so that it is fit and healthy for me when I need it the most – in my next life. I hope this ancient Nuad Bo-Rarn will be another way to do that.
I did not expect that studying this ancient form of massage would bring me to these conclusions. I don't know why I am surprised. It is really just one more way to open a door to the core of our being – another way to make that journey from the outside in. It is a connection between the body and the mind and eventually the spirit – just another kind of yoga.
Same, same but different.