Mantak and Me – Part 4: Training

January 1992 continued.  I found it hard to believe it was happening.  I’m going to lectures, talking with, eating with, hanging out with the man who has made fundamental changes for the better to the lives of so many.  I found him to be warm, friendly and approachable, interested in everything, always on the lookout for what he can learn, and with lovely clear energy.  Physically, about my height, well built, strong and supple: a great advertisement for his teaching!.

We have interesting talks about shiatsu – he says he knows Saul Goodman.  I had already noticed he copied Shizuto Masunaga’s hara diagnosis diagrams from Zen Shiatsu in his book Chi Nei Tsang, and said he really ought to have acknowledged Masunaga.  He did in a later edition but I heard rumours about other cases.

His teaching is brilliant.  In company with 50/60 others I listen to him speak and demonstrate, 8 hours a day for 4 days, and feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity.

Two other shiatsu therapists are on the training, other body-workers, a bunch of people from more esoteric fields, and various business people including a Chinese industrialist from Taiwan who who asks me to check out his shoulder.  Mantak suggests I give him a treatment.  This results in a busy program of me giving treatments to fellow-students at lunch-times and evenings, with Mantak helping me with the diagnosis from time to time.  He really knows what he’s talking about about but I was surprised he doesn’t practice any more, just teaches. (25 years later I understand – it’s the same for me!)

His advice about my practice was just what I needed at the time.  He told me I should not do more than two or three treatments a day, to avoid the burn-out suffered by so many practitioners.  I replied I needed to do five or six to make any kind of a living. He simply said, ‘Charge more!’  I did, and it worked.  We had discussions about business things.  He had been making his living from this work since his mid-twenties, and I, at 51, was about to start.

At the end of the week he said, ‘Come with me to New York. Do some more training.’  I said I would love to but it was beyond my budget. His reply changed my life.

Next week – Follow the Money!

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Mantak and Me – Part 3: The First Encounter

January 12th, 1992, Pattaya. By the boat jetty, a group of European men accompanied by Thai ‘service girls,’ of which there are said to be 10,000 in Pattaya (destination of choice for the US 7th Fleet on R&R.) I can barely see the sea for the boats: cruisers, fishers, power, speed, pedalo, dinghys, jetskis, and double/triple decker gin palaces.  Nor the beach, for deckchairs and umbrella shelters.

It’s early and I’ve just arrived on the night-bus from Chiang Rai after a week of  adventures in the North.  Walking from the bus station, past restaurants of every kind and nationality with prices from somewhere in outer space, I head for the hotel.  It’s a long walk – good!  The sun gets higher and hotter.  I go through the  already thronging market, listen to a conversation between a grey-haired Brit and a worn-looking service-girl, too short denim shorts, huge leather handbag. ‘How much more?’ he says despairingly, watching her load up with handfuls of scent bottles, lipsticks, eye makeup etc.  ‘For my sister.’ Good deal, I guess, getting paid for her time, shopping for all the family, meals, drinks and taxis.

I walk on, through a shanty-town complete with ‘what the hell are you doing round here’ stares.  I guess I look too poor to be robbed: flip-flops, grubby shirt, tattered shorts, smelling like someone whose been on trek for a week.  I don’t even get offered fake Rolexes or good times.

Here’s my hotel, imposing white building in tiers, like those elegantly designed blocks in Pimlico.  What on earth made me think I would be training in an ashram?  At the price?  Ah well!  Ah yes! Hot shower and sitting toilet, not having to suspend myself from the squat position and hope the rear gunner gets his aim right.  It’s all worth it.  I’m going to get fat here:  three big meals and two big snack-breaks daily, so every hour-and-half I’m stuffing something down my throat.

I’m one of about 60 here for the training and, as it turns out, a bit more in the after-hours.  We hail from all over: USA, Japan, Taiwan, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, a couple of other Brits.  The program starts at 7.30am and goes on till dinner at 6.30pm.  Then comes the night.

The first morning, I find myself doing Tai Chi push-hands with Mantak Chia!

Next week – Training with Chia.

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Mantak and Me – Part 2: How It All Began

I asked, on that dark night on the road to Chiang Mai, about Mantak’s son, Max, who had given me a bit of help when I started.  I had walked to Vassar, the Ivy league college in upstate New York where the Healing Tao had gathered for summer school.  In the introductions on the first evening, listening to men and women from all over the world introducing themselves as Wandering Taoists, Seekers, Pilgrims, Spiritual Nomads, reincarnations of Lao Tse etc etc – you get the idea! – I  contemplated what I would say about me, a traveler and a trader after Mantak’s advice a few months earlier to ‘follow the money’. I was woken from my reverie by the voice of a young man, a boy actually. ‘Hey, I’m at school!’

Eleven or twelve at the time, well-built, chunky, and the youngest Healing Tao instructor in history, Max gave my first Iron Shirt Chi Kung assessment.  In Embracing the Tree I felt the power of his push.  At fifty-three, weighing 170lbs, strong and fit after four years Shotokan, I managed to hold my ground.  When it came to Turtle I took the side push well.  Then I felt his hands on my shoulders for the front.

The pressure came, slowly, building in strength.  My feet started to splay, my shoulders went down, my spine curved, I felt my balance going.  Shit, I thought, I’m not going to make it.  Suddenly the pressure eased slightly.  Max’s voice whispered in my ear, ‘Dig in, man. You can take it.’  I adjusted my position and my mind and when the push came again, harder and stronger, I held my structure and passed the test.  That moment of compassion got me hooked on Mantak’s system long before I discovered  Taoist politics!  Max, when he grew up, qualified as a doctor in Western medicine.  After his parents divorce he remained closer to Maneewan but still sees his father from time to time.

