Tai Chi and Qigong can add to Psychotherapy & Western Bodymind Healing

Summary of ways that  Tai Chi and Qigong can add to Psychotherapy and Western Bodymind Healing*:

* Extracted from Dr Mayer’s book, The Path of a Reluctant Metaphysician: Stories and Practices for Troubled Times pp. 408-410) and others of his writings. For a further description see Mayer, M, Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy, 2007, pp. 253-259:

1) Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy (Mayer, 2007), broadens the definition of Qigong to include non-movement, energetic, psychological states that cultivate the universal life force, i.e. the most profound Qigong is following your true life’s path. {Chapter 4 and 5}

2)  In Secrets to Living Younger Longer (Mayer 2004) it was shown that each Tai Chi posture can be seen as having four different purposes: healing, spiritual unfoldment, self-defense, and to change the practitioners life stance.

3)  Bodymind Healing Psychotherapy (BMHP) shows how each Tai Chi/Qigong posture is part of a “healing alphabet” that can form and induce different state-specific states of consciousness (Tart, 1968; Rossi, 1986)) that can be useful to Qigong practitioners and to the psychotherapeutic or behavioral health setting. {Mayer, 2007, Chapter 5 and 16}

4)   BMHP reveals how Qigong/Tai Chi are “soulful traditions.” (Hillman, 1975; Moore 1992). Qigong and Tai Chi have been seen as spiritual traditions. This book is the first to show how Qigong is also a “soulful tradition” following in the path of depth psychologists such as Hillman (1975) and Moore (1992). For example, while one is practicing Tai Chi and Qigong, instead of placing most emphasis on the transcendent, spiritual aspects induced by these practices, one can also focus on the memories, emotions, and images that arise in the practice – making it into a “soulful practice.” {Mayer, 2007, Chapter 5}

5) BMHP shows how the meaning-making orientation of psychotherapy can add to Qigong by bringing psychological awareness to the postures and movements. This psychological awareness can help Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners to better use their practice to change their life stance. {Mayer, 2007, Chapter 5 and 15}

6) Much research shows that Qigong is a useful behavioral health tool due to its relaxing, healing movements (Sancier, 1996 a and b; Cohen, 1997, Pelletier, 2000). Dr Mayer has added to the literature in the field, the following : Qigong does not only activate a relaxed, altered state, it activates a “state-specific state” (Tart, 1968; Rossi, 1986) that is both relaxing and empowering. This state is called fongsung gong, a Chinese term for relaxed awakeness. It can be helpful for alleviating symptoms of stress and empowering those who have deficits in the areas of self assertiveness, those who are victims of trauma, and so forth (Mayer, 2004b, 2007, 2009a).

7) Qigong not only produces a relaxed state of awareness; but also in its unique way, it provides a pathway to develop qualities seen as useful by therapists who integrate meditation into psychotherapy (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). Qigong and Tai Chi can reciprocally inhibit unwanted behaviors adding to Wolpe’s (1958) behavioral approach; they can aid in developing an “observing self,” adding to Deikman’s (1982) transpersonal perspective; and they help to cultivate a “cohesiveness of self ” adding to Horner’s (1990) psychoanalytic methods. Qigong can help to “anchor” that state of awareness that helps to facilitate ego cohesion in maintaining one’s center when meeting the emotional tides of life, adding to Bandler and Grinder’s (1979) hypnotherapeutic approach to anchoring. Qigong, like many forms of meditation, can help us to develop a compassionate relationship to our life issues.

8)  Qigong and Tai Chi are multifaceted traditions that are not only meditative but they can also be seen as forms of hypnosis, and therefore may result in similar health benefits known to be related to hypnosis (Rossi, 1986; Rossi & Cheek, 1988). Both have an empirically time-tested record for enhancing health for a multiplicity of health-related conditions (Sancier, 1996 a and b; Pelletier, 2000). Qigong adds specific energy cultivation methods to clinical hypnosis’ toolkit of mental/imaginal approaches. Further research is need to determine how the energy focused techniques of Qigong can add to hypnosis’ abilities to: activate the psychoneuroimmunological attributes of  bodymind healing, reduce chronic pain,  add to increasing the “relaxation response,” increase post-surgical healing,  and enhance the healing effects of a wide variety of proven benefits of medical hypnosis (Cheek, 1968; Crasilneck, & Hall 1985; Rossi & Cheek, 1988.)

9)  Qigong traditions, particularly Tai Chi, can help traumatized patients regain a safety zone in their bodies (Mayer, 2007, 2009a).

