Odyssey to Tao Garden: A Journey of Self Mastery

Take a virtual trip to Thailand with Francesco Garripoli and Curtis McCosco.

Francesco Garripoli has put together an amazing Healing Retreat and Study Trip to Thailand.

The following article is written by Curtis, who enthusiastically gives Francesco’s Thailand Study Trip five stars.

Garripoli shares, “We are combining the wisdom of ancient Chinese healing with the magic of Thailand and the amazing heart of her people on this healing adventure. Be prepared to be pampered…with an awesome array of treatment modalities and Qigong training from Francesco Garri Garripoli, as well as world famous Master Mantak Chia and his senior staff instructors while being treated to excellent service and delicious organic meals in an amazing northern Thailand hideaway.”

Click to read more about > China, India, and Thailand Study Trips

Awaken in the Healing Light

Walking in the cool haze of morning light we tap ourselves with split bamboo chi bats in random syncopation, chirping birds and croaking frogs a chorus along the wide pathway of octagonal paving stones toward Tai Chi Field.

Our destination is an eight-sided, open air, covered pavilion carefully oriented north/south.

Walter will lead us in our wake-up chi gong session with Teutonic briskness and health enthusiasm laced with corny humor that may have lost something in translation.

The sun is blushed with tangerine hue as he helps us Awaken the Healing Light (also the title of one of Tao Garden founder Mantak Chia’s 30+ books).

Beginning with loving self massage of the Doorway of Life, the sacrum area, he leads us in a series of movements, gathering chi from the earth and sky, that stimulate, pump and circulate vitality infusing chi energy throughout our being.

Concluding the hour session with gentle tapping of limbs and organs with aforementioned chi bats, my partners-in-chi and I are ready for a delicious breakfast and lively chat about our day ahead.

Tao Garden Healing Retreats

Tao Garden OctagonThe octagon is a pervasive motif in Tao Garden, reflective of the Pa Kua (or Bagua), incorporating the eight trigrams of the I-Ching into a sacred mandala of our human place in the cosmos. So central is this shape to Taoist cosmology and healing, as well as martial arts, feng sui and astrology, that Mantak Chia has named the medical center Pakua Clinic.

The clinic is the heart of Tao Garden, the hub through which all activity flows, pulsing in and out to the rhythm of the ever friendly, accommodating staff scheduling and shuffling visitors to their appointed treatments. Upon arrival, and after checking into my comfortable, air-conditioned, but sparse room, I went to the clinic to begin formulating a daily regimen for my two week stay.

PaKua Clinic – Holistic Meets Eastern Medicine

Though I’d read up on the Tao Garden, it wasn’t until I sat down with Dr. William Shwetzer, lead physician at PaKua Clinic that I realized how cutting-edge the facility is, not only with advanced holistic/allopathic modalities such as Dark Field Live Blood Analysis and procedures like Auro Bio-Electrographic Evaluation, Oberon, Bio-Feedback and others considered “fringe” by most western doctors, but also a full array of eastern techniques such as Chinese face and pulse diagnosis (essentially acupuncture), Tao Thai Therapy and Five Elements Chinese Astrology.

Shwetzer, or Dr. William as everyone on staff addresses him, seemed fully versed in all these modalities and, more importantly had the results of my morning blood test (from two hours ago) on his desk complete with jpegs of my blood on his computer screen (a CD of which he gave me along with all lab results). I fell in instant like with him, as he’s an engaging, quick-minded conversationalist, a 220 volt guy living in a 110 volt world.

As I questioned the meaning and import of my tests, he had a seemingly bottomless vault of information directly applicable. However, in no way did I ever feel rushed, intimidated or that my inquiries were unimportant. During my stay he seemed always willing to stop and answer a question or just briefly chat even though he obviously had a steady schedule of consultations and procedures.

Octagonal Dining – Meeting of Exotic Flavors and Nutritional Delight

After consultation it was time for lunch at the octagonal Dining Hall half of which cantilevered over a languid green pond.

I was part of a group of six including Natalie and Louise from Sydney, Australia, Chrystal from England, and Betty, Francesco Garripoli (our trip organizer and master guide) and myself from Kauai, Hawaii.

