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How many days?

So here again another year stretches by, passes quickly and compresses into the confines of memory. In my last blog, a couple years ago I was talking to Kam Thye Chow about Chaiyuth Priyasith. Now Kam himself has passed, much too young. I am reminded now, as I peruse Asokanandas Thai Traditional Massage for advanced practitioners. Indeed KTC was there with him from early on for Asokanandas research and presentation of the Sen lines. I found it intersting to read it again and would like to share a particular passage. ” In addition to working the prana body, Thai massage frequently also touchesthe memory and subconscioiusness bodies, facilitating emotional release”.


Looking back in time I suffered a certain chronological disbelief. I recently met Kam Thye Chow and our conversation had evoked memories of Asokananda and Chaiyuth Priyasith. Chaiyuth Priyasith is a famous Thai massage teacher in Chiang Mai who passed, transformed in 2004! Is this possible? 12 years ago? He was not my teacher in any concrete sense. Many stories circulated about his eccentricities and unique massage style, his love of Western music and Western women. I had been spending substantial amounts of time in Chiang Mai for a couple years but had become a student of Pichest Boonthumme and remained fairly faithful to his practice. Finally a moment arrived when I chose to seek Chaiyuth.

I called on the phone and he offered a 5am appointment Saturday morning. Now we all know that Thailand is a hot place, but on this January morning in the mountains of the North, formerly known as the Lanna kingdom, there was a chill in the air. My walk up along the moat at Kotchasan rd. and past Thae Pae gate was punctuated with shivers and I walked briskly to his house. He was there in the grey morning shadows and led me around to his massage room, up a small set of steps. He was small of stature and seemed more well-groomed than his unconventional reputation and past photo’s might have impressed upon me.

What followed was, to say mildly, an awkward hour and a half. His style was very dynamic, incorporating much of his body with lots of movement, unorthodox positioning’s, and rocking and rolling over his knees. Indeed, of all his students I met, I found only one person who actually mimicked and used such a similar style(while practicing at Pichest’s) in his thai massage dance. The awkwardness came about because I was ‘freezing’ cold. And because there was no netting I was being mercilessly eaten by mosquitos; being stiff as a board is not conducive to receptivity especially with such a dynamic style.

Despite the massage discomfort I was intrigued and happy when he invited me to come back a couple hours later to join him and a group of students for a Spirit dance. A Spirit dance is pragmatically something like a Church fundraiser for a person or group often sponsored at a home or hall but in the Thai Buddhist tradition in which spirits are evoked through trance, dance and herb. The dancers usually wear very ornate costumes and there is lots of smoking of cigarettes or local herbs? and drinking in order to conjure the Spirits! Of course I know only what I have observed with little explanation.

I arrived a bit later that day and now there was a small group gathered. Felicity Joy was there, she was one of his principal students and an ubiquitous figure around Chiang Mai. The room was light and warm now; much different than before and Chaiyuth was looking quite distinguished and composed. A tall woman then came down from upstairs and it turned out to be Chaiyuth’s girlfriend. She came down cutting quite a figure with a garland of flowers around her neck and a flowing wardrobe. I can’t remember her name but she was American. Nor am I sure how long they had been dating but the energy felt special and it seemed that they were both happy and glowing in that moment. Eventually I joined some others of this group and we went to a Spirit dance.

I had attended a couple of Pichest’s Spirit dances but it was still novel to observe and many questions roiled around (and still do) in my head. Were they really channeling spirits? Why do they dance so much? What was it for? Why do they smoke so much? Is alcohol part of the ceremony, or just enjoyment? Why are there money bills attached to that little tree looking thing(a money tree)? At one point Chaiyuth explained to me that he has a particular dance style he called something like a serpent dance or snake dance and there were certain twists and leg rolls that reiterated themselves throughout his dancing. It reminded me of my first salsa dance teacher from Kali, Columbia who had a signature hop and spin flare kick he always did. For Chaiyuth this dance seemed a part of his spirit expression come through trance. During this Spirit dance Chaiyuth made what I might call one of his dramatic statements (highly emphasized). This was in regard to donating to the money tree, and to paraphrase it was basically “don’t be stingy; opening your purse is like opening your heart”. This is part of the very important Thai value of ‘nahm jai’, which is translated as water heart, or generosity. So this is a big theme of the Spirit dance. In my selfish ego process the thought did occur that we were invited just to get our money, but I later realized that truly this was an opportunity and an important lesson. Karma is not just an abstract idea, and doing for others, being generous has immediate personal and spiritual ‘reward’. After that first Spirit dance ended some of us went for dinner in the Old City.