10) Qigong adds an energy-cultivation practice beneficial to those who are depressed or suffer from sympathetic nervous system overload, such as in cases of fibromyalgia (Astin et al, 2003),  chronic fatigue, and trauma.

11) The well-known relaxation and energizing attributes of Qigong can be effectively applied to many issues that psychologists see in their everyday practices-such as insomnia,  anxiety, joint problems, energy deficiency, and chronic pain (Mayer, 2007). As an everyday practice, anyone can tap on these healing benefits as has been reported in China for thousands of years before Western psychology emerged (Mayer, 2009).

12) Whereas some meditative traditions are oriented to transcendence, Qigong and Tai Chi are, for the most part, body-oriented traditions, which cultivate a cohesiveness of self (Horner, 1990). From an integrative perspective, the way Tai Chi and Qigong are usually practiced, they do not specifically focus on psychological issues, such as early emotional wounding and negative beliefs. However, Dr. Mayer  puts forth the case that oftentimes transformations in a person’s psychological stance in life can be a result of this practice. (Mayer, 2007, 2009a).

13) Tai Chi and Qigong help those with reactive attachment styles to develop a cohesive center when the everyday issues of life assault or impinge upon one’s sensibilities; and together with psychotherapy, these two Eastern disciplines may provide a bodily base for developing centered emotional expression (Mayer, 2007, 2009a).

14)  Tai Chi and Qigong can be framed as a “tradition of postural initiation (Mayer 2004).” To the best of my knowledge I was the first person to coin this phrase; but as I point out in my keynote address to the NQA, my book, and article (Mayer, 2004 a, b, and c) in using this phrase I was drawing from many cross-cultural anthropological sources  to whom I expressed gratitude in using the term: The research of Dr. Felicitas Goodman, Where the Spirits Ride the Winds, Indian University Press, 1990 who talks about trance journeys using posture; the research of Belinda Gore, one of her students, who did the same, Gore, B. Ecstatic Body Postures, Bear and Co Santa Fe, 1995; and Peter Kingsley who speaks about posture, initiation, and stillness in the Greek mystery tradition, Kingsley, P., (1999), In the Dark places of Wisdom, the Golden Sufi Center.  In my book (2004), Secrets to Living Younger Longer: The Self- Healing Path of Qigong, Standing Meditationand Tai Chi to the best of my knowledge I was the first person to use the term “traditions of postural initiation (Mayer, 2004)” to synthesize their work and integrate it with various cross-cultural healing approaches such as cross cultural mythology and rites and symbols of initiation (Eliade,1998), shamanism (e.g. Native American, and cross-cultural by Eliade, 2004), early Buddhism (Tomio, 1994; Diepersloot 1995), symbolic process approaches to healing, and Tai Chi/Qigong.”

 My training in Standing Meditation Qigong (and experience of postural initiation) comes from Sifu master Fong Ha (with whom I’ve trained for three decades) who brought over to the U.S. to train his students for several summers in the decades from the 1970’s to 1990’s: masters Han Xingyuan (a first generation disciple of Wang Xiangzhai),  Sam Tam, and Cai Songfang. To a lesser extent I’ve done training in Standing Meditation Qigong with masters Lam Kam Chuen and Han Jing Chen.  I am grateful to all of these masters for introducing me to the experiential ground from which I use the term “traditions of postural initiation.”
In the course of developing the term “postural initiation,” in the way I use it over the years, I’ve put forth the case that psychotherapy is about “finding one’s life stance (Mayer, 2007);”  and I show how framing therapy as a tradition of postural initiation can enhance  psychological healing in the psychotherapeutic setting  (Mayer 2007, 2009). In  the behavioral healthcare setting, I show  the importance of  traditions of postural initiation in treating hypertension, etc in my article, Mayer, M. (2010), Hypertension: An integral bodymind healing approach, Natural Standard, Peer Reviewed. Then, I showed how the term can be made current in a postmodern view of traditions of postural initiation in my article, Mayer, (2012b) on Tai Chi Chuan: A postmodern metaphysical point of view, Tai Chi Chuan & Oriental Arts. Finally, I contextualize the phrase in the larger metaphysical sense in my book (2012), The Path of the Reluctant Metaphysician. {The specific references and dates to my publications can be found in the bibliography on my website at this link.) These references are given here to answer many readers who have inquired about how I derived the term; and to understand how I developed and built upon the work of the forbearers of the tradition, on whose broad shoulders I humbly “stand.”
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