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Taoism and Gestalt therapy

Taoism and Gestalt therapy

Psychotherapy, despite being a new science in the West, has been an essential part of several Eastern doctrines for centuries. The Taoists have always recognized that the individual must be integrated. Conflicting forces must be guided towards balance and harmony. In other words, it must be centered. For the Taoists, aiming at spiritual development without the concomitant focus on the individual would be like building the tires of a car and forgetting the frame.

When Fritz Perls and others developed Gestalt Therapy, they granted a form of therapy that split the directives and the proximity of Taoism.

The gears of the Gestalt skillfully fit into the philosophical system of Taoism, and the two form an effective work of combination. Gestalt Taoism has an excellent path not only in focusing but also in the spiritual growth.


  • 1 What is Taoism?
  • 2 Common Land
  • 3 Taoist Gestalt

What is Taoism?

Taoism, with roots that go from the beginning of Chinese culture, is based on Tao, the first cause and the fundamental essence of everything. The Tao is invisible even though it is manifest in the world; without form, permeates all forms. It is like a great cosmic river that flows through the Yin and Yang, the positive and the negative, the feminine and the masculine. She is the mother of all things.

The wise

With this construct, the Taoist, Lao-tse and Chuang-Tsu authors describe the perfect man as the wise (or holy) who learns to flow with the Tao. He is an ego free and is one with the world. With his total peace and harmony he does not push, but he lets the cosmic wave carry him. He is like a man who travels downstream by raft. He makes no effort, yet he travels far. The wise Taoist practices effort without force, and carrying out with non-action. As the man who does a hobby and then grows up to be a full-time job, he makes his taste and receives payment for it.

To be centered

The wise have no desires or a demanding ego. Things become simple for him. Being carefree and satisfied, he does not suffer losses by being focused and aware, he is in the now.

"The Saint knows without traveling,
understand without looking,
performs without acting. "
(Lao-Tse, Trad. Susana Cano, Cap. 47)

The Taoist sage has been called "Water Cloud People" because it floats like a cloud and flows like water. Chuang-Tsu said about them,

"The true man of the old dream without dreaming or waking up without anxiety. His food was simple, and his deep breathing. Carefree he was. Without care he came. That was all. He did not forget his beginning and did not seek his end. He accepted what was given him with delight, and when he left, he did not worry. "

The wise teach by example. His gift to the world is the Tao, and the peace he provides for being in it. Chuang-Tsu and Lao-Tse gave several instructions of a lifestyle, and both recognized the fundamental change as the internal and an event of consciousness. Although the Taoist can act paradoxically, he still has the flow. Whether a king, a hermit, or a cook, he works in perfect rhythm and harmony.

Common Land

Taoism and Gestalt have much in common. Both point to the balance of forces between individuation, zero point or center. Both recognize that with this focus there is an improved perspective and increased awareness. Both believe in the desire of the organism, as opposed to rational intelligence. Both believe in being in the "Here and Now".


A good Gestalt help the patient remove their own blockages. Fritz Perls saw the mature person as one who does not need to manipulate others for support. Perls was very naive in saying, "Gestalt therapy is knowing how to clean your own butt"Likewise, the Taoist does not need to manipulate others. He remains independent and alone.


Understanding that what is currently happening is essential in Gestalt therapy. The Therapist must be focused, and have his inner inactivity diminished, so he can be more aware of others. As he works with a patient, it helps him to be aware of the blockages and forces in working with him. Once the realization is carried out, the patient can begin to complete the work without closing, his "gestalt". Realize, then action, then balance restoration. Like Taoism, a great awareness in Gestalt helps the person to be focused and grow in harmony with their environment.

Carry out the non-action: The gestalt therapist teacher lets the patient do the work. He observes, and offers to "realize" the patient. Then, through the "empty chair" technique, the patient is helped by acting on the different aspects of their conflict. Fritz Perls often refused to answer questions. "Can I sit down?", Changed the weight of responsibility to the one asking. If Perls wanted to cheer on a patient or say he was bored, he pretended to fall asleep (and sometimes he really did). This is the Taoist action with non-action in the true sense.

While Taoism and Gestalt aim to focus on the individual and joining forces for a balanced harmony, Taoism goes one step further. For the Taoists, focusing and "realizing" are essential, but beyond that comes the spiritual state of enlightenment - the union with all the things in which man flows with the Tao.

Taoist Gestalt

The concept of the Taoist Gestalt is not a library concept. He has been practiced for several years by Gia-Fu-Feng at the Stillpoint Foundation, a Taoist meditation center in the mountains. Gia-Fu was at the creation of Esalen, tired of walking many miles, meditating and conducting work tables for years. Here he had to meet Fritz Perls and his technique. After Stillpoint was founded, Taoism and Gestalt Therapy merged into a different nuance and was felt through daily activities.

Although Stillpoint, as a living organism, is always changing, the following description is based on the author's experience in 1971.

Meditation and Singing

Stillpoint's schedule is arranged around sunrise and sunset. An hour before sunrise, the "Stillpointers", whose number ranges from fifteen to thirty people, will meditate together. Since the stillness of the mind and the focus are important factors in integral human development, meditation was a useful tool for that purpose. At sunrise, the group began to count "Om." This varied in mode and texture according to the day. Sometimes it was soft and peaceful; other times it was loud and cathartic. After meditation and singing, the group generally felt very calm and united.

The Daily Meeting

After breakfast, the gong sounded for the morning meeting. The meeting dealt first with any daily issue or announcements for the community, they developed it in the Taoist meeting which will be discussed later. The meeting was the focus of the day.