So the next day I was invited to another Spirit dance. The location was farther out of town South along the Ping river. Along the way we stopped for a meal at one of the open stall markets. I said something about not eating meat, or pork or something and he kind of frowned at me and made another dramatic statement ( I think he was just a dramatic, larger than life character). “WHAT, why do you limit yourself? I can eat EVERYTHING”. His arms were outstretched and he was shaking them for emphasis; more words I am still reflecting on.

As the second Spirit dance wore on every one of our group left except me and Chaiyuth. He was in rare form dancing, drinking smoking, enjoying the stream of life and consciousness. He was surely something of a hedonist; a paradoxical person who loved to enjoy life. I was observing and engaged in the event as much as an outsider could be. The flash of spinning costumes, the great billows of smoke, the smiles and laughter all struck me as did the faces sometimes lost in trance, the particular way that people danced around each other and the feeling of mystification and spiritual presence.

As the Spirit dance concluded I was out front talking to a young Thai woman who had intrigued me. There was something of a buzz between us and I was making my best effort to speak Thai. Chaiyuth then sauntered up. He read something of the vibe and put in a lascivious plug for her. I can’t recall his exact words but it was like “BELIEVE me!” He said, “ you will LIKE her! She is very GOOD” as he rolled his tongue across the inside of his cheek in a very suggestive gesture. The next thing I remember I was driving his scooter and he was on the back swaying back and forth as if he might fall off at any moment and he was singing into the wind.

Finally he stood at his threshold facing the driveway as I was leaving. He was asking me about my plans. “ You must come study with me” he said. “I can make you PERFECT!” Again he was speaking dramatically, like a samurai from an old samurai movie, as if every word held great importance. “I am not this littIe body you see before you. I am a DRAGON” he said, as he motioned from one end of the driveway to the other “ from HERE to HERE”!! Words and assurances passed between us I walked down the drive and into the deepening twilight. That was Sunday. On Friday, he was gone; a great dragon on a mystical wind.

Thai massage is much bigger now. And the Chiang Mai of that era has changed so much. Sometimes it is hard to believe it is the same place. Many new students and teachers will not be so lucky to meet the iconic Mr. Chaiyuth Priyasith. I almost didn’t. But I did that last weekend he was on this earth, and he will live on in my memory in greatness and in his humanity both high and low. I still cannot grasp that such as 12 years have passed. Fly free dear teacher Chaiyuth!

Return to thailand Jan 2011

It is warm here, another dreamy year, drifting by with surprising alacrity. I have just spent three weeks with the thai massage teacher Pichet Boonthumme, three weeks of amazing “pok pok”. “Pok pok” is the simulated strike of the Kruba cane, the proverbial knuckles across the forehead, a mental smackdown for thoughtless, buffalo thinking and buffalo work. It is a loving but very pointed scolding for following animal instinct and ignoring the deep listening needed to settle into true grounding and advance to higher levels of awareness and sensitivity. His classes have transformed year after year to more dharma talk and less technique. “There are many schools teaching technique. I am not teaching technique”. He is teaching people to listen to themselves. To listen to their bodies. To feel from deep intuition and not from the mind. To abandon self, the obstructing influence of ego, and tap into higher knowledge. He is a person of extraordinary intuition, and surely seems to embody the element that is “clairvoyant”. when you enter his domain he see’s your family karma, your thoughts, and your doubts. he knows when you have been good and when you’ve been bad. “Feeling on yourself. Same feeling another person” he will say in his own style of broken English. The “mind terrible” he says. nearly everyday he will say “yoga terrible! Where Yogi come from? from India! What Yogi do? In India? Meditation. Yogi no thinking. Yogi feeling with the body. You no feeling. How yoga helping?” In the west especially we tend to follow technique, to adhere to superficial methods and copy what we see, rather than stilling the mind to hear more subtle information. Prayer and meditation are the foundations of his practice and his great gift for healing. ” Pray to God(or Buddha, ..), pray to the teachers, pray to Mama and papa”. “Who give the body?” “Mama and Papa give. Pray thank you to mama and papa”. Then he will say “Who help you? God help you? God no help you. Help yourself.”

