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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