Where Pichest lives, and how

November 10, 2009

Michelle-Song-Tao

As the days go on, my impressions of our studies with Pichest become less linear or focused on particular days, and are more concentrated on Pichest’s various aspects, different ways he has of teaching, different moods, and the shifting energy with which he works. Mary and I have been talking a lot about all of the other work Pichest is doing, besides teaching us thai massage. As we spend more time in his space and witness and receive more interactions, we see that much more is happening energetically at Pichest’s than appears on the surface (in fact, this “other” work is often happening precisely at those times when one might have the impression that absolutely “nothing” is happening.)

Recently, in the evenings, I have been reading The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram, which is a philosophical record of a year he spent in Bali and Nepal investigating the practices of shamans and other local healers. At the beginning of the book, he talks about how the shaman does not, and in fact cannot, live at the center of the village she or he serves, but must live on the edge, on the outskirts. It is from the border zone that the shaman draws her power.

“I discovered that very few of the medicine people that I met considered their work as healers to be their primary role or function for their communities. So even though they were the healers, or the medicine people, for their villages, they saw their ability to heal as a by-product of their more primary work. This more primary work had to do with the fact that these magicians rarely live at the middle of their communities or in the heart of the village. They always live out at the edge or just outside of the village — out among the rice paddies or in a cluster of wild boulders — because their skills are not encompassed within the human modality. They are, as it were, the intermediaries between the human community and the more-than-human community — the animals, the plants, the trees, even whole forests are considered to be living, intelligent forces. Even the winds and the weather patterns are seen as living beings. Everything is animate. Everything moves. It’s just that some things move slower than other things, like the mountains or the ground itself. But everything has its movement, has its life. And the magicians were precisely those individuals who were most susceptible to the solicitations of these other-than-human shapes. It was the magicians who could most easily enter into some kind of rapport with another being, like an oak tree, or with a frog.”

This is the rice field right across from Pichest’s house. It’s just off the main road, but the main road probably hasn’t been there all that long, and certainly was once not so large as it is now.

rice-fields

Two things about where Pichest lives struck me all of a sudden.  First of all, he lives just off the same road the Old Medicine Hospital is on, though he lives much further out of Chiang Mai proper – the Old Medicine Hospital is just on the edge of the old city.  Pichest was a therapist there for many years, and so he still lives on the line of that road, on that sen, as Mary would say.  Secondly, though Pichest may be maintaining certain energetic connections with Chiang Mai, he does indeed live on the outskirts, and I have the impression that he does not go into Chiang Mai very often. He is cultivating his knowledge in a significantly different environment than the crowded streets of the main city.

He is constantly talking about 7-11. 7-11 is everything that the natural world is not. 7-11 is, for Pichest, a total loss of knowledge, and what’s worse, 7-11 is everywhere, even in the place that used to be the “outskirts.”  Pichest is more than right…in this rapidly expanding world, the distinction between center and periphery is becoming very blurry, and the natural world and all of its inherent knowledge, is being paved over.

A few days ago, Pichest started talking to me about the eclipse.  I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. He mentioned it a number of times. He said bad things could happen. He made a motion like slicing his throat, which I think was my throat. He mentioned the eclipse again.  I tried to wait patiently and not worry about losing my head, literally. This went on for a day or two.  Then, one day, Pichest took a long nap.

pichest-sleeping

He often does this. When he woke up, he started shuffling around the weird piles of things, papers, dusty bottles of oil, matches and other weirder things that lie in most corners and on most surfaces of the room, especially around the altar. He was in a half-sleep, cultivating a kind of energy I’ve seen him sometimes use, which is an energy meaning that he is doing something very internal, and doesn’t want to be interrupted. Mary and I were practicing on one another, and he came over to me with the piece of paper with a lot of squares on it, and some other symbols. “Name?”  he said in a low voice. “Michelle.” He wrote my name slowly in a tiny square, fitting it all in.  “Surname.”  “Tupko.”  The tiny square below was filled in with these letters, which I spelled out.  He also did an elaborate and ancient form of counting on his fingers, using the digits of each hand to mark ones and tens. He did this a number of times, checking and double checking.  I told Mary  I think I once read something about how the Egyptians counted like that. Then he went away.
After some time, he called me over.  He gave me these things:

