Tag Archives: Passion

A New Path: Thai Yoga Bodywork

For the last eight days I was in training to learn levels 1 and 2 of Thai Yoga Bodywork (there are six levels to get certified). It was difficult, and gratifying, and purposeful, and I learned so much more than just the curriculum! I felt for the first time in a very long time that I was going down a path that was worth pursuing. Even though it was hard, it felt right to me. I’m excited to share my experience, but first there are a couple things I would like to clear up! The main thing that friends and family have asked when they heard about this pursuit is:

What is Thai Yoga Bodywork?

Often referred to as Thai Massage or “Lazy Man’s Yoga,” it is officially called nuad boaran in the Thai language. It’s kind of difficult to explain until you experience it, but here is a pretty good explanation:

So what is Thai Massage? Well, for one thing, it’s not massage as we know it in the West. In fact, it is unfortunate that the term “Thai massage” has become so popular because that second word, massage, is misleading and inaccurate. Massage tables or oil aren’t used, there is no rubbing on the skin or kneading of the muscles, and the receiver remains clothed. The goal is not to work muscles , fascia, tendons, ligaments, organs and soft tissue, though these anatomical elements are positively affected by the work. Neither is its purpose to simply stretch and apply passive yoga to another person on a floor mat. At its essence, nuad boaran is a balanced blend of physical, energetic, and spiritual healing techniques and concepts. It is the skillful combination of applying both broad and targeted acupressure, finding and dissolving blockages, stimulating energy lines (sen), opening and toning the body with yoga-like stretches, and last but not least, allowing and encouraging the receiver to engage in a process of self healing, deep relaxation, and renewal.

Bob Haddad, Thai Massage & Thai Healing Arts: Practice, Culture and Spirituality

For a little more detail and some photos, check out this page at the Thai Healing Alliance International site.

What the heck made me decide to pursue this?!

Contrary to how it may appear on the surface, I’ve had a long-term interest in natural health and healing. I’ve also had a long-term interest in spirituality. I’ve done a TON of reading and thinking about both, but hadn’t really found a strong application for either interest. Well, I guess maybe it would be more appropriate to say that I hadn’t really applied myself to either interest. At any rate, a lot of this blog has been about me being stuck (it is sad, but true, that the blog is nearly 8 years old. Which means I have been feeling stuck for that long! Yikes! By the way – I deleted most of the old stuff because I’m wanting to refresh). I have just felt kind of dead inside most of the time. Not like I haven’t felt love or happiness at all, but more like I’m just existing: going to work day after day at a job that doesn’t excite me at all, so I can pay bills for things that don’t really mean very much to me, and spend my weekends drinking or watching TV or whatever to drown out the apathy and create a false sense of joy (some of the drinking was fun with friends! But you get the picture – not exactly a healthy hobby!). Life just didn’t seem to have much color.

Over the last seven years I have been making v e r y s l o w progress on getting myself unstuck. There have been many minor epiphanies that have created subtle changes in my thinking/worldview, but no big changes in my behavior. At some point back in February I had a huge babababaBANG kind of epiphany that made me decide to sign up for the Thai Bodywork training. Here is the epiphany: maybe I just don’t want to be a writer. And then: maybe I just really don’t care that much about art anymore. TaDa!

aha momentsI have thought that I wanted to be a writer for my whole life. Because I think I’m pretty good at it. I also thought I wanted to have some kind of path related to visual art. While I was growing up I produced a ton of writing and art, starting at an early age, because I really enjoyed both. But at some point during college I stopped doing both art and writing for the most part. I graduated from college in 2001, which means that I have spent 14 years (not to mention $40,000 on a master’s degree) trying to beat myself into pursuing dreams that had ceased to be dreams. I thought I had a giant fear complex. I thought I was just too insecure. I thought I was lazy and unfocused. I thought so many things that basically amounted to “I’m not good enough.” The truth is that I had built so much of my self-image around those dreams that it never once occurred to me that maybe I just wasn’t interested and didn’t want to do it anymore. You guys, this was completely mind-blowing!

It took me about a month to grieve my old dreams…then I started thinking seriously about what I really DO care about. I asked myself: what are the things that excite you? What are the articles that you actually read? What are the stories that you tune into? What are the conversations about that you most enjoy? They are about lives, spirituality, nature, natural health, environmentalism, and freedom. What do these things have in common? HEALING.