My first experience of the system came one evening in Covent Garden the year before.  I had heard of Mantak’s work while training in Shiatsu.  Mystified by the concept of reversing the meridian energy-flow, when I saw a flyer on the wall of a healthfood store advertising a talk by Mantak’s then colleague Juan Li, I booked in.  I had already organised my flight to Japan for post-graduate Shiatsu training but after hearing and meeting Juan I rescheduled to stop in Thailand where Mantak would be teaching at the family’s hotel in Pattaya.  I wanted to meet the man!

Next week – The First Encounter.

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Mantak and Me – Part 1: A Dark Night In Chiang Mai

Walking towards Chiang Mai after an evening at Tao Garden, I stopped as a gleamingly black Mercedes pulled in, and a dark glass window rolled down. I recognised the driver. ‘Master Chia!’ I said.

‘Hey, Kris! Where you going?’

‘Chiang Mai,’ said I, ‘and you?’

‘Visiting friend in Suket,’ he replied. ‘Get in, I take you to main road.’  I eased into the leather seat beside him. ‘Nice car,’ I remarked, ‘you’ve upgraded from the BMW.’

‘A while ago,’ he said. ‘And you still walking, having adventures. Chiang Mai is nothing for you, is it.  Just fifteen kilometres. I remember when you walked to Pathworks in upstate New York.’

‘Twentyfour years ago this month,’ I said. ‘Next February, 2017, I will have been with you a quarter-century.’  He Monkey, I Dragon, we had many years to reflect on.  As we approached Suket, he pulled out his cell and made a call, then turned on to the highway.

We spoke of this and that, of the Back to the Source event at the Tao Garden.  I said I was suprised to see so few Americans there.  I had been looking forward to reconnecting with friends I had made over those years, in USA and Europe.  Yes, he said, there were a few Americans.  Nowadays more Russians, Ukrainians and East Europeans.  I had been looking forward too, to reconnecting with colleagues from UK and Europe but there were so few of us who made the journey, and many were new to the system. So it was good to make new friends.

We spoke of the changes taking place in the world of politics.  ‘What happens when UK leaves EU?’  What could I say?  Everyone has an opinion but nobody knows.  ‘What happens in Thailand?’  He said the army had taken over to make things safe.  ‘And when the King dies?’ Nobody knows, he said.  The King is the unifying force at present.

And we spoke not of the politics in the world of the Tao, of the betrayals both he and I had experienced at the hands of colleagues, and other things known only by those who know where the bodies are buried.

When he dropped me in Chiang Mai a few minutes walk from my hotel, the germ of an idea had formed in my mind.  I have kept notes of my journey in the Tao, from my very first encounter with Mantak in Pattaya in February 1992, through all the years of triumph and disaster, and I do believe that my story will prove both interesting and enlightening.  Next week – How It All Began.

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A is for Achievement

From time to time I wander along my timeline, wondering how far it goes and whether, having walked that line, will there be time to look back at what I have achieved.  Will it be my way?  And what, I wonder, might have been left undone?   So I think of Achievement and what it means to me.  Many years ago a friend who made many millions told me, ‘Making money is easy – as long as it’s all you want.’  The problem for him was he could never have enough. A colleague said, ‘He’ll be the richest man in the graveyard.’

Mantak Chia told me to make friends with money energy and that was good advice.  Not to fall in love with it, not to obsess over it, but just to make friends.   I was, at that time, going through a happy-hippy phase of saying I hated the stuff.  But then I wanted to travel the world and do courses with enlightened people. Oddly enough, when I changed my attitude my fortunes changed too, and I achieved what had been only a dream.

While some use money as a scoreboard to measure their Achievement, others have other aims, and if fulfilling an aim counts as Achievement then surely there is no limitation.  Would peace of mind count?  What would I need to achieve to have peace of mind?  I used to think it was financial security.  And how secure is that?  I have lived through more than one financial crisis caused by any number factors over which I had no control, and many more resulting from my own actions or lack of action!

What about emotional security?  Is that achievable?  And once achieved does it stay, a permanent state of being, regardless of the elements of love, hate, fear, courage, anger, jealousy, disrespect, or any other of the slings and arrows of ourtageous fortune that punctuate and puncture the fabric of time?

When I was very young I achieved the ability to stand up by myself.  I had, until recently, forgotten the amazing sense of delight, of Achievement, that filled my whole being in that  moment.  I got a wonderful reminder when a friend’s child did just that. And led me to reflect on other mundane achievements such as tying my own shoelaces, riding a bicycle, managing to stay on a horse over a jump, to surf standing up for just a few seconds, passing an exam, getting a qualification, making my living doing what I love with someone I love…Achievements big and small, years apart, adding up to a sum of things that have enriched my life.


Extract from ‘The Winners’ Alphabet,’ due out later this year.  Watch this space!

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Go Back to Sleep!

It’s as if we’ve just woken up and discovered that politicians lie.  Have they not since the the foundation of (a slave-owning) democracy in Athens?

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Enough Already!

Let the rivals of Fear and Hatred – Water and Fire – find harmony in Wisdom and Love. The Past is where it belongs – behind us, and the Future is what we make it.  Let us show now we can step lightly in all worlds, and hope that our leaders discover that decency and courtesy might be a good way forward.

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