michelle-holding-bowl

which are, a silver (aluminum?) bowl, a candle holder, and a candle he made from a circle of yellow wax that he rolled and rolled into a candle shape, wrapped in paper.  Mary thinks the piece of paper with my name on it was inside the candle. He gave me a set of instructions about what to do that night, and said it would clear the dark energy in me. It would remove the eclipse?

Many of the shamanistic things Pichest is doing happen within the larger context of Buddhism, but it seems to me, and I’ve been asking around a bit about this as well, that here in Thailand, and particularly in the North, or the Lanna region, Buddhism and the older, animistic and extremely varied practices of the people here coexist quite peacefully with one another, and there are few conflicts set up by practitioners of these arts between this and that, between Buddhist practices and other rituals,between shamans and monks. (To illustrate this point, I’ll mention that a friend who is organizing a tour of a wide survey of local healers in the Chiang Mai outskirts, recently told me that she met a  monk who is the head of a  wat and some years ago received a vision about how to run energy through pyramids. At this wat, you can lay down beneath little pyramids with special holes cut in them in specific patterns, and water runs through them. You absorb the energy. Speaking of the Egyptians…)

Pichest has performed other simple rituals as well, like keeping the buddhas and Jivaka statues of these American students on the altar for one week, and then giving them back.  When he performs ceremonies, he often sits in this chair, which is like the place a monk would sit in a wat to give a blessing:

pichest-buddha-blessing

These rituals are externally simple, but, like shaman, I can tell that Pichest is doing an inner work in his own space to facilitate a deeper exchange of energy.

I also believe that Pichest performs many rituals of various sorts for the village and community around him. The spirit house/temple (he calls it both) that he is having built is not just for us, if it’s for us at all. I have not seen any of these rituals, and would like to ask Pichest about what role he is playing outside of the work we see him do, but it hasn’t been the right time for that conversation yet.

And now I’m starting to see how he works with that endless exchange of energy between one place and another, one person and another, when he is working on people.  Look at the different energies he’s using as he’s working.  Different moments bring different needs, and different moods and methods are elicited from him:

   pichest-energy-3pichest-energy-4pichest-energy-5Pichest-energy-1

Pichest-energy-2

Ok, enough serious talk.  Now for some fun.

buddha's-sweat

If I’m understanding correctly – this is the Buddha’s crystallized sweat.  That’s Pichest’s hand –I’m sure about that part, but do wonder about the nails on his thumb and pinky fingers.

Mary greeting a sudden visitor.

mary-elephant-pichest

Where you ride on the song tao when it’s totally full in the afternoon, as it often is. (This is Hajime, a Japanese student who’s been with Pichest for 5 months and just left to return home yesterday.)

hajime-song-tao

A better picture of the offerings:
offerings

(See, wasn’t that fun?)
And now some thai massage parts.

Nigel came again on Wednesday, and he received a rather different massage than last week.  Pichest had a student do side lying bloodstops and began immediately working on Nigel’s upper body, starting with the arm and shoulder, and doing a lot of work on the back lines. He finished with the legs and seated.

pichest-nigel
pichest-move-4

Often, Pichest will say “feel feel!” sudeenly, and then a lot of hands reach in to touch and sense.

sensing

Pretty much everyone is now practicing this simple and deep knee in the gluts move:

pichest-move-3

While fewer people are practicing this more difficult forearm in the neck move:

Pichest-move-1

And, incidentally, it’s not true that he doesn’t do yoga.  He says, during this picture. “See, can do yoga easily. Do now.”

pichest-does-yoga  Really, Pichest seems to do everything easily.  Last week, he gave me a long lesson, which was “if not easy to do, do not do.  Do not do.  Do not do. Do not do.”  It took me quite a while to learn the lesson.

