My main reason for returning to Thailand every two years is for continuing education in Thai Massage. This year I decided to focus on the work I began exploring in 2016 after taking two courses from David Lutt of France in Dynamic and Osteothai.
I found the Thai Massage techniques taught by David incredibly compelling. The combination of subtle support through body listening techniques, as well as rocking, rhythm, oscillations, and dynamic movements connect the practitioner and client through the breath supporting the expression of the body’s ability for self healing.
Jorg Schurpf of Switzerland is David’s teaching partner and offered the Osteothai for Internal Organs class at Om Waters, a retreat centre north of Chiang Mai in Sri Lanna National Park. The course focused on the belly which is often involved in structural dysfunctions of the lower back, pelvis and shoulders, as well as issues relating to digestion, emotional tension, stress and trauma.
Osteothai work on internal organs combines the Eastern approach of the Hara and the Western practice of Visceral Manipulation.
The Eastern concept of Hara is the soft area of the belly in, above and below the peritoneal cavity which contains our internal organs. Work on the organs and their associated energy fields assists to relax, strengthen and support proper functioning of our body’s own self healing capacity.
Presence, precision, and the power of our personal inner work influences our thoughts, actions, and movements. This course focused on detoxing organs (with special attention to the liver) as well as utilizing principles, practices, and techniques to support normal organ function restoring the expression of our body’s internal and external balance.
I packed my bags at Tip Top Thai House and went to the meeting point where the songthaew (a pickup taxi) would be waiting to take our group of 16 to Om Waters. The first three people I met set the tone for this incredible experience.
Nadine is a Newfoundlander who until recently lived in the Arctic Circle in Nunavut. Her sister lives just outside of Edmonton so I shared that my husband Shaun taught at Blueberry School for many years. We both nearly jumped out of our skin with excitement when she said Shaun must have taught some of her nieces or nephews, all of whom went to Blueberry. A flurry of texts confirmed that Shaun had taught one of her nephews. Nadine’s sister had always wondered where “the BEST teacher at Blueberry” had ended up. Reconnected through Chiang Mai.
The next person I met was Melanie (also my sister’s name) from Germany. We quickly found out we were both planning to attend the World Fascia Congress in Berlin this November and would be seeing each other again soon.
Next was Chiharu from Japan who had assisted David’s courses I took in 2016 and had taught the yoga before each class. This was new friends and a reunion in the first few minutes!
I could write a book about the rest of the stories that abounded for each participant on this course. We came from Canada, the US, Isreal, France, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Japan. Our connections ran deep and wide and before we had even left the limits of Chiang Mai, we were all friends and excited for our upcoming belly journey as a group of bodyworkers.
We packed our bags on the roof of the songthaews and drove the 90 minutes north of Chiang Mai to the entrance of Sri Lanna Park. There were boarded longboats that took us across the lake for our 30 minute ride to Om Waters.
The site of the floating resort was amazing as we came around a bend in the lake to see it nestled near a shore with views of the hills on all sides. We set up our rooms, went swimming, and had dinner made by two of the most friendly and skilled cooks I know, Jacky and Sal of the Cat House restaurant in Chiang Mai. We ate vegetarian (with one night of fish – flexitarian), and never the same thing twice the whole week. It was delicious beyond description.
Chiharu and others helped create a mandala of flowers on one of the floating platforms where we set the intention for our week of learning and belly play. Music, chanting, and meditation set the tone for an intense week of new information, practice, and self care. No cell service meant we were all totally unplugged. The first bell rang at 6:30 am. If you cared to join the yoga class at 7 am the next gong marked the beginning of class. People meditated, did yoga, Tai Chi, or whatever personal practice they had in the mornings. At 8:30 am the gong rang for breakfast and we were on the main platform to begin class by 9:30 am. We broke for lunch from 1 – 3:30 pm (giving us time to play in the water or rest) and had class from 3:30 to 7:30 pm just after the sun had set. We ate dinner soon after and were usually in bed by 10 pm. We were all living together in close quarters on a collection of floating platforms for the week. Noble Silence was kept from 10 pm until 9 am each day giving us all time to allow ourselves peace and quiet without being compelled to engage socially (which we did in abundance outside the hours of Noble Silence).
