Despite my inherent belief that I am impervious to the effects of aging, I am also prone to experiencing the odd malady or injury that may attributed more to my hubris than to the ravaging effects of time. Heartburn? Stress, and too much pizza. Weight gain? Stress, and too much pizza. A fondness for overindulgence in wine? Hmm. Well, that one is kind of self-explanatory.
Having spent years working at a desk job, albeit one that I loved, repairing computers, I had grown soft, in more ways than one. A little cushioning around the waist isn’t the worst of offences, but combined with a general lack of exercise, leaves one unable to engage in activities of a strenuous physical nature without some consequences. Basically put, and admitting more than I would like to, I was out of shape before the onset of our journey. Or more succinctly put, I had attained more of a rounded shape than I would have liked.
As much as this may have been some of the inspiration for our journey, it wasn’t something that I was putting much energy into dealing with or worrying about. I didn’t feel unhealthy, or like I was in any imminent danger from it, and so had focused on the experiential aspects of our journey.
That is, until one morning in Hawaii, after having attempted to surf a few waves the day before, and having spent an uncomfortable night on a thin Thermarest, I awoke with a sharp pain in my knee. Hmm, what’s this, I thought. Throbbing pain in my knee? Maybe I had been stung by one of those pesky centipedes. Although truth be told, I probably would have woken up screaming in agony if one of those spawn of Satan had been responsible for what I was feeling. As much as I hated to admit it, the culprit was probably a combination of age (being 35, after all), lack of exercise, sleeping on the hard ground, and a hearty enthusiasm for repeatedly attempting to jump up onto a surfboard and ride a wave.
I nursed the aching knee for some time after that, mostly being able to ignore the minor annoyance, which would only flare up at the oddest moments, like when I was perusing the raw cacao pods at the farmer’s market, or choosing a Hawaiian shirt at the thrift shop. The pain had stuck with me for the duration of the journey, causing me some serious discomfort at my Vipassana meditation, but also providing me with an opportunity to transcend my physical concerns in the pursuit of enlightenment.
During our last week in Australia, I had sought the medical advice of a Naturopathic doctor, who suggested that I had probably caused some damage to my ligaments, and that wearing a tension bandage on my knee and taking it easy would be the best long term solution. I had heeded the advice, which had helped somewhat, and was mostly able to navigate our subsequent adventures relatively pain free.
Until, that is, I started spending several hours a day moving my body around into positions I wasn’t used to, both giving and receiving Thai Massage, and spending the evenings wandering around the Thai markets, so focused on finding a good deal, that I often ignored the cries from my aching knee. One evening, limping heavily enough to prevent our enjoyment of the market, I had decided that enough was enough. It was time to seek professional help. I needed a proper Thai massage. Not the kind with the happy ending, mind you. Just a real, authentic ancient Thai massage, like what I had been studying.
As it happened, there were several qualified masseurs at the school where Theresa was taking a Thai spa course. We had decided that learning Thai Massage was the first step to creating a new career for ourselves in owning a spa when we returned to North America, and my massage skills would be well balanced by the pampering of someone trained in Thai spa techniques. Theresa had taken on the task of creating a training manual for the Yuan Ping Parlour where she was training. They were adamant about their government certification, which meant that they did not give that kind of massage under any circumstances. The symbol of a hand with an official government seal on their doorway signaled this to all who sought their services.
As part of my own healing regimen, it was decided that I should have a massage every day for a week with the resident Thai Masseuse in the spa, Fern. Fern was a gentle, but firm devotee in the art of inflicting pain. Although my issue was concentrated in my knee, the massage would always start with a full body warm up, which is the custom in Thai Massage. This would usually last at least an hour or two, and by that time, I would be in a place somewhere between sleep and waking, which was just as well, as the deeper round of massage usually involved inflicting some serious discomfort. I suspected that Fern was also trained in the Southern style of Thai massage, which is known for its deeper, and therefore more painful ministrations. Like the people themselves, the northern style of massage is softer, more gentle, and less likely to leave you crying out in agony.
At the end of the week, after a four-hour massage every day for $20 a pop, I did indeed feel much better, which seemed counter-intuitive, as Fern had been coaxing my aches to the surface. Slowly but surely, I was on the mend, and on to bigger and better things.
Being fully in the spirit of my healing journey, I decided to invest in another level of discomfort and release based on the information Fern had passed on during my massage. She had noticed while working on my stomach that it seemed bloated, a fact which I attributed to the abundance of fine Thai food I had been indulging in, but she seemed to feel there was something more at work. She recommended another spa to check out, which offered a different set of services. No, not those kind of services. Seriously, get your mind out of the gutter.
The Chiang Mai Ayurvedic center was my first brush with Ayurvedic treatment, and the particular treatment they recommended for me was a colonic irrigation. Traditionally, colonics were performed using a bag and a hose, but this was a first class establishment, and they had the latest in colonic irrigation technology to cleanse the depths of my soul. Free your ass, and your mind will follow, as George Clinton (obviously no relation to Bill or Hillary) was fond of saying.
As much as some may find it kinky to shove things up their butt, it wasn’t high on my list of things I wanted to try, even if being done by an attractive Thai woman. Especially (as a married man) if being done by an attractive Thai woman. It was demeaning enough to have to don a gown not unlike those worn the world over by hospital patients, leaving most of my backside exposed, that asking her to be gentle, and could she please use some lube, pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone.
Wondering if she had chilled the ‘wand’ before inserting it, I soon forgot about that discomfort as she started filling my bowels with cold water. “When it feel like need to evacuate bowel, tell me stop.” That was it? No safe word? Not even a little foreplay? Soon enough, I felt like I was going to explode with an urgency that one hopes one never feels if not already on a toilet. ‘Stop!’ I cried. And then sweet blessed relief. The machine did a wonderful job of extracting all that it had placed in my bowels, and more. Conveniently, the machine, which covered most of the wall, had a glass chamber on the front, to facilitate the observation of the removed matter. “Hmm, fungus” the woman observed. Wait, had I not even caught her name? I felt so dirty and ashamed. “Now more!” she exclaimed, as she pumped fresh, cold water into my cavity once again. More this time, for deeper cleansing. We repeated this process several more times, until fully spent, I was deemed as cleansed as could be, for the time being.
After gingerly riding my scooter home, being careful to avoid any bumps, I relaxed on the couch and regaled my family with my tale of How My Soul Was Cleansed. I was a convert. Praise Agua, I was baptized and born again! Needless to say, I was on the phone the following day, booking my next appointment. Maybe there was something to this after all. Or maybe I just needed to cut down on the Pad Thai.