Тhailand - 2011. Pichest's lessons

A busy freeway №108 South-West from Chiang-Mai. A yellow songthaew brakes several kilometers before a small town of Hang Dong. Me and a couple of people I meet on the way get out on a dusty side of the road. After some meters we turn to a country road, leaving car noise behind, and within a short time we are embraced by peace and calmness of Thai village, surrounded by rice fields.

There is a sign on the gates of one house with a name of the owner - Pichest Boonthumme. I stop in front, while my fellow travelers go inside into the yard.

I heard this name about four years ago for the first time and realized at the moment - I must be here. A legendary master of Thai massage, widely known for his original approach to Thai massage teaching.

As one of my colleagues described the effect of his teaching, «it was «a brain blaster», my whole understanding of Thai massage was turned upside down and ruined here».

It was my first day of studying with Pichest, my first meeting with him. As I had already heard a lot about him and his features, I thought I was ready, but… all in order.

He speaks a lot. Unusually a lot, strangely a lot. I thought I came to work with body, but here… - my whole body is aching from such a long siting on the floor. His English…, I could hardly understand anything, my head was killing me.

Despite the fact that there was actually relaxed atmosphere in the group, I was feeling extremely tense. As it turned out later, not only me, but all the «newcomers». After lunch we finally had a possibility to practice with partners - ufff - life’s becoming better.

And despite such a difficult day (some newcomers never came back ever after), I felt that something very important was happening there, which was hard to see with eyes or describe with words. I was impatiently waiting for the next day to come.

Gradually I got used to his English, it became easy to understand him, besides he is speaking about same things all the time. It turned out that his talks are as important part of the study as massage practice, or even more so. From my point of view, everything that was happening there could be best described with an Indian word «satsang» - presence with master.

Just being present is enough, but it must be very alert, aware presence - not in your thoughts, not in your mind, but right here, in this room, with this person, being open for what he wants to give you. And slowly something begins to happen, something changes - less and less judgements, expectations, and more contact with your heart, your body.

With all that Pichest is very natural and spontaneous person. You could hardly call his movements and body gracious, the best word I could find to describe his body is «alive». Like with a 3-4 years old child - all movements are very natural.

There is a feeling that he is really present in his body. He speaks simply, all his examples are taken from life and very illustrative. In the beginning it seems that what he is saying are very simple things, even too simple. The one who said « All genius is simple» was probably right. After some time all the depth, covered with these simple words, funny (sometimes even ridiculous) examples, amusing «Pichest» words ( which his disciples often quote), started getting me.

He says that this world is ruled by «ego», describing in details how it manifests in us, gets encouraged, develops, exhausts our physical and emotional health, creating tension and stress. He speaks about how to come back to yourself, to nature, to natural and healthy living. He teaches to live not «from the mind», but from your heart and in harmony with your body. The main instruments are meditation and prayer. And, of course, practice, practice and practice… In this case - practice of Thai massage, but this is just one of many ways. Thai massage is one of the practices, which supports us on our way of self-discovery. It can be any other kind of bodywork or creativity or something else as well.

I would often catch myself associating Pichest with a Zen master ( maybe, he is one indeed?!). He even has a Zen «awareness stick», which he uses to «awaken» a disciple from «stupidity». But after it he comforts him saying: «If you are not stupid, you will never wake up. You need to be stupid first and ask stupid questions».

He can easily allow himself to be rude sometimes and to shout, winding up «ego» of a person. But we can see his love when he so patiently, day after day, year after year repeats same old truth, trying to touch heart of everyone who comes to him. And his disciples love him so much, especially those who have been with him for long, and among these there are a lot of people older than him.

As about the massage, his system is very practical, if we can call it a «system». He is a wonderful diagnostician: just by look at a body he determines main zones of tension, problems and the reasons, that caused them. Manipulating these zones in different ways, he achieves relaxation of tense muscles and energy blocks as much as it is possible during one session.

«Body is your best teacher» - he always repeats. Many ways and methods can be described in a book, but a book will never teach you how to feel. Some teacher can give you effective techniques, reveal «secrets» of Thai massage, but you won’t be able to use them if you don’t feel the body - first, your own body, and as a consequence, the body of your client.

For any knowledge you got - is already the past. And now, this very moment, there is one body (you) and another one (your client). And you should act from this moment, feeling rather than thinking or remembering appropriate massage methods and techniques.

«Listen to your body» - these words, as he repeats again and again, are the secret of his approach. But «easy to say, hard to do» - he goes on, and his disciples sigh and nod their heads in agreement. And again he encourages: «It’s o’key, slowly-slowly you are moving forward. My problems were bigger then yours before».

I spent two weeks there. I didn’t want to leave. With all my being I felt, how healing it was for my body and soul to be in that place.

Now I am here - in Moscow, but I already have a firm intention to come back, and not for two weeks this time, but for longer.

What else? My massage has changed, although I didn’t do anything purposely. It became deeper and at the same time more relaxed. I almost don’t get tired after massage. And one more strange thing: I noticed, that after Pichest my organism became much stronger, acclimatization was easy and there were no signs of cold or other spring sickness despite the weather))).