Through this and other practices the environment was created for inner awareness, acceptance, trust, non-judging, and community support. This atmosphere provided a great opportunity for the possibility of a profound shift in our practices both personally and professionally.
The yoga each morning led by Sia was different each day. One day Sia began to play his guitar and sing as we lay in Savasana. Each of us slowly came to sitting joining in the meditative chant. The sense of connection and joy for a morning of yoga on a floating raft in the shade from the sun was deep.
My room faced openly to the lake with a breeze and a view of the stars and hills. Each night and morning the sounds of the jungle came to life. Buzzing insects and whooping, hooting, trilling and chirping birds filled the night. Later the creaking of bamboo ladders, and floating walkways began when people got up at night for the bathroom, and snoring of different tones and frequency supported the teachings that all of life is vibration, sound, movement, and light.
For those of us who love the water, we were in it every chance we had. Swimming, inner tubes, kyaks and crazy blow up unicorns and dragons were available to join the life of the water. In our work on the belly, the platforms often rocked as longboat wakes, or the winds lapped the edges of the platform. The stage was set for a sense of play, agility, nimbleness, and joy. One morning as the mist rose off the lake just before sunrise I kayaked out to where birds congregated for their morning chat. Cranes stood on their long legs at the shore as well as on the highest branches of the trees . Hundreds of tiny black wrens dotted the reeds close to shore and scattered about in play. It reminded my of the clown fish swimming playfully in and out of the soft flowing coral off the shores of Kho Yao Noi.
But it was not all ease for everyone. Some participants shared their struggles with challenges they had with their belly, as well as health, life, and emotional issues of the past. It was courageous to share intimate things within a group and it had a powerful effect on us all. Again the sense of community and support was palpable. We were all taking the time to learn about each other, care about each other, and be part of each others journey. This wasn’t simply about techniques for the belly.
One afternoon after lunch a group of us went with Joe (one of the generous owners of Om Waters) by longboat across the lake to visit an abandoned monks area where there are monks quarters and a meditation cave.
During our time on the lake and in the middle of our massage practice one night we were fortunate enough to witness a rare Super Blue Blood Moon with a complete lunar eclipse, last seen in Thailand in 1866. It was a super moon as it was as close to the Earth as the moon can get, Blue as it was the second full moon of the month, and Blood referring to the color of the moon during the eclipse. This experience took our breath away as we did our practice and paused for a while in silence as we watched the super blood moon reflected in the lake and then slowly disappear. Over 2.5 hours later it began to reappear as we ate our dinner.
Many of the participants are musical and the Om Waters “Untuned” House Band was born. Untuned was their playful way of recognizing the variety of instrument types and player experience that wasn’t always in harmony. Four guitars (including a ukulele/guitar hybrid) and drums were played every day.
Two more flower mandalas were created by Chiharu, Pase and others. The second mandala was in honour of the eclipse and had an outer ring of “light boats” made of the outer leaves of the banana flower. The final mandala on our last night was created for the sharing circle were we voiced our experiences of joy and hardship, appreciation for our connection with this rare group of people, and our profound gratitude to Jorge and Till (our skilled teaching assistant) for sharing their skills, talent, and nature with us all. Jorg’s teaching expresses his boundless knowledge of anatomy and physiology, techniques both empirical and energetic, as well as his own authentic spiritual and personal development work. It was a pure pleasure and great gift to participate as his student.
In the morning we did our final practice and then brought Jacky and Sal into the circle to give them a group massage to thank them for feeding us with such nourishing food during our stay. We did a ceremony featuring the last performance by Untuned for some time to come, and then offered all the flowers to the lake before boarding our longboats.
I couldn’t possibly convey in full the profoundly moving experience it was to be in this workshop, with these people, in this place. I found it not only an enriching experience for what I will be able to bring into my practice through work with the abdomen, but it was a time to recharge, reconnect with nature, and the hara and hearts of people determined to make a difference in peoples lives through body and soul work.