So combine the epiphany, my interests (including my love of yoga), and the business that my husband just started (bodywork), and Thai yoga bodywork seemed like a natural place to start in a new direction!

AND THEN, lo and behold…once I figured out that writing isn’t my Path (with a capital P), and am doing something that feels right for me, suddenly I feel like writing again! Go figure.

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Renewal

I have recently been feeling a big pull towards the concept of renewal. It makes sense. It’s spring time, and the winter sucked really hard this year. But I am feeling it in a way that is a little more intense than the norm. I think a lot of it comes from living on a farm, and just being more generally in touch with what nature is doing. Living here forces me to take a more active part in the cycles of the seasons. During the winter I had to learn to just sit with myself a little bit more than I’ve been used to. When big snowstorms came through it could be days before the roads were reasonable for driving into the city. There were several times where we had to cancel plans with friends because, even a couple of days after the storm, it would have taken us hours of stressful driving to connect with them. No plan, no matter how longstanding, is completely within my control out here. When nature has other plans, I simply need to relinquish my will to her.

Being forced to let go has changed me. I have a long-term habit of trying to control my environment in order to feel O.K. I have done this with my behavior and also with my thoughts and judgements. I know that most people do this; it’s what we call “ego.” This strange idea that simply having consciousness means that we also have control. Over and over again in my life I have made careful plans to try to control “my” world, and over and over again the real world has said “fuck you, chicky. This is not how I want it to go and I’m bigger than you.” The point of this blog was, as the name implies, to document my roadmap, my plan, to gain further control over my world. What I’ve learned is that I don’t, and can’t, have control. Trying to wrest control from the universe has actually been the biggest cause of distress and backwards movement.

I wish that I could say that over the long winter I took advantage of having so much unfettered time to myself (true to the story that I always told myself “I just don’t have time to write, exercise, meditate, etc.). What really happened was that, while having to sit with myself, I spent most of my time trying to escape myself. In the absence of my old city-living mode of escapism,hyper-socialization, I turned to higher levels of solo escapist activities: unhealthy and excessive eating, too much TV, too much drinking. Even reading novels can take on an obsessive quality for me. For a couple of months I was in the midst of the deepest depression I’ve had since I nearly lost it at the tail end of completing my master’s degree. I was dwelling a lot on everything that I have not accomplished in my life, and on how my life seemed to just be happening to me in ways in which I didn’t want to participate . I felt hopeless and dead inside, and as usual, couldn’t seem to conjure up the energy to do anything about it.

I’ve known for awhile that I am an escape artist. I can look back at my life and see a clear road to “anywhere else but here, with anyone else but myself,’ wildly zig-zagging and wrapping around and through the hard lines of control that I try to draw for myself. It is the counter-balance to the part of me that wants to control and be too perfect to ever really accomplish or create anything of value because life is messy. After being forced to hang out with myself more, I know more deeply than ever before that the escape-artist in me is there to keep me from seeing the things about myself and my life that I don’t want to see. In it’s most recent incarnation, it has been padding me from the whole idea that I have no control, when the truth is that taking one’s hands off the wheel isn’t the same as being a victim.

I started to come out of the depression in February, and have since been actively poking at the things in my life that scare me. I am still scared, but am coming round to the idea that in order to get past some things, I have to actually go through them. When your hands are off the wheel, your vehicle can go in any direction. It can go to places that scare you, or it can go to places that exceed all expectations of joy. Either way, if you jump out of a moving vehicle you are going to get hurt. The point is that I have to step into my various roles in life. That doesn’t just mean the parts that I “like” or feel safe in. Being able to observe myself a bit more closely than usual out in the country, I didn’t just see what I was doing via my escape-artist, I felt it. In the past I have beat myself up over returns to deep escapism. This time I have some compassion for the fearful parts of myself. However, I feel like the winter was a death-rattle of a lot of self-destructive parts of me. It was a final tantrum of the escape-artist. Now, little by little, I’ve been stepping back into my life. Even the scary parts. It feels like a revival, and even though I’m still uncomfortable, I’m grateful for it.