Actually, I have to keep learning and relearning it, by feeling, and a little bit of watching.  Look at how relaxed he is:

pichest-move-2

So, like this baby elephant resting, I’m practicing the practice of doing whatever I’m doing. “Do now. Easy to do.”

sleeping-elephant

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more and bigger

November 10, 2009

Mary-with-elephantstaking up more space on the internets…

I’ve had a couple of requests for more and bigger photos. This set is to supplement the “Buddah Walked into a Monk and said Wat” post. We hope you enjoy all of the information we’re throwing your way!

(this pic was not taken inside a Wat, but it is pretty darn cute!)

see link below:

 

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/17582984@N06/sets/72157622775509794/

You mean like…DDT?

November 7, 2009

Michelle-Song-Tao

or, the importance of the Chiang Mai University Farmer’s Market

This is a post for my friend Sarah Nelson, who works for the Pacific Coast Farmer’s Market Association in San Francisco and took me to many wonderful Farmer’s Markets – and farms – when I visited her in early October, before I moved to Thailand.

These are some pictures from a Farmer’s Market that happens on the grounds of Chiang Mai University’s

sign-agricultural-faculty

where there also appears to be a working farm.

farmI would like to find out more about this farm, which I know nothing about. Our friend Nancy, who took us to the Farmer’s Market, where she buys her weekly produce as well as cooked food to eat during the week – a common practice in Thailand – told us that the vendor/farmers participating in the market and the produce they are selling is not from the University’s farm at all. The University just sponsors the Farmer’s Market.  I don’t know if that means the University’s farm is just for learning and research purposes, or if they sell their produce elsewhere.  Perhaps I will look into this.

The Farmer’s Market is pesticide-free and partly organic. We have heard that Thailand uses heavy-duty pesticides, some of which would be illegal in the United States or Europe.  I did a small bit of research while writing this blog about the pesticide issue. Here is a rather scary quote from a paper published at the site of a farm and sustainable research center just north of Chiang Mai (panyaproject.org):

“At latest count, out of the 58 pesticide products we’ve identified as commonly used in Thailand and in our region here in the north around Pun Pun Farm in particular…32 are moderately to highly acutely toxic to humans 14 are possible human carcinogens, and 9 are known human carcinogens 15 are cholinesterase inhibitors (indicating neurotoxicity) 19 are suspected endocrine disruptors 8 are reproductive or developmental toxins 30 are classified as “Bad Actors” by the Pesticide Action Network and 19 represent known or potential threats to groundwater contamination.”

Hmmm…

The market is only partly organic, Nancy said. Organic seems to be a more difficult step that requires more education of and support for the farmers but awareness is slowly growing of the importance of organic food, and there are more markets available to farmers willing to put in the time and money to change their method of crop production.

market-long-view

Like many places in Thailand, the food and produce here look beautiful and sometimes the Thai do wonderful things like tie up a set of various herbs and veggies with a thick piece of banana trunk and staple it closed.

herb-bundle

Or sell all kinds of fruit and vegetable juice, like passion fruit and gotukola (the green ones) in little plastic bags floating in a tub of water.

bags-of-juice

Or just have wonderful things, like what seem to be thousands of varieties of ginger and things like ginger, and the constant fresh coconut hacked at the top with a big machete as you watch and given to you to drink from.

ginger coconuts

I also quite liked the walk there, which involves crossing a mysterious vast expanse of concrete that could neither be said to be empty nor full.  These kinds of spaces are some of my favorite places to walk. They remind me of something.

walk-to-farmer's-market-3

walk-to-farmer's-market-2

Walk-to-Farmer's-Market-1

Maybe we will go back next Saturday to get some more pictures, and more passion fruit juice, and to reduce our neurotoxicity.

