One of the characteristics of Traditional Thai Massage outside of Thailand (notably in the West) is the way it’s presented to the general public and to prospective students.
There’s a certain camp of practitioners and teachers, and this certainly doesn’t count for the whole Thai Massage community, that insistently tries to spiritualize or mystify the Thai Healing Arts. It’s a phenomenon not only apparent with regard to Thai Traditional Medicine and Massage, but also something happening with other eastern healing methods brought to the West.
Of course, I don’t mean to say there isn’t any spiritual or mystical aspect to practitioning or receiving Thai Massage, yet it’s the deliberately provoked, preliminary deliberated, and premeditated mystical-magical setting and spiritual connotations which may be somewhat doubtful.
We need not forget that Thai Medicine in Thailand most certainly has a spiritual, mystical aspect, but one that is firmly rooted in practical day-to-day activity. Spirituality and worldly life are very much intertwined, very practical and alive, naturally integrated and balanced, something much less a fact in the West.
I feel that Western practitioners and teachers should be careful not to transform Traditional Eastern Medicine in something it’s not. If we only emphasize the spiritual, mystical aspects, we might run the risk of scaring off a whole lot of people, distancing exactly those who could really benefit from our so-called “alternative treatments.”
But please don’t shoot the messenger! Just a friendly reminder to stay put with both our feet on the ground, rock-steady, being “firmly grounded” … you know… as we so often like to state it ourselves!