We all know this phenomenon where we start to hate a certain class or subject at school, and finally flunk it, just because we don’t get along with the teacher. This can happen even if we really like the particular subject and even if we’re good at it.
The opposite, of course, is equally true. A school subject we’re not so good at becomes bearable to learn with a teacher we like, and if we’re good at it, well… we can reach the stars with a teacher that reaches out and stimulates us.
My story with Dot Po from the Sunshine Massage School is a bit like that. It starts in 2009, while I was traveling through Thailand with a friend, when this friend insisted to take a Thai Massage course.
It sounds perhaps odd, but up to then I had never received or given any kind of massage and the whole thing didn’t appeal to me at all. But to please my friend and not be a spoil, I (halfheartedly) joined the two weeks of Thai Massage classes in Chiang Mai at Sunshine’s.
Our instructor was Dot Po, a witty, puzzling, at times mystifying and yet lovely Thai lady, and although I had been in Thailand a few months already, it was the first time I would spend so much time listening or talking to a Thai person.
It was on day two of the course that everything changed for me. A life changer, being the start of a career change and the start of whole new way of life and living.
But what happened?
Well, on day two of the course, Dot Po showed the group (we were with ten students) a part of receiving a Thai massage session. She would lie down on the mat (alone) and mimic getting a massage treatment. In fact, she was doing Yoga. It fascinated me.
Then later that day, she demonstrated to us a bit of Traditional Thai dance, explaining that the graceful movements of her hands along her body were in actual fact depicting the Thai Sen Energy lines (Thai Ten Sen). And at that moment… a lot came together for me.
You see, for years I had been captivated by the works of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (a composer, mystic, philosopher, and spiritual teacher of Armenian and Greek descent) who was convinced that certain sacred knowledge (about mankind and the universe) was preserved in phenomena like for instance traditional music, traditional games, tribal stories and… traditional dance.
And there I was, in Chiang Mai, in a classroom taking a course I didn’t really want to take, getting the proof through Dot Po, in front of my eyes, how knowledge was transferred in ancient times. And it was done fabulously, beautifully, because Dot had been a Thai dancer and teacher for many years before she finally got into teaching Thai Massage. I was hooked.
Dot Po is a very versatile, multi-talented lady. I like to call her “The Thai Druid,” because each new class day she would bring all sorts of herbal products like sweets, oils, creams, and other mysterious preparations to the classroom for us to get acquainted with. She would explain the properties, how to use them, or let us taste, try or… buy.
Then she would always have some instructive stories ready for us related to Thai healing, stories blended with Thai, Buddhist, and animistic features. Always interesting and moreover… always funny. Dot Po just simply is a very funny person, always smiling, laughing, and making jokes.
The latter reminds me of two anecdotes I’d like to share with you.
The first one is about Dot demonstrating to us (on a student model) how to perform a certain spinal twist. After showing us the moves she said: “Now you do, ka. But careful ka, naha, else… can break the neck!” Oops, total silence in the group! You can imagine our scare, cause we (Thai Massage beginners) needed to do the technique on other students, and worse… other students would do it on us!
Another time, as we were practicing certain parts of the sequence, an American girl asked Dot how to proceed when the genitals of a male client are in the way when palming the upper inner thigh, let’s say the groin.
Now, to our mutual astonishment Dot came up to the guy lying on the mat and said: “No problem, ka…” and she simply shoved his private parts out of the way! Shock, bewilderment! And immediately afterwards we laughed our hearts out. This was the typical Thai pragmatism at moments you’d expect it the least.
Dot is a very sweet and patient teacher, a huge fan of nature and flowers, always eager to take her students on trips to the highlights around Chiang Mai, to the local markets, or local Thai restaurants. She’s attentive, pleased to give students advice as of where to go or whom to visit in Chiang Mai with health problems.
Apart from having taught Thai dance (in Thailand usually called Lakon), she studied Thai Traditional Medicine, and she’s an active priest (or Dao Master) in a Chinese Temple (Tien Dao) in Chiang Mai. Dot works already over 15 years for the Sunshine Massage School teaching Thai massage (and also Thai Foot Massage and some advanced courses).
To me one thing is as sure as it gets: without Dot Po aboard the Sunshine Massage School would have definitely missed a lot of rays of sunlight.