I’d expected strict vegetarian fare, but was pleasantly surprised by a variety of stir-fries, some vegetable and tofu, but others containing shrimp, chicken or fish, all prepared with conscious attention paid to presentation as well as optimum nutrition. There were also steamed dishes; fish, veggies like corn, squashes, eggplant, greens along with soups, rice, sushi and other surprises.

Tasty Healthy FoodVegetables, salads and herbs were from an organic garden on the premises and deserts were a taste adventure of exotic flavors untouched by sugar or gluten. Our meals together were like delightful oases in our busy individually tailored daily healing schedules where we could laugh and compare, sometimes encourage and always get to know one another, some for the first time, within this wonderful context of self discovery and healing.

Creating a Personal Healing Schedule

Dr. William and I had designed a pretty rigorous protocol for me. When I went back into the clinic after lunch, I was pleasantly surprised that the women at the front desk (all of them bright and alert, unfailingly courteous and charmingly attentive) had already figured out my schedule and outlined it in a small calendar book that became my constant companion and reference for the duration of my stay.

Included were chelations with vitamin drips, lymph massage, colonics and far-infrared saunas, blood ozone drips, a liver-kidney cleanse and, the crowning treatments of my stay, a series of Taoist massages by the talented, yet self-effacing Nom, one of several practitioners of this highly specialized traditional form on staff.

Ancient Taoist Massage Techniques

Nom administers three distinct yet interwoven thai massage techniques evolved from ancient Taoist self-healing practices:

  1. Bone Marrow Nei Kung – for rejuvenating blood and bone.
  2. Chi Nei Tsang – for removing negative emotions, stress and energy blockages in the vital organs.
  3. Karsai Nei Tsang – a detoxifying sexual organ massage.

Tao Garden MassageEach day I would be led by a smiling young man along a flower lined path, over a footbridge spanning a narrow irrigation canal bursting with blooming ginger and on to a charming tan stucco Chi Massage Hut to be greeted by the smiling moon-faced Nom.

Using bone compression, rocking motions, direct shiatsu-like pressure, pulling, prodding and tapping she was able to work out patterns of stress that seemed like ancient history. Applying heated oils for penetrating relaxation and using her hands, elbows and forearms, plus a cloth bound ball of steam heated mystery herbs, Nom lit up areas she was working and simultaneously seemingly remote, but obviously related areas.

For instance, while she was getting a muscle-tendon group just below my navel to release by direct pressure, I could feel the same pressure along a geometric pattern extending from my occipital and jaw, through my back, kidneys, diaphragm and anal sphincter.

Nom smiled and, tapping a spot above the naval, said “Relaaaax here!” I did and the pattern faded like a neon sign flickering out at closing time.

Joy of Juice Club Enhances Liver and Kidney Detox

I’d also signed up for a liver/kidney detox the precise procedure for which the ever-efficient staff had mapped out for me in my book.

I decided to fast during the five days, so Dr. William recommended that if the fast was to enhance the detox I was to come with him to the juice bar where I was introduced to the effervescent Peggy. The doc advised Peggy to include certain enzymes in my fasting regimen.

I didn’t even know there was a fasting regimen, I thought, like I’d done in the past, I’d just stop eating and sip some herbal tea. But, true to form for the Tao Garden, Peggy had a series of juices and a delicious hot veggie broth, more like a soup puree, that maximized the detoxification and minimized discomfort.

The staff had also given me each day some probiotics labeled with exact time to take. On the final day I received a tray with all the pre-measured fluids in time-marked cups to take overnight and in the morning. Overall it was hugely effective and, without being too graphic, I got a tremendous release. Plus, my friends and I had discovered the charms of the juice bar (which has been subsequently named Joy of Juice Club-Liquid Fasting Center) and Peggy’s creative concoctions, so we sort of hung out there relaxing and chatting between sessions.

Colonics were an important part of all this detoxing. There are two different top-of-the-line hydro-therapy machines and, since colonics and injections such as my chelation/vitamin drips are considered medical procedures, they were administered by trained nurses; Kae and Cream, two lovely young professional women. There was also an attendant present for the colonics gently massaging the abdomen for maximum results with the flush.

