Thailand fast with Bob (2012 March)

The Sanctuary

Dear Tom

I lost and found your card so many times, but now I have it, I’m writing.

So here I am, looking out to sea, breeze arriving through coconut fronds, a scene or two unfolding on the sand beach, far enough away for it to be a movie, of some long legged flat bellied party dancers from last night, getting a ‘Long Tail’ boat to take them back to Koh Sumui. To my left a group gather under the shade to practice their tai chi, to my right the steam room door opens in an hour.

Today we break our 7 day fast, and will use our teeth to chew food this evening. I feel great, not hungry and much enlivened. The 13 stages per day, together with the extra curricular activities (compulsory steam, twice a day yoga, optional tantra dancing, thai massage, tai chi) ensured there was no time in the day to dally with the thought of hunger. How the mind works with food, is strong.  Bob lost a stone in weight, myself half a stone. Dreams have been strong, and remembered, mostly of Kali the dog, who saves cats from Thai dogs, races through the jungle, jumps snakes etc.

The place is a small cove of a beach, with rough coral sand (hard on the feet – it took me a week to toughen my milk white shoe closeted soles) established by Gill an English girl (my age) 15 years ago into the Sanctuary, a healthy-eating (veg and sea food only) resort, with a full Cleansing programme, and all supporting life and breath activities. There are about 80 Thai staff, looking after 50 huts well architected in the Thai forest tradition, pitched thatch roofs which overhang into large veranda’s, coconut trunk uprights, woven panels in between, hammocks (naturally). All surrounded and interwoven with all those tropical plants we can buy in Marks and Spencers, and more. The hibiscus is particularly vivid and prolific. The place is well organised, with various centres – the bar (of course) on the beach, 2 restaurants,  Buddha and Zen halls for yoga etc, the Tea Temple, reading rooms, Garden rooms, Rainbow rooms etc.

The place reminds me much Goa, but the people are younger, their legs longer, their form more perfect not so many 70‘s hippies, and I feel unusually old here, and unnoticeable, invisible, watching the movie of their young peacock lives as they dance their mating dances. I don’t mind this watching, but notice that it’s a change from when I danced in the circle.

We fasters are in a separate building, appropriately called the Wellness Centre, run with great skill, magic and play, by a young Thai called Moon. The fasters, generally, are different from the young things at the front of the movie, and some interesting people and their stories have passed through while we’ve been here. At 7 in the evening, we gather for what Bob calls Pond Life, a bowl of green liquid, which may have seen a vegetable, and we all sit at a long table, the talk naturally turns to the primal questions, why, where, whatfor, as well as the process. Some here have had a near death experience, sinking into ill health, body neglect and a torpor. Aich, (studded tongue and brow, gold ringed fingers), a ‘traveller’ who works as a rodeo for festivals, has suffered stomach pains for 4 years. Inconsolable by doctors, they finally offered him pain killers. During the 10 day fast, his pain left him, and he’s determined to become a wholesome vegetarian. I think he’ll do it. Another man, Mark, has just been awarded an Oscar as part of a team that did the computer graphics work on the the film, Hugo. The table changes, people graduate, leave, new fasters arrive.

Apart from the life stories, one of the main conversations at Pond Life time is the colonic, which we all do each day for 30-40 minutes. Five litters of coffee water is gravity fed into our backsides, and the result, when we discharge into a colander for collection and examination, is astonishing, particularly baring in mind we are not eating anything. That is the subject of the evening talk. The accolade to which we aim is the notorious mucus plaque, which is a string of dark stuff, from 6 inches to 10 feet! It’s all the old stuff stored in the colon, whose shape I’ve studied for the first time,

We wake up with the Shake – clay mud mixed with psyllium flavoured with limes, shaken together and downed in one. We drink this cocktail 4 times in the day. This is our brush and dustan, says Moon, for good housework. In addition to cleaning it expands in our tummy taking away hunger sensations. We intersperse with herb pills, (secret recipe), a carrot juice at tea, and end with Pond Life. Lots of hot herbal tea when time.

The only discomfort we’ve found is an occasional mosquito.

I danced the dawn in this morning, up at the night rave on the hill. While I wished I was 30 or 40 again, I was glad for the freedom of being an invisible middle age, and mingled with the bodies, feet moving to the heart beat base,

In a few days (after 3 days using teeth – raw food), Bob and I will go our separate ways for a week. I do a pilgrimage to Wat Suan Mokkh – a Thai monastery where my teacher (Christopher Titmuss) was a monk as a young man with Buddhadasa, a famous Thai Achan, then on to see Tom, a friend from India, a travelling film making yogi, who wants me to do a voice over on a film he’s making (that British voice, he says, does wonders). I’ll meet Bob in Bangkok then we’ll both head north for the final safari, to a Buddhist monk (English again) I met in India, ex beatnik in yellow robes.

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