market-side-view

mary with stringWhen I settle down and am not overwhelmed by the traffic, the pollution, the heat or my nervous tendencies toward shyness, Chiang Mai becomes a city of animistic Magik and fluid motion. I don’t want to get sentimental or grandiose about this place, but my moments are, again and again, found inside something beautiful. I must temper myself, as everything looks new and fresh when traveling, and I can easily get excited about a door. It looks so simple here. Wrap a rice ball in banana leaves, fill it with sweet “pancake” and hold it shut with a toothpick; put the white string on your head for good luck; dye rice purple, blue and green with flowers; dye fabric with squished ants and make a scarf; wrap a tree in red and yellow fabric then support its boughs with golden crutches. And i’m obsessed with the brooms. They are lovely. broomI intend to find a broom “factory” and give them their own post. I feel that the traditions and culture support a grounded connection to the sacred, and this further supports the patience, kindness and elegance of the people of this city.

Michelle and I have been visiting the Wats. A reasonable farang activity as there are many. Many, many. And they are really pretty. We’ve participated in a Monk Ordination ceremony and a Monk Chat; have been blessed by a mysterious monk in a dark corner with a piece of string; seen ancient, crumbling Wats; a shiny, brand new silver Wat; walked deep inside a scary, snake, cave Wat; and attended a ceremony for the Buddha inside which I can only describe as the most amazing New York Art Installation piece that I have ever seen.

Katy, Mindy, Grandma, I was thinking of you when we found Wat Chai Sri Phum. I wish you could have been there to see it. All of the Wats that I’ve seen are beautiful, ornate, colorful, strange and mysterious in their own way, and my response to Wat Chai Sri Phum may not have been as strong if we had not walked in while the Monks were preparing for an upcoming weekend weavecelebration. It was Death Hour, to escape the heat Michelle and I decided to hide inside a Wat. Not expecting a spectacle beyond the expected spectacle, what I saw in bare feet and in dazed heat belonged in a Gallery. The ceiling was a grid ofwatwrappedinstring white string with more white string tied into a ball at each intersection, huge branches wrapped in gold and silver foil leaned on each other to form a teepee, banana leaves and marigolds adorned white ladders that went both up and down, weavings hung from the ceiling, bowls of rice and seeds were placed where they needed to be, along with bundles of sticks wrapped in gold in silver foil. An altar of a dozen gold Buddha’s overlooked the scene while Monks (some of them tattooed) wandered around in saffron robes.

ceremonyIt was even more ridiculous when we returned on Saturday for the ceremony. Offerings of banana leaf and bamboo boxes filled with origami fruits and flowers and prayers were set up. Over which some of the ladies in the Sangha battled over the timing of the lighting of incense and candles. Even more random weavings, drawings and plant matter filled the space. It was dense and also delicate. We were kindly encouraged and guided to sit beneath a ball of string. Then, in  broken Thai (I for the most part just saidcroc “thank you” and “good afternoon” over and over) and pantomime (point to a ball of string above you, then circle the top of your head and you’ve got the moves) we came to understand that we would get to wear the string on our heads! It was a wonderful experience to be sitting with about 200 fellow humans beneath a grid of string, each of us releasing the string so that one end was still tied to the grid and the other end was coiled atop our head. Prayers and much chanting allowed for a lovely rhythmic ceremony in which the woven connection of all life felt real and present.

We were later told that this ceremony was to clear all the offeringsbad from our lives to make room for the good.  The whole experience was pretty solid. We were blessed with water, given an embroidered chord, and instructed to keep the string with us. Possibly in our pocket or under our pillow or under our hat. I had hoped to grab one of the many drawings and paintings hanging from string or sticks, but the collective Sangha was quick, and I was timid. Afterwards, we were invited to eat lunch with everyone, including the Monks. The food was served Family style and was the most delicious that I’ve had so far.