The Healing Arts of Mantak Chia

The PaKua clinic is a first rate medical facility blossoming in the Tao Garden setting of ancient and modern chi gong practice as pioneered by Mantak Chia. Born of Chinese parents in Thailand in 1944, Mantak seemed from an early age destined to master the healing arts of Taoism and, with his American medical education, make what is often dauntingly esoteric even to an eastern mind, accessible to all.

Though the website claims Tao Garden was completed in December 2000, I saw construction of a Watsu water therapy facility and some new bungalows under way. It seems an ever unfolding lotus blending western Holistic practices with traditional Thai, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

They are also doing some exciting stem cell treatment and research combining it with Mantak’s explorations of stem cell chi gong. Though our group had hoped to get some chi gong lessons right from the master, his schedule was such that he had time for only an all-too-brief hour of questions and demonstration. What a wallop that compressed encounter had for me.

Mantak ChiaI first heard of Tao Garden and Mantak Chia in the mid nineties when I bought a book plus some charts online and they sent some promotional material along with. I was intrigued by the thought of flying off to exotic Thailand and leaping into yet another radical new direction in my life. But it was not to be until 2009 and, though more measured and graceful, my life direction has altered in some subtle yet powerful ways.

The essence of Taoism, chi gong, and Buddhism is mastering yourself. Wisdom and healing teachings which for millennium have been the province of mystics, sages and their acolytes, plus medical advances traditionally blocked by entrenched economic/ideological forces in the west, are now bursting to the fore and being revealed by courageous pioneers like Mantak Chia and Dr Schwetzer.

Harmonic Circulation of Earth and Universal Chi

So about that encounter with Mantak Chia. I’ve been practicing Buddhism for some 40 years, doing massage even longer. In my late twenties I discovered I could move chi energy through me and through a client with lasting beneficial results.

Having now practiced chi gong for about ten years, I’m familiar with the feeling of bringing earth and universal chi into harmonic circulation within and around the body. However, nothing compared to the sight and experience of Mantak Chia doing a simple gathering of universal chi over his head and bringing it down into his body.

It was a simple movement, one he’s done, no doubt, a million times. One I’ve done countless times. As he did this movement to illustrate how chi can enliven stem cells and direct them to specific areas of the body, I GOT IT! I ACTUALLY SAW THE ENERGY MOVING. I could feel it wash by me from him as if he were stirring a pool of water.

This experience occurred about halfway through my stay at Tao Garden and it was pivotal. It set the tone for waking up to my responsibility for my my own well being that is the hallmark of good health for me and others I may influence.

Create Your Own Tao Garden Healing Retreat

Tao Garden has many charms, transcendent and worldly. Not the least of which is that one’s experience there is completely customizable.

Enjoy Tao Garden SpaThere are packages designed for specific intent including facials, body scrubs and wraps, weight training, etc.

Or you can sit down with the doctor as I did and design your own. People go there with serious illness, addictions, or common burnout from stress and find measurable progress and relief.

Nestled in a small village 30 minutes outside the delightfully charming city of Chiang Mai in upcountry Thailand, this is a journey to another world, an escape adventure into your own well being.

During my stay I was interviewed along with our host and trip coordinator, Francesco Garripoli, and we created this video.

Our Time at Tao Garden



This second video is a little longer and offers an overview of the Tao Garden Healing Retreat and Training Center. Introduction to Tao Garden



Click to learn more about Tao Garden Healing Center >

Guided Thailand Healing Retreat and Study Trips

Curtis McCoscoWriter, photographer, raconteur, Curtis McCosco fled from academia to further his education in Haight-Ashbury and the streets of Hollywood. He’s worked as a furniture maker, Moviola repairman, documentary film maker, Motown tech, carpenter, masseur, and explores the the worlds of indigenous wisdom and shamanism, Hermetic occultism, remote viewing, history, politics and the evolution of consciousness, all from a Buddhist perspective. You can find more of his writing on his blog, NOOZINE.com.