I first met Tobi, not in a Buddhist Monastery, although he did indeed spend over seven years in exactly such a place studying the Tibetan language, mind-training and various meditation methods from 2002 until 2009, but rather as part of The Andaman Players amateur dramatic society, in Phuket, back in 2008.
Tobi was our sound man on a show titled “Love is a Four-Letter Word” which I co-wrote with my dear departed friend and founder of the Andaman Players, Tony Kelsey-Stead.
Tall, slim and.. well, radiating tranquility, Tobi always struck me as a man full of compassion, with a serene calm about him.. qualities extremely valuable for our sound man on a somewhat chaotic live show.
Tobi’s story is a classic example of the human mind’s ability to triumph over adversity. Born and brought up south of Munich in Germany, Tobi was sadly diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, an inherited disorder which damages connective tissue which supports and anchors our organs and other structures in the body. He had to be very careful growing up to avoid stress and couldn’t take part in intense sports and activities, meaning that is was difficult for him to bond with his peers through these activities.
Tobi, however, became interested in Buddhism in his teens and his mother heard about a month-long training at one of the only centres for higher Tibetan studies in Europe, the Rabten Choling Monastery in Switzerland, and Tobi decided to attend.
It was a revelatory experience and so fascinated was Tobi with the study that the one-month course turned into a seven-year stay and a new life as a lay student, at the Monastery.
Having studied Buddhism for seven years, the logical next thing for Tobi was to go back-packing to Thailand at age 25 where he fell in love with the country and subsequently with his lovely Thai partner Khun Parn.
Tobi started practicing Thai (Theravada) Buddhist mind-training within the “Forest Tradition” and has by now dedicated over 18 years of his life to the exploration and refinement of introspection.
So one recent Saturday I dutifully arrived at the Coco Paradiso Resort, dressed in my loose-fitting attire and with as open a mind as I was able to manifest.
The resort itself is a charming boutique bolt-hole, surrounded by greenery with swimming pools and tinkling fountains. It is full of traditional Buddhist decor and icons all of which seem to contribute to the all-embracing feeling of calm and other-worldliness it radiates.
The day unfolded as a series of guided meditations and discursive talks by Tobi about learning how to comprehend, consolidate and direct the powerful creative force of our minds. Tobi says that nobody seems to enjoy their “monkey-mind” and in fact, most of us use a tremendous amount of energy to avoid facing the chaos within.
Over a charming Thai lunch, I asked Tobi’s advice for contending with the current Covid-induced stresses.
He said, “The methods of developing inner strength which I teach, have gradually been evolved and refined as a systematic approach to inner calm and profound clarity. It is in this state, that emotional and social turmoil can naturally heal. Moreover, by cultivating greater awareness, we can develop the strength to break free from old destructive patterns. As a consequence, we can create new space for personal and spiritual growth.
“Awareness is at the base of all our experiences. Knowing how to remain centred while living mindfully leads to spiritual health, balance, happiness and fulfilment, even in such troubling times as at present.
“In these times, I am confident that people in Phuket would benefit a great deal from our trainings, so we offer free weekly classes where we collect donations for the local community”.
I found Tobi’s ideas to be very sage for these tumultuous times and for his free classes, please see: https://phuket-meditation.com/free-classes/