crutchesI’m not a Buddhist, I approach the Wats with an artistic and anthropological interest. From my conversations with the Monks, the locals, and from what I’ve observed, the Thai embrace Buddhism with an easy going Spiritual affinity. Not only are Wats everywhere, but so are Spirit Houses and Shrines and evidence of Folk traditions. In restaurants, it is not uncommon to see totems and talismans hanging dusty and feathered on a wall or from the ceiling. You can buy a blessing of a flowered necklace and hang it on a rusty crane or a lamp in a bar. I have the feeling that my teacher is using Thai Massage as a glamour to a deeper magical experience. There is no need for me to believe or feel anything new or inspired or revelatory. The pressure is off, for the most part.  This is the culture shock that I was looking for: a relaxed but strong support for the individual experience. I am living inside a Dali painting. My limbs are supported by golden crutches, ants are everywhere and time is meaningless.

In a future post, either Michelle or I will write about the scary, snake, cave Wat. It deserves more than a mention. We walked inside the mountain, we plan to go back and walk on the mountain. Here is a picture of a snake on the snake:

snake

Michelle-Song-Tao
Pichest is always smiling.  Except when he’s pretending he’s going to hit you on the head with his Buddhist      cane. “Pok Pok!”  Well, even then, he’s smiling.

Mary and I have been with Pichest for one week, and there’s so much to say it’s difficult to condense into one introductory post.  I’ll start with some basics.  Pichest lives in Hang Dong, which is not in Chiang Mai, so going to study with him every morning is an adventure of its own. The first day you go, you might be lucky enough, as we were, to have a piece of paper with some directions on it, that go something like this: “get in the yellow song tao (shared pickup truck taxi); look at your watch when you start the journey; 13 minutes later, when you pass the second of two pedestrian bridges, start looking for a big field; when you pass the building at the end of the big field, ring the buzzer and get out of the taxi, etc.  So the first morning is filled with the great excitement of buying offerings (lotus blossoms, fruit, incense and candles) for Pichest and his temple at the energetic and confusing Chiang Mai market, filled with sweets, curries, those flattened fish that scare me, people, motorbikes, other colorful things, and then finding a yellow pick up truck, and then staring eagerly and frantically out the window, discussing the “directions,” causing the good-humored Thai people in the taxi with you to smile at you a lot.

offerings-in-bags Offering-bowls

Pichest’s classroom is in the middle of a very normal neighborhood in Hang Dong. It’s right near a rice field.  It feels like the countryside compared to Chiang Mai. The room where we practice has a very large shrine area. I estimate that it takes up about one full third of the total area of the room. There are three parts of it – one part for teachers and family, one part for the Buddha and the Dharma, and one part, a free-standing white house in the corner, that I don’t understand at all. Near this house is a sculpture like a cardboard boat covered in gold that I understand even less. I don’t think it’s part of the shrine.

pichetshrinesmall          shrine-mysterious-part-of-i

temple-construction

Construction is going on right next to the classroom.  Pichest is building a new spirit house.  The men working there work incredibly fast – the first day we came, Monday, there was just the most basic frame.  This picture is from Wednesday.

Each day is structured in basically the same way, with some variations and improvisations – it’s like        jazz. We sit around either inside or outside of the classroom from about 9:00 to 9:30. Sometimes,            Pichest talks to people. He usually smokes a lot of cigarettes. Sometimes he talks in a more formal way to all those in the room, and sometimes just to one or two students or to an individual student. He has certain subjects he likes to talk about best…perhaps that will be its own post, the sayings of Pichest. I’m still collecting them.  In general, these talks center around keeping the 5 precepts of Buddhism, honoring one’s mother and father, not thinking too much, not thinking at all,  7-11 as a stand-in for all that’s gone wrong in our contemporary society, the illusion of the body, the certainty of death and other related subjects. Recently, he talked about how if trying to be a thai massage therapist makes you too worried, or makes you think too much, you should become someone who sells boxes, because that is a job without stress, and anyway, everyone always needs boxes, all kinds of boxes, including the one you find yourself in when “stop life.”      Classroom

Then we pray. We pray what I consider to be a rather formal Buddhist set of prayers, including a recitation of a vow to observe the 5 Precepts (as Pichest says “no killing, no lying, no sex, no stealing, no whiskey.”) We recite some of the prayers together, and Pichest says a fair amount of the prayers himself. We pray to all three areas of the shrine. We say the Om Namo to Jivaka somewhere in the middle.

