Chiang Mai – Thai Foot Reflexology

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I took a massage class in Chiang Mai at ITM, the International Training Massage School. While I’m please to be certified in Thai Foot Reflexology massage, I don’t know how ready I am to have any clients. I still had to use the book to take the exam, so I’ll just practice on my friends and do trades for other services for now.

ITM is one of the bigger, well known massage schools in Chiang Mai. There were 4 of us in my class, 2 woman from Brazil and 1 from Spain, it was a nice way to meet people and learn massage.
The two teachers were nice but we never got to have them work on us. They were both from Pai, a small town 3 hours north of Chiang Mai, which I went to next. One of them is part of the family who started the Old Medicine Hospital, one of the oldest and most established massage schools in Chiang Mai. He said he had been doing massage since the womb. His nickname was “Gift”, which I hoped was for his massage skills. Gift would tease us at the end of class by telling us to go back to our hotels, knock on the door of someone across the hall and ask them if they wanted a foot massage.

We all passed the exam, but we all had to use the book to go through the steps because in 4 evenings there wasn’t enough time to practice and really learn all the steps. Unless, of course, you were practicing on the people in your hotel.

Now when family and friends are shocked to see me after being away for so long…I can relax with them with a good foot massage.

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Chi Nei Tsang – Feelings of Fear and Envy


“That’s your womb, does it hurt?” she asked. I told her,” no” the pressure felt warm and soothing, it was causing a flood of emotion through me. Old, buried feelings of fear about terminating a pregnancy in college surfaced. Feelings that were different from the surges of energy that came when we were making the sounds, this felt like a warm blanket of raw emotion. I began to think about how scared I was then and the raw emotions of being pregnant so young and how to handle it and hide it.

I could feel fear about even telling her all that in the moment. So instead I just said “I had an operation there, I can feel it. I can feel the hardness around it.”
What I meant was not only did I feel the physical hardness there, but I also felt the emotional hardness when I thought about it. I could tell those long buried feelings were starting to unhinge and as she continued to massage my abdomen, I simply allowed myself to feel the sadness and grief that was there.

As the masseuse applied pressure at different points in my abdomen I felt more tenderness and again I asked what area that was. She told me it was a meridian point where all the digestive organs meet, an important part of the digestive system.

I started thinking about my friend Anders. I had this powerful recognition that the capacity we have to love & connect as human beings is so great, it felt beyond me to understand. As if she had pressed a certain key on my keyboard and I was recognizing the fear I had in high school of him knowing how much I liked him. That my own embarrassment about my feelings was directly linked to the love I’m feeling for him right now. Being a teenager I was completely afraid of being embarrassed or betrayed by my feelings. I was scared of being made fun of or feeling humiliated if he didn’t like me. Back then, out of ignorance, I went out with someone I didn’t really care about as much. It was safer, he liked me and I knew it. I thought I cared about him, I wanted to, but I was coming from a place of fear. I was terrified of feeling rejected and immature because Anders was always getting back together with his girlfriend at the time. It was so long ago I didn’t even remember those feelings, but they felt like me and somewhere I was holding on to them, carrying them around. Not about him, but about the fear. Facing and admitting those fears connects me to how much I love our friendship now. I’ve learned the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear.

So as the masseuse was rubbing my abdomen, I was breathing in and out. Just letting feelings flood through me and trusting that it was all surfacing for good reason. I was kind of amazed at what my body was telling me. I was feeling hopeful that I’ve outgrown this and I won’t keep repeating the same patterns over and over.

I decided to get the massage for the next two days. I read it’s good to do the Chi Nei Tsang treatment at least three times. That it helps both physical and emotional digestion. Undigested emotions create just as many toxins & blockages in our body as undigested food. Clearly, I’m willing to let go of some undigested emotions. Why not have the full experience?

The second day the pressure was harder and different points were feeling tender and sore. We made sounds for each organ, just like the day before and I felt surges of energy through my body as we made each of the sounds. I belted out a Hawwwww as strong as I could to release tension and get blood circulating from my heart and small intestines. A ssshhhhhh to detoxify my liver. Wwwhhooo to help digestion in my stomach and spleen. Hissed out a ssssssss to release toxins from my lungs and large intestine. Gave a loud wwwoooooo to give energy to my kidney and bladder.

