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Nov 2014

Hi there yoga friends -

As I sat on the floor of the Lotus Palm school here in Montreal - the polished wood heated against the November chill of this Canadian city - and prepared for the beginning of Thai Massage training, one question still hovered in my mind.  How truly integrated is Yoga with Thai Massage? Will they just share a few stretches? Exotic names?

Our teacher Mirabai - graceful, relaxed and with an open smile, fluent in four languages and down to earth in her directions - soon answered my question.

"When we touch the body of the client, we touch all the bodies of the client."

Ahhh. Right at her core, she was teaching the same layers of our being I have found most fundamental in yoga practice. We are a physical body, yes. And through that gateway we come to the breath/prana body - the mental/emotional body - the wisdom body - and potentially to reconnect our awareness to our bliss body.

Indeed, on the wall of the classroom there is a beautiful chart of these layers, showing them in a way I hadn't seen illustrated before. Rather than smaller, like the image of a russian doll, each more subtle layer is larger, more expansive, more connected with the world beyond. Beyond, perhaps, our delusion of separate self.

And yet, this solid connection between Thai Massage and Yoga made it all the more confusing when, at the end of the first week, we met the founder of the studio and author of our textbook. Kam Thye Chow sat with deeply open hips, a relaxed spine and an almost bowed head, a picture of soft relaxation next to the tall alertness of Mirabai, who radiated a mixture of love and pride at having called him out of partial retirement to meet this latest batch of students. Asked what he is doing these days, Kam replies - "enjoying life". Pressed, he says that he is a student of yoga. Really? Surely he must have a practice of many decades - he is one of those ageless-youthful people that only when you look close can you see the life-lines on their skin, smoothed into irrelevance by their smile and quiet vibrancy. Is his answer some false modesty? Yet when another student persists, asking if she can take class from him sometime, he gently reminds her that he is not a teacher, just a student of yoga. He tells us his favorite studio, chosen mostly because it is convenient to his Montreal town house, and invites us to find him there most days.

I don't know if I have met someone as genuinely humble and inspiring at the same time.

And as i sit in satsang meditation at the nearby Sivananda community that evening, something wells up deep inside me. I have often said, half joking and half not, that I want to give up climbing. Not that I never want stand on the summit of a mountain again. But to acknowledge that there is a part of myself that wants to turn away from this focus on the glory of the summit. In an insight that bizarrely sends a shiver down my spine, I mouth the words in my heart. At my core, I will always be a walker. 

I am reminded of the quote Todd often uses in class at Ombase. We can either hold the breath - or have the breath. We can't have both. 

Thinking of Kam, it seems he has realized that he can either possess his expertise - or seek always to step into his ignorance. To be stuck as a teacher is in the end to no longer be on the ultimate freedom - a quest for knowing the world, experiencing the world, finding out what is next to be discovered. To become a student is to always be free - free to walk into life through your own ignorance. In a way one is the glory of the high point, the other the romance of the endless search. And perhaps for me climbing will always have a sense of this glory, conquest, possession. Whereas to be a walker - in the way that John Muir was a nomad on this earth - is a pure romance of the hills. What is over the horizon? deep in that valley?

It seems I have come back to something very simple - realizing I am indeed the same boy I ever was. Perhaps what yoga has helped me discover above all else is that this walk is not just in the physical layer, but in all the increasingly subtle and thus expansive realms that lead toward spirit.

Meanwhile, I'm on break for two days in this welcoming bilingual city of great food and culture before the second half of massage training. Looking forward to bringing it home :-)

Namaste - Eugene