For the past four days I’ve been studying with Pichest. He teaches from his house near the village of Hang Dong. So each morning I walk about 20 minutes from the guest house to the Chiang Mai gate on the south side of the old city.
There I get a few things from the market for lunch and then cross the road to get the yellow songtaew.
Songtaew translates as ‘two rows’ and refers to the two bench seats along each side. There is also a small platform on the back for a few more people to hang on. They stop wherever people flag them down or whenever someone inside rings the bell.
The ride to my stop takes about 20 minutes along a fairly fast dual carriageway road. It costs 15 baht. That’s about 30p.
From the drop off point on the main road it’s a short walk past some rice paddies to Pichest’s.
The day starts with the chanting of Buddhist prayers. (Fortunately there are some crib sheets with a romanised version of the Pali language.) Then Pichest gives a talk on the principles underlying the massage and the importance of being at the right place in your heart. This often strays into a commentary on what’s wrong with the world. As his English is eccentric this varies between baffling, insightful and comedic.
However, once he starts working with someone you are left in no doubt that he is a genius. Just be watching the way someone moves and a few light touches of the fingers he knows all about you. Not only what aches and pains you might have but also how you probably got them plus what has been going on in your emotional life and the state of your digestive system.
He gets the whole class to feel someone’s body and experince for themselves how it seems for them. Then he demonstrates some techniques to help.
His whole philosophy is that it is important to listen to what is going on in the client’s body and equally to one’s own body and not to blindly follow a routine which might do more harm than good. That might sound obvious but as he says, this is not somethig he or anyone else can put into words.
We try to practice these principles on each other, mostly making ourselves more and more aware of how far we have to go in this journey.