odd sort of hiatus

Time is playing tricks on me….. over 40, really? Tehheh. Every day, really, calls for an adjustment in the face of life’s adversities, and an amazing opportunity to embrace the possibilities. Sometimes I find myself waking from some mental or emotional torpor, wondering if I have been truly consciously living. And then I think, well, here I am!
I spent four amazing months in Thailand and Laos this past year, all on borrowed money. It was a great trip, but I found myself with some real subconscious reservations about my spend what I don’t have processes. And entertained some anxiety I didn’t think I had….. maybe as I age I become little more security conscious. Scraping by is fine, but I realize borrowing for leisure is not my thing. I am not so “in the moment” as I would have liked to think I was. My Thai massage teacher, without provocation, and demonstrating his usual near flawless intuition, insisted in front of class that I had been lazy the past year.
So the last few months I practically abandoned my itinerant massage practice and hunkered down for some concentrated and reliable construction/carpentry work. my first REAL work for years. And soon I may be able to enjoy the fruits of my labors. My summer holds tons of mystery in anticipation of a paycheck, truly endless possibilities. I can’t even decide til I wake up that day, with money in hand and obligations completed. The epic disaster in the Gulf of Mexico really begs questions about a sustainable lifestyle. with all my travel and jet setting, I cannot claim to this lifestyle. I would like, in any case, to spend quite bit of time this summer on a bicycle, or as a pedestrian, spend some time stepping back from our fuel driven madness and generally consciousness lacking life patterns. And sharing massage and healing and general philosophy with lots of folks.
here I am in Austin, waiting for some big wave I know will come, across the long and windy plains of Texas. I will spend the next couple weeks working hard, grateful that I have work, grateful for all that my life has brought, and hopeful for a future that takes shape in my mind. There is great sadness in our world, it suffuses my every waking thought, but we must rejoice in all we can, and laugh along with the relentless tides of fate….img_0308

Another wedding

Here I am in Montpelier, Vermont.  My cousin James married a fantastic and beautiful Japanese woman, Mioko.  It was a fully catered wedding here on my Aunt and Uncles 20 acres of Vermont goodness just outside Montpelier.  The reception included a  huge canopy tent, professionally staffed bar, and smooth dance floor. I helped as best I could and had a great time.

I will remain here in Vermont most of this month, and will return  to Austin in early September for some massage work and I will begin to visualize a trip to Thailand in the Fall. I am enjoying a cool and somewhat  unpredictable summer here. Vermont, unlike Texas, has recieved a ton of rain. I am surrounded by lush green meadows and an ideal swimming pond. It is a perfect place to work on my yoga practice and appreciate the fortunes of  life.

California in a rearview mirror

What an amazing time I had with Jessica in Canada. And So many adventures in California. My brother Justin’s wedding went off quite well, and I have just had four good days of massage work thanks to Dr Renee Hilmer here in Austin Texas. her referrals kept me really busy for a short time, and now I am ready to drive to Vermont in the morning. I will be driving with my mom and her dog, Shasta, and hope to arrive Thursday July 30th. Friday is rehearsal for my cousins wedding, and Saturday is the big day. We are planning to spend several weeks in Vermont, and should arrive back in Austin at the beginning of September. Send me an email if you want to catch me in Austin when I return!

Cool in San Francisco

Here I am in San Francisco. Pete is helping me set up a wordpress website. It is amazingly simple and accessible compared to older html only models. I will be able to do lots of stuff myself in content and style. I am really excited. This is part of a greater shift toward establishing my massage presence and my ability to connect with people and clients as I travel. 208And I would like to coalesce my own resources on healing and bodywork. I would especially like to have a venue to share different elements of thai massage technique, as well as synthesis of all healing modality’s toward a universal method of healing and personal development. All my future mail and blog will be through this site, as I am currently planning to discontinue my ( website and blog. I will be around California until July 20th, when I will be returning to Austin and then driving with my mom to Vermont for my cousins wedding.