Pathwork Center July 1992. We’re a rowdy bunch, we Young Taoists, full of fun and belly-laughs, too noisy for some in this strange and beautiful place nestled in a steep valley covered in woods, a stream running through the middle, different buildings for admin, meditation, lectures, eating, accommodation, shared by different groups. I hear chanting here, music there – a cello from heaven – shouting and crying, singing and laughing, and the wind in the trees. I find the Sanctuary, a septagonal building in a secret glade where I pass pleasant afternoons in dalliance with the saucy hollandaise.
Having spent the first morning under Mantak’s guidance energy-cleansing our lecture hall following its use by an anger-management group we are enjoying a boisterous lunch when a pious looking fellow of gentle demeanour approaches our table. ‘Say,’ he pleads, ‘can you guys be quiet,’ indicating a nearby table of glums, ‘we’re having a silent retreat here.’ Quick as a flash, one of the Michaels retorts, ‘So! Then why are you speaking?’
Evenings we gather around Mantak on the deck as he shares stories of the past and his vision of the future. Friendly, approachable, and always witty, ‘Laugh and learn,’ he would say. I love the atmosphere in those evenings after the scheduled training, like-minded people drawn together by a common bond, Mantak a great teacher, Maneewan at his side. And yet, as I get to know the more senior people, I hear disquieting rumors. Everything on the surface looks serene, but there is a move afoot, a conspiracy some call it, to force a change at the top. Was the Taoist Double-Master tradition to be broken?
Meanwhile I have other things on my mind: my then and soon-to-be-ex wife, no longer languishing for my return to London, celebrates our tenth anniversary by scarpering off to foreign parts with a redundant coal-miner. But who am I, sampling the delights of the house of orange, to point a finger?
Next week – Chi Nei Tsang
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