Log In

Reset Password

Follow the path that speaks to your heart

Nina London at the Immortal Hall of Tao Garden in Thailand (Photograph supplied)

On the edge of the Golden Triangle, where Burma and Laos meet Thailand’s remote border, flows the long, sluggish arm of the Mekong River.

Wide, brown, swift and implacable, it travels thousands of miles from the melt waters of Mount Kailash in distant Tibet, down through the barren highlands of the Himalayas to jungles so thick and deep that few but the gem smugglers of local warlords have travelled them.

These rugged peaks give way to smaller ridges, wild and impossibly green as they fall in succeeding arcs, mellowing as they move south, finally softening into the verdant highlands of Thailand’s North Country, alive with a wild orchestra of hidden birds and chattering monkeys.

On the edges of the clearings in the forest light, slide the swift shadows of panthers.

Look! Here, a splash of pale green and yellow; the first rice fields, carved in terraces into the flanks of living hillsides.

Now, the valleys appear, a mosaic of rich cultivation; blooming squares and rectangles on the flat land, bountiful with the promise of the rice grains hidden in each iridescent green stem.

Then, a wild scatter of tiny wooden shacks where rice farmers, heads swathed in bandanas of every colour, live and breathe and tend the hope of the harvest.

In an ancient forest on the edge of the first fields, amid a pond festooned with lily pads, stands the Immortal Hall of Tao Garden, a retreat centre that, over the last thirty years, has trained more seekers, and created more instructors than any place we know of in the 5,000-year history of Taoism, and it’s moving meditation practice, Qigong.

The Immortal Hall is an octagon with 25ft ceilings and high walls of clear glass windows on its eight sides. You approach it across a narrow, red footbridge to the centre of the lake.

Last Sunday night its central great room was dark, except for the soft glow of scores of candles I placed in a circle in the centre of the floor.

As I looked out the darkened picture windows, there was a mighty crash which reverberated throughout my entire being, a jagged fork of lightning struck somewhere among the huge overarching trees that line Tao Garden’s many paths.

In that brief silver flash, I saw a line of figures approaching the red bridge, sixteen of them in brief silhouette.

My dream had come true! They were my first students at Tao Garden! I could barely contain my excitement!

For years, I have studied Qigong in the hope of one day leading a class right here at this historic spot.

Tonight, was the night, and my students filed in, laughing about the storm and how scary it was to walk from their rooms down the dimly lit paths.

I felt a wave of deep contentment, and then thunder and lightning split the pitch-black sky once again. “It was a thrill to get here!” someone said.

I smiled in agreement and said softly: “Now we will balance it with calm and meditation; yin and yang.”

I was standing, bathed in the soft glow of candlelight, wearing silk baby blue Thai traditional pants and a coral top. My voice was very soft, and this had an intimate, soothing effect.

I asked everyone to introduce themselves, to tell a little bit about their story. What drives someone to travel so far, to such a remote place, to learn Qigong?

My students were from many countries and everyone had different reasons. I then began by saying: “Tonight we will practice the six healing sounds.”

This is a fundamental sequence in Qigong where you perform graceful movements while at the same time using your forceful breath exhalations to make specific calming sounds that purify and cleanse your body and soul.

We performed this sequence under my instruction, and I could feel the group move into deep relaxation as the tropical rain poured in a soothing vibration on the roof.

Suddenly, a vision of me as a little girl of five flashed in my memory. I was holding a white piece of chalk and a long stick as a pointer. I was playing teacher, and I turned to my makeshift blackboard and began to instruct my little friends.

I was surrounded by a ragtag group of stuffed animals, and to my right, my real dog, Bim, sat at attention, alert and watching my every move. I was in my home in Siberia. I felt so happy.

I played this game over and over as a child because my great-grandfather, grandfather and parents were professors; two aunts and a cousin were music teachers.

As young as I can remember, they were always talking about their students, lectures and seminars. Students were often guests in our home near the wilderness of Lake Baikal.

Fifty-two years later nothing has changed except my path. This time my classroom is the fabled Immortal Hall in Tao Garden, but my love of teaching is the same.

Dear readers, when you find a path that speaks to your heart, follow it! Whether this certainty comes to you as a child or even in old age, follow it!

It will lead you to adventures you never dreamt of, some as exotic as Thailand, and others even right next door.

There is a light inside of us that wants to shine. Let it guide your way wherever you are.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published November 24, 2022 at 7:45 am (Updated November 24, 2022 at 7:45 am)

Follow the path that speaks to your heart

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon