Mantak and Me – Part 7: America!

Now I had to find the money to pay for the training.  I already had my round-the-world ticket and arrived in Los Angeles to find it smoking.  The airport people advised us not to go downtown because of riots over the killing of Rodney King.  I took the next shuttle, watching from the window as smiling people ran out of stores carrying new tv sets and other goodies.  Outside the Greyhound station the whole street was lined with menace.  A huge guy put a heavy hand on my shoulder, growled, ‘Man a’m hongry and you gonna buy me a burger!’

Following Mantak’s advice to make friends with money energy I headed south to Mexico, catching the last bus out of LA before they put the whole place on lockdown.  My plan had not included visits to the dentist in Mexico City but I used the time between drillings to haggle with the gypsies in the Zocala and stock up with turquoise beads I strung into bracelets and necklaces to sell back in the States.  Plus the exchange rate was going my way.

I got the money!  Tao friends I’d met in Pattaya put me up as I hitched east, bought my turquoise, and enthusiastically helped me sell it in bars along the way.  But I got a shock in Memphis: the friend there was a jeweller who told me my stones were fake!  ‘Yeah, man, those gypsies conned you!  Look,’ he shows me, ‘rub it on nail-varnish-remover on paper,’ and there it was, undeniable dye.

On Monday July 27th 1992, after many adventures hitching and hiking across America (arrested for ‘stepping on the highway’ but released because the sheriff didn’t want the paperwork), I arrive at the Phoenicia Pathwork Centre in upstate New York.  Encountering a pack of people running barking through the woods, I kind of get an idea of what the place is about.  I thought Healing Tao a bit far out, but nothing in comparison with some of the stuff going on here. Or so I thought.

It’s good to see Mantak and Maneewan again and to reconnect with the Michaels.  Most of the group are American, with a quota of Swiss and Germans, a couple of French, two other English and a saucy Hollandaise.  I make a new friend in the nether lands, learn strange new (to me!) practices, but  gain a disturbing insight into the inner court.


Next week – Conspiracy!

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Mantak and Me – Part 6: The End of the War

January 18th, 1992.  We picnicked on a a pretty coral island off Pattaya, not a scrap of shade but a soft breeze kept us cool and the mosquitos at bay.  Most of the other men were clustered as usual around Hatsumi, a beautiful Japanese whom we thought to be with Michael M, an Italian-American who claimed to be in the Witness Protection Program.  Would he have told us, really?  Or was this to warn us to keep off his girlfriend?  Which she really wasn’t, as it turned out when she traveled with me around North Thailand the next week. But he did play the guitar well.

Sitting nearby, Michael C, wrapped in a Tibetan robe of purple, meditated a few feet from two tall Dutch girls basking topless. Alvin L sat like a seaside Buddha, his giant belly glistening white in the light, while Vassilis performed Salutation to the Sun.  I found myself talking with Christoph, whom I had helped over the high sides of the boat that brought us out to the island, he missing his left arm and right leg, and his artificial limbs getting in the way.  I restrained myself from suggesting he pull them off and toss them on board separately.  We spoke about World War 2, the war that cost him his limbs in October 1944, his brother in February 1945, and me my father in 1942.  Christoph said he had been forced into the Hitler Youth as a boy and conscripted to fight to the end.

Mantak in shorts was showing Garry from Los Angeles how to eat crab and giving advice on the financial aspect of teaching the Tao. ‘If I had a dollar for everyone who said they were coming on a course I would never need to run any.’  I learned the truth of this myself over many years of runing courses!


Next week – America!

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A Winners Alphabet

A book to win by! And to win in a way that suits you, fits your style, utilizing resources you already have, inspiring ways to find more. Direct, no-nonsense, practical without preaching, North has written a handbook of help to find the inspiration to get what you really want and how to go about it, how to look before you leap and, having looked, leapt and still fallen in the ditch, to clamber out and seek a better way, practical steps to turn dreams into reality, simple steps, proven by time and experience.

Supported by a team. A panel of experts. An battalion of Winners, From Marilyn Monroe to Mother Teresa, Bob Marley to Jeff Bezos, HH the Dalai Lama to Warren Buffet, Pablo Picasso to Cristiano Ronaldo, Bill Gates to Joan Collins, Steve Jobs to Diana Princess of Wales, Dale Carnegie to Mahatma Gandhi, and hundreds more, each and every one who got what they want, often making the best of difficult circumstances. As Bruce Lee said, ‘To hell with circumstances. I create opportunities!’

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Mantak and Me – Part 5: Follow the Money

‘Make friends with money energy!’ finally resolved my issues with filthy lucre, from the childhood program ‘We don’t discuss money.  So vulgar,’ to the grown-up riches-and-success program that had me chasing after it in a constant race to make it faster than I could spend it.  Which, admittedly, had provided the wherewithal to take a few years out and indulge myself in traveling the world and meeting cool people such as the one I was talking with now.

He said, ‘In the presence of a great healer everyone feels good.’  And I did.  For the first time I felt relaxed about money and as a result found myself free from my budget.  I was able to follow him to the States, pay for all the training there and in subsequent years and, indeed, to make my living doing what I love ever since.  Meanwhile, listening to wonderful stories of how he started in the Tao, I heard how, raised as a Christian, at the age of six he went on a school trip to a local Buddhist monastery.

Buddhism is the offical religion in Thailand so to a pastor’s son growing  up in a Baptist household, passing shrines and temples everywhere would have been at least intriguing, not to mention the begging monks swarming the streets like yellow lice.  Men in Thailand have to do six months in a monastery at some point in their lives.  I guess members of other religions were exempt as we never heard Mantak mention monking other than to disparage.  (The monk I had been traveling with in the North had, at twentyseven, interrupted a career as a carpenter to perform this religious service but, disillusioned with monastic life which, he said, consisted of chanting prayers and watching TV, quit to become a hermit living in a cave behind a waterfall.)

Meanwhile, our time in Pattaya drawing to a close, we students were getting excited about a planned boat picnic Mantak and Maneewan had organised for us.


Next week – The End of the War

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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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