After the prayers, Pichest often gives a kind of Dharma talk. He talks about the same subjects as mentioned above, with variations, and sometimes directs a fair amount of his speaking at a particular student.  When he does this, I think it’s an example of what would be called “transmission” in Buddhism…the teaching he’s giving is heard by all, but the inner energy of the teaching is for someone in particular. I think, in fact, that this direct transmission is a very important part of his bodywork, as well as a part of the way he works in the role of teacher.

Then, somehow arising from this talk, he chooses someone and starts talking about what’s going on in their body.  He will often go suddenly over to someone and say “see, block here,” and point to some part of them.  He’ll elaborate, and sometimes do some work on this part. Oftentimes, he’ll say to us, “Feel. Sense. Where is the block?”  And then he’ll sit in the corner for a while smoking a cigarette, and talk about the way their block is affecting their body from across the room. Then he’ll come over after a while and do some more stuff.  Sometimes, he’ll have another student work on the body that’s being observed and sensed. This all happens in a very organic and fluid way. Sometimes there are questions, sometimes if you ask a very “thinking” question, you get threatened with a hit on the head (in a playful way), sometimes you get a demonstration of something really interesting, sometimes you get no response at all. Pichest teaches entirely in the moment, and absolutely refuses to commit himself to any answer that would make the particular situation, the particular body in front of him into an example of things in general. He will work only with what is there to work with, and refuses almost all conceptualizing and abstraction.  This can be totally and utterly maddening, but it also forces us to look very closely at who is actually lying in front of us, and to give up the belief that we can work from our ideas about what someone needs.  This is very hard work, but, as Pichest always says, laughing “for you, hard; for me, easy.”

Mary-Cha-Nom

Then, lunch. Often, Pichest’s wife kindly cooks us some delicious vegetarian food. Othertimes, we go to the little food stand down the road, where they also kindly cook us some delicious vegetarian food. There, we drink cha nom – thai iced tea with sweet condensed milk – or cha manao – thai iced tea with lime. Sometimes, we need to go and get the cha nom even when we eat at Pichest’s.  The heat makes us crave it. And, besides, it comes, like almost any liquid in Thailand, in plastic bags, and that is just delightful. It’s also funny that when you need to put your cha nom in a plastic bag down, you can’t!  So you can hang it on a hook, as we once saw Pichest do.

After lunch, whenever you consider lunch to be over, you can come inside and work with someone. This, like the rest of the day, happens organically. No one decides when lunch is over, or who should work with whom, or in what way. Often, some people are working, some are watching, some are sleeping. Usually, by an hour or two after lunch, everyone is working with someone. At times, Pichest receives massage from one of the students, and then will often show them some new things and work on them for a while. Other times, we will go around and give some adjustments and advice. Other times, he sleeps. In Pichest’s class, one finds oneself looking to the other students as well as to Pichest for answers, ways to work and experience.

Japanese-students-working-

This is one of my favorite aspects of his way of teaching. The room is a mix of beginning, intermediate    and advanced students, and so a lot of knowledge is exchanged in a variety of directions.

Pichest’s son On also helps out some days, and gives a lot of wonderful adjustments to us. Both                Pichest and On give very hands-on adjustments. If you can’t understand something, like how to use        your knee pressure in the right way, they will take your hand and put it under their knee so that you         can feel how the pressure feels to the recipient. I like this feeling way of learning quite a lot – it’s very direct, and like so much that Pichest does, avoids over-conceptualizing.