The masseuse got to work and I felt less tenderness and pain in my womb and more in the area where all my digestive organs meet. That place felt so sensitive and tender. I started thinking about how envious I was feeling watching other people’s families around the resort. I was around big extended families vacationing together and through my lens they looked like they were all getting along and enjoying each other. I felt envy when I watched young mothers with their kids surrounded by what looked like a supportive, loving partner and family. Even envy when saw girlfriends traveling together, laughing and having fun. None of this had even registered consciously with me until I was on the massage table. There were so many other beautiful things to focus on, so much around me that appealed to my senses. I had even met a new friend and spent time with her family. I started to really appreciate that I had this hour to recognize what lens I was seeing this experience through. I felt so much stronger about how I choose to go to school in England so far away from my family and friends as direct reaction to an envy that’s deep inside me. At that time I didn’t feel like I had the support I needed. I just didn’t feel connected to people in my life and that caused a split in me even further. My family always treated me like I was so different from them, so I pretended I was being unique and tried to get as far away as possible.

I looked up envy online when I got back to the room. “Something someone else has that makes us feel insecure or jealous because we don’t have it. “ In Hinduism envy is a disastrous emotion. It causes continued suffering because we live in this state of illusion. It’s the mind out of balance with itself. “The conditioned soul gives up envy by regulated activities under the direction of the Guru or Spiritual Master.”

In the middle of an amazing experience at a 5 star resort, in an exotic location, I’m ashamed to admit my feelings of envy.

I’m even shy to admit that I’ve met a Guru who has been kind enough to lovingly and harshly call me on my shit. She’s been willing to hang out with me for as much as I’m willing to wake up. So because of this I’m very aware that an opportunity to be free of envy was presented to me. It’s time to admit, I’m just not willing to do the work right now.

I want to enjoy life, I want to travel, I want to experience 5 star hotels, I want a loving and committed relationship with a man. I want to taste everything right now. I don’t have the willingness to do that spiritual work yet, so I choose to live with my envy. I have to see that it’s my own choice.

I’ll be as aware of it as I can and ask for another way to let go of it. Maybe there’s another way. For now I’ll allow it in. Understand that I may be tasting life instead of enjoying a satisfying meal and be ok with that in the moment. I can just peek over my own lenses enough to catch myself sometimes when envy rears its ugly head, mid 5 star massage.

I decided to use my camera and take pictures using the theme of envy. Not for a day, or an hour, but ongoing, to check in and show myself what ignites my envy. Using it as a signal to change the lens.

By the last day my abdomen was tender. The same places I’ve talked about were tender when she touched them gently, and I could feel myself soften around the feelings that came up after we made the sounds for each organ and I simply continued to breathe in and out. I just relaxed while I was on the table and it wasn’t until the next morning lying in bed that the emotions from this massage surfaced.
Waking up rested and tender I felt like, “Wow, this is my life. This is amazing that I’m here in Malaysia and this is actually my life.” Within the same moment I could feel the tenderness in my abdomen and also felt the deep sadness of feeling 43 years old and never having felt like I was in a loving, intimate, adult relationship. The sadness and pain of feeling like I had not yet experienced that was as exhilarating as waking up feeling the joy that I was in Malaysia at this beautiful resort. All of it was my life. The joy, the exhilaration, the sadness, the envy. I have just been experiencing them more fully in my body and recognizing which lens I’m using. I’ve slowed down enough to recognize different feelings and that I need to digest them.

For the rest of the day I felt so grateful to the Yogi who has taught me that the places in our body where we hold the shame, the guilt, the embarrassment, the arrogance are exactly the places we need to go. Not to avoid them and put them in a box to deal with later. Those places hold the most powerful, potential energy we have in our bodies. To be in the gratitude for the feelings and use them as a radar to zoom in on those areas and release them. Make a sound, whatever it feels like, release it with sound vibration and the rest will follow.

Waking up each morning at a beautiful resort in Malaysia, I realized, it’s all my life. The undigested blocks, the pain, the embarrassment, the shame, the joy, the love, the adventure… and the wonder of it all. I don’t need any answers, I just need to ask the questions. What am I feeling right now? Am I shoving this feeling down?