"I give you this for an example," Poo said with a look that penetrated
to the depths of my soul.
His soft voice was tinged with sober earnestness.
He led the way into his prayer room, through a doorway I hadn't noticed before.
It was at the far end of his Thai massage room...
I had just arrived in Chiang Mai for further study.
Chiang Mai is a hub for Thai massage training.
My initial forays had begun 10 years earlier.
Over the years I'd heard of some of the legendary old masters
of this ancient healing art.
On this trip, I hoped to make contact with one or two of them
and deepen my experience.
When I asked around the small closely-knit community,
I was a bit frustrated at the responses I received.
Everyone referred me to a young man with the dubious-sounding name of Poo.
I would try to make my request a little clearer.
"Please, I have come a long way. I would like to work with one of the OLD masters, while it is still possible."
In every instance, I was met with the same response.
"You go to Poo! He is the best."
I felt as though I was being stonewalled, unable to reach any
of the old masters.
Thais are a mysterious bunch....
Every single one referred me to this young fellow.
"But he's only 35!"
It didn't matter. Case closed. "You go to Poo."
I had never heard of him. He was a kid, for heaven's sake...
and if he was that good, he probably wouldn't see me on short notice.
I made the call.
"Come my house tomorrow-2pm." Click.
With the help of a patient tuk tuk driver, I was dropped in front of a house
in a crowded neighborhood promptly at 2pm.
I knocked on the door and a voice answered from the back of the house
I opened the door and stepped across the threshold into a large dimly-lit room. My eyes were still adjusting from the bright afternoon glare
when I heard a man's voice.
"Oh! You're losing the vision in your right eye, aren't you?'
My jaw dropped! That was my only health concern.
I had been steadily losing vision for some months. I knew that I would have to seek out a specialist as soon as I got back to the States. I was very worried about what they might want to do and what it would cost, as I was uninsured.
Now no one would know that just to look at me!
How did HE know?
Master Poo registered the look of fear and surprise in my reaction.
He flashed me a big grin and exclaimed, "Oh! No worry! Lie down...me fix!"
Thai medicine in a nutshell... compassionate, cheerful, no need to worry
the patient with frightening details.
Now, over the years, I had seen and been the recipient of some of the impressive results of Traditional Thai Massage in addressing a wide range
of conditions, such as structural, muscular-skeletal, PTSD, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being, but I couldn't quite wrap my brain around this one.
Nevertheless, I removed my shoes and laid down on the mat.
After he prayed, he began his work.
Moving beyond the familiar form, he initiated the session by placing a heavy thumb into a spot on my right forearm. I winced! It burned like fire!
I didn't even know that problem existed.
Poo quietly and expertly followed the path of that nerve all the way up my arm to its source in my neck. He gently expressed sympathy for the pain I was experiencing. I could tell there would be bruising as he worked nearly to the bone. It was therapeutic pain and it needed to be endured.
Then slowly he began to teach me.
"Your muscles are so tight that they are choking off the blood and lymph supply to the eye and the optic nerve is dying prematurely."
He continued to work, tracing several nerve pathways, manually freeing
the nerves from the dense muscle fibers.
What he said made sense.
What he didn't know was that for 10 years, I had run around with a phone crooked in that ear for 12-16 hours a day, 6 days a week.
I had been a manufacturer, working the phones as well as the assembly lines under stressful conditions.
I had retired from that line of work, but my muscles were still locked
into the old configuration.
He worked on me for several hours, venturing deep into places under the arm, under the shoulder blade and through my neck to the occipital ridge,
leaving bruises all the way.
He was giving all the therapy that was possible, knowing he might only
see me one time.
I began to appreciate the guidance I received in being sent to Poo.
He was the best... He was only 35, but his work was brilliant...
beyond anything I had experienced before.
On my evening walk, I met a couple of other foreigners
who were there to study Thai massage. I urged them to meet Poo.
Each day, I brought another student or two to him.
He let me sit in on the sessions and learn.
It was valuable as well as challenging time.
He was so patient with us, giving us entire days of in-session instruction.
It was a rare opportunity.
Then one day, as he was saying goodbye to the students, he asked me
to stay behind.
After they left the studio, he led me to the nondescript door at the rear
and beckoned me to follow him inside with those fateful words...
"I give you this for an example..."
I stepped into a room that measured about 6' x 8'.
Fully 2/3 of the room was an altar. The remaining space had a thin sleeping mat on the floor...similar to a yoga mat.
I blanched slightly at the altar with its trappings of fresh flower strands, fruit, a large statue of the founder of Thai massage, Dr. Shivago Komarpaj and various paraphernalia.
I heard a fearful voice in my head branding it a 'heathen altar'.
"This is my prayer room," he said simply. "I sleep here 5 nights a week.
The other 2 nights I spend with my wife and daughter.
When I go to bed at night, I pray for 2 hours and then I sleep for 2 hours.
Then I get up and I chant for 2 hours and I sleep for 2 hours."
He did this all through the night.
This was a level of dedication to God and humanity that I had never
Indeed, in my recollection of Christian churches, an annual all-night prayer service would be quite an event. I had never made it past 1 or 2am myself.
I was sharply and deeply humbled.
These people had left us in the dust!
Poo had related this without the slightest trace of ego or pride...
much unlike us, who got ridiculously puffed up about such small acts.
For Poo, this was a matter of fact, something done for years on end...
Simply due service.
I thought 'That's how he knows!!'
What had happened with me had happened with everyone I brought to him.
He always knew exactly what was needed without a word being spoken.
'That's how it's done. He walks THAT close!'
He began to teach me about his altar. Item by item, he showed me how each object or photo represented something or someone that he was praying for.
Nothing evil here... Such misrepresentation of their faith.
I took a valuable lesson that day regarding such ill-willed teaching
in Western religion.
I saw a stack of textbooks among the offerings.
"What are these doing here?"
"These are for my future students. I am praying for them already.
I pray for the right ones to come at the right time...and for all the others
to stay away until the right time."
I was to learn later that he always recognized his students when they arrived on his doorstep. He had met them in spirit 2-3 years before...
in the dream state...in his prayer time.
Their preparation had begun long before their physical arrival.
Astonishing to me, but normal to him.
That approach...that prayer...was so insightful.
When the time came for me to take up the work of Thai massage,
I applied that prayer to my practice.
"Bring the right ones at the right times...and keep all the others away...
until the right time."
So very un-American! We who like to grab all the business that we can.
It made for a much sounder and saner practice for all concerned...
Praying for my people ahead of time...
Engaging the practice in a far better way...
It was to be our last meeting.
He gave an incomparable example that echoes daily in my heart.
These things I will never forget.
p.s. Three weeks after our session, my sight was fully restored.
You are welcome to contact the author, Debra Robinson, with any questions
or comments at email@example.com