At around 4, or a little bit later if Pichest was asleep, we pray again, this time just a short invocation to the Buddha and the Om Namo. Then we leave.  Sometimes, Pichest sits around outside and talks with us.

So, this is the way the days have been, with a few notable exceptions of Pichest seeing people from the outside and treating them in the context of the class.

A man named Nigel came on Wednesday to receive a massage from Pichest. I personally didn’t realize that Pichest still gave sessions, but now I believe that he gives them when they are really necessary.  My understanding is that he has been seeing Nigel for close to one year. Nigel is an American living in Chiang Mai, and suffers from Parkinson’s. Nigel was given his massage in the main room, with all the students gathered around watching, and shooting a lot of photos.  We shot 650!  Pichest had one of his students do some bloodstops – oops – I mean arterial compressions! — on Nigel when Pichest began working on him in side lying position, but other than that, he did all of the work himself. A student who has been studying with Pichest for many months told us that he does sometimes have the more advanced students begin Nigel’s massage and then takes over at some point. I was glad to have this chance to watch him work. He doesn’t talk or explain much while he’s working, but being able to follow the thread of his thought – I mean, his non-thinking! – is really amazing. Pichest is truly a master of finding the simplest, most direct and most effective way to work at any moment in any position, and he works with astounding fluidity.

Pichet-Nigel-Massage-4

Pichet-Nigel-Massage-3Pichet-Nigel-Massage-1

Pichet-Nigel-Massage-2 Here are a few pictures from the 650 – one in  which I look confused, one which shows a  move  you should probably not do until you’re Pichest,  one in which he’s giving a good  Pichest smile,  and one in which he’s doing a totally awesome  move, which you probably  also shouldn’t do.  He  was smiling in that one too.

On Friday, a former student of Pichest, a Thai woman, came into the room the middle of  class unannounced, bringing with  her an older Indian-British man who had polio as a  child and 6 months ago, against the advice of his doctors, underwent a surgery to have  his Achilles tendon lengthened. His leg was still very stiff and swollen and causing him a  lot of pain. He had been receiving Thai massage as well as massage from the woman  with him. He was hoping Pichest could look at his situation. Pichest sat down and gave  him a diagnosis that the man said was exactly what his doctor had said. The most  surprising thing to me that Pichest said was that the man should definitely not receive  Thai massage, because the kind of pressure was too intense and only increased the block,  and would make it hard for the man to sleep. (I asked about it again later, and he did say  that bloodstops would be alright, but nothing else). Instead, he recommended oil  massage for the man. He went to the back of the room where there was a big tub of dark, pichet-polio-man-small herbed sesame oil. One of his students brought him various containers,  bowls and cups, to put the oil in, but none of them were the right one.  Pichest apparently wanted an earthenware container for the oil. Finally,  after 10 minutes of looking for the right container, he brought the oil over to  the man, and showed one of the students how to give a kind of slapping  massage to the man’s leg, meant to stimulate the blood flow in the leg.  He  also recommended to the man many, many times that he stops drinking  whiskey and ride a bicycle and get rid of his big belly. He usually smiled  when he said these things.

One week with Pichest is both a long and short time to be in his presence.  The main idea circulating in my thoughts after this first week is about the way that he teaches so directly from the bodies and the energies of the students in the room. The familiar superstructure of curriculum, plan, knowledge made concrete and authoritative that mark most classes of all subjects are totally absent from his way of teaching. He teaches from the situation as it is, and so one can have no doubt at all that one is indeed in that very situation. This, I am realizing more and more, is the essence of meditation itself. I complained to Pichest that he should teach meditation in his classroom if he’s going to talk about it so much, but I realize now that he already is.

Today, at the end of class, just before closing prayers, he suddenly stood up, went to the window and called for us to come and look at the light. When we crowded around, he opened his bottle of water and poured some into the cup made by the veins of a large leaf outside, then held the beautiful and simple water droplet up to the light. “Just like this,” he said. “Just like that.”