Tai Chi

After the meeting, there were many hours of free time. Gia-Fu, who walked ten miles a day, encouraged others to do the same, and the walk-meditation resulted. At sunset the group met on a hill facing west and followed Gia-Fu in Tai-Chi-Chuan a form of meditation by movements of Chinese origin in which one becomes more aware of his body and his "chi", the vital energy that circulates through him.

After Tai-Chi, Stillpointers can eat, take saunas or baths, chat or retire at about nine o'clock.

Long Periods

Although there were always visitors there for a short time, some Stillpointers stayed for months, some for years. Unlike most work tables, daily meeting sessions involved a community of people who lived, meditated, ate and worked together. There was an easy way to go without fear of the unknown or the sense of urgency that often exists in short-term groups. None felt forced to work their problems in one day. The pace was slow and the interaction fluid.

Chop Suey Therapy

The morning meetings varied according to the mode of the day, sometimes quiet and peaceful, sometimes strong and violent, but the presence of the leader, Gia-Fu-Feng, was always perceived. He believed in "Chop Suey" therapy: Using all available methods, including baths and walks. The used imagination, dreams, physical vibrations, drama or fantasies to express the Tao, to leave the Tao in other people. Often "the empty chair" was used to focus on a particular person, but the group was involved, as Gia-Fu proposed: "Thus the Tao becomes manifest - a group awakening."


Modern Taoism observes three phases of life: First, the original nature of the child; Second, the social strata printed on the individual; and finally, when possible, liberation. With liberation, the individual returns to the original nature of the child, but an increased awareness comes with it. The Taoist Gestalt finds attempts to help the individual transform into focus so he can make it easier to obtain freedom.

Liberation means that the ego is released - the state of "no-me" or Wu Wo "in Chinese. To accomplish this, one goes through a period of humility -" little me "or" Hsiao Wo ", and in "Great I" or "Ta Wo" ostensive therapy. Often, in Stillpoint, the ostensive therapy was employed. Someone could boast around him saying, "I am the greatest!" Without guilt.


The master therapist joins his ego with the group, and his work becomes effort without strength. Let people get close to him. It does not force anything. When the group begins to talk, observe and give feedback. The Taoist therapist promotes "delirium" as a "delirium of the idiot." To rave is to silence the thought while still imagining and, consequently, without blockages. Raving allows the natural essence of the person to reach him.


Just as the raving is important, so is the let go of anger or resentment (taking out the shit) similar to Janov's Fundamental Scream Therapy, although not necessarily as intense. Once the rage is released, the person can really start functioning and living. "Shit out" is especially important in a community where thirty people live in relatively close quarters. Tension is erected like electricity in the air before a storm. Only when lightning and thunder passes peace can it be restored. By making rage socially acceptable, explosions caused by interpersonal friction become small and harmless before large and harmful.

The Stillpointers often they let go of their strength in the controlled environment of the meeting when they usually take him directly to the therapy group focused on one of the two involved. Several times rage is stored from a problem caused by some small external events. The help of the group determines whether the cause is external or internal. For example, Sue airs her irritation at the meeting about something Joe has done. The members of the group, who have lived with Sue and Joe, tell them their opinion. Sometimes other members add, "Yes, Joe, that bothers me too." The focus is on Joe. If no one is bothered by Joe's actions on the other side, attention usually turns to Sue who can project his problem on Joe.

This group interaction facilitates the uncovering of the problem in which they can then start working with Gestalt or other methods.

Master Therapist

The therapist teacher tries to achieve the patient's natural essence -the "sameness. Through meditation, walking, and meeting sessions, the person begins to have a better idea of ‚Äč‚Äčtheir true self. Also, the therapist, who must be carefree and self-centered, helps others to become aware of cosmic intelligence and organic wisdom (as the powers of the body regulate it.) He avoids the emphasis of human intelligence. Meditation is a great help for such "realization."

The therapist takes his own therapy by giving therapy. He does what he feels right at that moment. There are no rules, just follow the flow. Let anything (small in violence) happen. If the meeting goes to hell, so be it. There is no such thing as a failed meeting, no model in each meeting has to fit into it.

The therapist has inner peace, so he can perceive others without distortion: he is one with the patient, and even when he gets angry, there is love. Just like Zen, he can get a student out of his confusion by getting mad at him, or by throwing him out of the meeting. Gia-Fu was one of those who rejected this cure, it could take a long time. "Bah," he replied, "does the lighting take time?"

The Taoist lets the person in to feel. If the person is depressed, he feels really depressed, lets him cry and groan. Only when one becomes with the feeling will the sensation go away.

You can use the "humor-healer." Most people have "buttons" - emotionally painful areas that make them react quickly. The therapist can "press" that button, constantly until the situation becomes humorous and the button disappears. By insistence, if a person hates having the hands of another on their shoulders, the therapist will do this several times until the situation becomes visible, and there is no other button to press.

In conclusion, Taoism and Gestalt come together to form a versatile and effective form of therapy. The therapist at the Taoist Gestalt is limited by his imagination. Gestalt techniques adapt well the system of Taoism, and this thought also adds a solid philosophical basis to Gestalt. The Taoist gestalt is dynamic and flexible, and very important, it works.

By Charles Gagarin, July 2001
Translation: Jesús Reyes y Reyes


· Tao-Te-Ching, Lao Tse, Trad. Susana Cano M. 1999.
· The Growing Edge of Gestalt Therapy, chap. 15, Taoism and Gestalt Therapy, Charles Gagarin.

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