Mike Sarson was born in Bombay, India; a beginning that instilled in him a love of the Eastern Way. In his youth he developed an interest in drama and worked as a young professional actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company, another step on his lifepath – for it brought him to a time and place where he was running a drama group in a youth club and he used this as an opportunity to explore various issues affecting young people. From there it was a natural step to train in counselling and drama therapy, taking him from professional actor to youth worker, to mental health worker, to Counsellor in drug and alcohol addiction with the NHS..
All of this was leading Mike ever forward on his path towards the creation of this charity and his dream. A dream born in the colour of India, refined on stage and anchored in his training as a Drama Therapist and Counsellor. His travels took him all over the world and he found himself particularly drawn to the East. “I was fortunate enough to travel extensively and often found myself going back to the East. It feels like my spiritual home”.
Synchronicity has always played a strong role in Mike’s life and during this time he was introduced to Phra Kru a monk at Wat Keereechai (Doi Saken) in Chiang Rai Thailand, who had renovated a run down temple and was teaching local children and supporting people affected by HIV. They spent many hours together, talking, sharing and building a connection based upon teacher and pupil, guide and seeker. During this time Mike had many powerful dreams, drawing him forth towards his calling. He also spent this time healing his own addictions and learning meditation and mindfulness. Mike also shared some of his frustrations:
“I was disillusioned with the limited choices and outcomes I observed from western treatment of substance dependency. It felt very clinical with an emphasis on over prescribing substitute medications.
I also perceived that it was often limited to dealing with symptoms rather than the root cause of the dependency. I wanted more. I knew that there was more and I began to seek out what that might be.”
At this time, the monk Phra Kru suggested Mike visit Thamkrabok Monastery, a treatment centre nestled in the mountains between Saraburi and Lopburi. He visited a few days later – and it was to change his life.
“When I met with the Abbot, I experienced compassion, love and forgiveness – all the things I really value. He told me he had seen me in a dream and that my mission was to bring people from the west to experience and learn from their methods of dealing with the problem. He saw addiction as a global problem and wanted east and west to use the Monastery as a university to learn together and seek out ways to address addiction in a new and holistic way.”
Two visions joined as one. East and West coming together to create new possibilities. Mike returned to the monastery on many occasions, spending time with the Abbot Luang Por Chamroon Parnchand and later his brother Abbot Luang Por Charoen Parnchand to observe, learn and receive guidance on how they would work together. It was a time of honing and polishing the vision. And thus the East-West Organization was born.
Changemakers Magazine (July2015): Stories of Change’