On my most recent trip to Chiang Mai, I decided to pay a visit to Tao Garden, a place that was set up by Master Mantak Chia, a Chinese born in Thailand who went to become one of the most recognized Qigong masters of our time. How good is Master Chia? Very good I guess, since he is the only Master ever named twice as Qigong Master of the Year by the International Congress of Chinese Medicine and Qigong.
After coming to try the meditation they conduct every night, I was hooked, the low key, simple yet powerful teaching of master Colin, intrigued me enough to go back the next day.
I rode my rented motorbike 45 minutes to be on time for the morning Qigong practice, this time the master was Walter, a Swiss man both funny and approachable.
If you aren’t staying in this resort, you still have two great choices, the first one, a 400 baht pass that gives you entry to the 7 am practice and the 8 pm one plus usage of the swimming pool and the steam room. But that will work only if you are staying around, since this place is 30 minutes from Chiang Mai City.
The second option is the one I took, 1,470 baht gets you attendance to both practices, plus 3 meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as access to the swimming pool and the steam room. The steam room is top quality and the herbs they steam really cleanse your respiratory system.
Food by the way is good. Taste is, as usual in Thailand, very good. Ingredients are top quality and as fresh as you can possibly get them. Thank god for me, there are dishes for hardcore animal protein eaters like me… and this is what got me to really like this place.
Tao, the middle way in action
While spending time in the resort, 14 hours straight, I came to realize a few things that I feel they lack elsewhere.
One of them is that it isn’t a place where you feel as if you have to do or behave in certain ways.
The term Tao is described as the middle way, and that is exactly how you feel once inside Tao Garden.
No one is policing you. The whole day passed without ever feeling judged by other people. It has been my experience that places where “spirituality” ranks high as objective, tend to be narrow minded and judgmental. Not here.
Substance over form. This is an intangible that took me a couple of hours to nail down. Tao garden primes function. While it is good looking enough, it doesn’t go out of its way to be luxurious or over the top. Every building, every facility covers its functions vastly, without a wastage of resources. It has everything you possibly can ask for a place that has in mind your well being, without becoming decadent.
They walk the talk. It is all about the simplicity. While it could have been easy to fall for manicured gardens, and fancy decor, they went for the smart approach: Let nature shine.
Water streams, birds, simple fountains, beautiful trees, and plants, are allowed to be, rather than controlled to fulfill our desire for aesthetics that please the eye but not the soul.
They also don’t cater for the “modern entitlement” I see so often. In the swimming pool area you get one towel, and one towel only. This is a sensible approach for a place that tries to be in line with nature. No double standards here.
Tolerant and open minded. this place has truly gathered different healing and well being enhancing techniques regardless of where they come from. You would expect a very “tao only” approach to health. Yet, in their Pakua Poly Clinic and Tao Healing Spa, they offer both ancient and modern techniques to revert disease and maintain health. For a list of all their services you can click here.
Pricey but within reason. Yes, it isn’t cheap, but again, you are paying for quality. While spending my day in Tao Garden I was recommended to have a Tok-Sen massage.
Tok-Sen is a massage where the therapist puts a wooden block on different parts of your body after the skin has been oiled, and proceeds to hammer it with a wooden hammer, following Chinese energy meridians.
The shocks delivered to the meridians release blockages of energy that may be causing pain or discomfort. Since it was part of the spa services, the session was done in a beautiful hut, where only a single person can be attended. The therapist, P’ Som, was trained personally by master Chia. That and her 12 years experience made the 2,200 price tag fair.
How the day went in Tao Garden
I think is fair to say that if you make it all the way here, you aren’t trying only to relax.
You are either interested on their Qigong classes, some of the innovative, highly alternative healing techniques or are trying to get in touch with something way deeper than relaxing alone.
This place is like an onion, it has as many layers as you are willing to discover.
They have all kind of courses and retreats to get in touch with every dimension you want to discover within yourself.
They even have a dark house, where people can stay for up to two weeks in absolute darkness! This is the stuff that I have read in books, such as The Master Key, from Robert Peng but never thought was available for mere human beings like me!
As the day passed, i went through a gentle slide of quietness. The place grows on you by the minute.
The sun is the artist that keeps colouring the trees in all kind of hues.
I found myself over and over seating and contemplating everything. The clouds were majestic.
At first I found the idea of being there all day, without having my own room to rest, daunting. At 19:00 pm, I realized that the whole day had passed like a single breath. A bit too short but completely fulfilling.
Qigong at Tao Garden
I was lucky to get lessons from three different masters. It is always nice to see how teachings differ and convery from different masters.
While they focused in different details all of them shared the same essence.
In Tao Garden they prime healthy, powerful Qi movement through the organs and the body rather than on the fancier elements of Qigong.
Qigong is all about health and maintenance of the main organs of the body – the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and splint. Only if Qi, the vital energy, flows correctly, you can start doing flows and fighting practices.
Qigong breathing is paramount, as well as the concept of Inner Smile, which sounds corny at first, but is nothing but sending acknowledgement, appreciation and conscious gratitude to each one of these organs for their work.
I got exposed to the 6 healing sounds technique. This technique combines, breathing, movement and visualization techniques, coupled with sounds made while exhaling, that are believed to restore and maintain health on the organs mentioned above.
Another important element of Qigong is Centering, which, help us ground our energy and become focused and courageous with our endeavors in life.
So again, Tao Garden delivers consistency in its message. Substance over form. This is the right way to start and enhance your Qigong practice for years to come.
Is Tao Garden a place for you?
If your idea of holidays is booze and loud music, this truly isn’t a place for you. They don’t even serve coffee or white sugar!
If on the other hand, your soul is aching for space to expand and rejoice, you probably can’t get much better than this.
If you value luxury over everything else, again, probably not the place for you. If you instead, appreciate the substance of what is being offered, you are in the right place.
If you have a disease or simply want to prevent future health problems, and you are tired of western medicine, they may have more than one or two treatments that will make your mouth water.
If you want to learn about meditation and healing Qigong, this may probably the best place in the world.
Tao Garden has its own hotel where you can stay for around 5,500 Baht per night, but you can save a lot of money by staying around there. There are plenty of affordable houses and rooms to stay for a single night or for months on end.