Richard "Dick" Price
Gestalt Practice is a contemporary form of personal exploration and integration developed by Dick Price at the Esalen Institute.The objective of the practice is to become more fully aware of the process of living within a unified field of body, mind, relationship, earth and spirit.
Gestalt is a German word that denotes form, shape or configuration, and connotes wholeness. Practice is an ongoing program or process of development. Gestalt Practice is an ongoing process of integrating human awareness across a broad spectrum of consciousness.
Initially, Gestalt was used as a psychological term in Gestalt psychology. Then Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman applied it to psychotherapy when they developed Gestalt therapy, upon which Gestalt Practice was partially based. 172Alan Watts, who was a mentor of Dick Price, suggested combining practices from the cultures of East and West. The writings of Nyanaponika Thera and the nearby presence of Zen Roshi Shunryu Suzuki were sources of Buddhist meditation practice for Price. Gestalt Practice was the term he used to describe his combination of these Eastern and Western traditions. This term distinguished the practice Price taught from both Gestalt therapy and Buddhist practice. :
This form of awareness practice is different from Gestalt therapy,because it is not a “cure” for psychological symptoms, and it relies upon the interaction between two equal partners, namely an "initiator" of awareness work and a "reflector," rather than a patient and a therapist. Some aspects of Gestalt Practice are derived from the theory of Gestalt therapy. However, as Dick Price conceived of Gestalt Practice, if a "patient" wants to do Gestalt work with a "therapist" then they belong in Gestalt therapy. In keeping with this approach, eclectic techniques of meditation, physical exercise, environmentalism, contemplation and spiritual practice are incorporated into Gestalt Practice, along with some typical Gestalt awareness experiments borrowed from the Gestalt therapy model.
Gestalt Practice is an amalgam of awareness practices. 358–61 Lao Tzu was one of the most significant Asian influences on Price. :76 Otherwise, the primary influences upon the development of Gestalt Practice were Fritz Perls, Wilhelm Reich, Alan Watts, Nyanaponika Thera, Shunryu Suzuki, Frederic Spiegelberg, Rajneesh, Joseph Campbell, Gregory Bateson, and Stanislav Grof, as well as many other scholars who were in residence at Esalen Institute during the two decades Price's lead the Institute.:
Price worked with Perls for approximately four years at Esalen, between 1966 and 1970. Then Perls told Price that it was time for him to start teaching Gestalt on his own. 168Price was impressed with the similarities between Gestalt and mindfulness meditation, which he used with insights from Eastern religions and altered state research to develop Gestalt Practice. :
Gestalt practitioners teach mindfulness skills, using a wide variety of methods not limited by the psychotherapeutic model.All Gestalt Practice techniques emphasize experience over analysis. Besides the standard Gestalt exercises that characterized Gestalt therapy, Dick Price widened the approach by incorporating novel techniques from such disciplines as meditation, shamanism, compassion practice and spiritual contemplation. Thus, Gestalt Practice became a personalized form of consciousness exploration beyond the limits of psychotherapy. A partial list of the modalities used in Gestalt Practice includes the following:
Gestalt Practice work may involve the reporting of present awareness, 176 and the integration of awareness through intrapsychic dialogue between aspects of personality. This kind of work, borrowed from Gestalt therapy, is often practiced as a shared experiment between two partners working together as a "dyad." Phenomenological techniques like these are based upon the belief that subjective experience is worthy of direct attention, without the interference of preexisting ideas or interpretations.:
Somatic awareness may be the focus of Gestalt exercises. 230 Awareness of breathing is emphasized because it promotes immediate experience of the body. :175 Dramatic interventions, typical of body-oriented Reichian therapy or Bioenergetics, generally are not used in Gestalt Practice. However, an initiator’s awareness naturally may be directed toward areas of tension or holding. A scan of body feelings and sensations, similar to forms of Buddhist meditation can enhance awareness practice. And movement exercises such as T'ai chi ch'uan, Yoga, dance, art, hiking, chanting, singing and massage may be used to integrate awareness of the body. :177:
Interpersonal relationship practices may be used in Gestalt Practice to clarify communications, improve relationship skills, and enhance empathy. 35 A neutral moderator may assist with interpersonal encounters, although this is not necessary, in keeping with the Gestalt Practice principle of equality among participants.:
Dreamwork is a common Gestalt awareness practice, in which enactment and integration of dream elements are favored. An initiator of Gestalt dreamwork intentionally re-experiences their dream as if it were happening in the present. The initiator then assumes the role of various dream elements, and enters into a dialogue with whatever is encountered in the dream. This approach is borrowed from the Gestalt therapy model. 142However, in contrast to Gestalt therapy, alternative sources of dream interpretation, including intuitive experiences are welcomed in Gestalt Practice. :
Meditation practices, derived from many different contemplative traditions, may be used by Gestalt practitioners. 168 Buddhism provides many useful models for mindfulness and compassion practice; and some of these have been adapted to complement the objectives of Gestalt Practice.:
Taoism, as it was expressed by Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching, provides a non-judgmental backdrop for non-intervention with an initiator’s process, allowing whatever happens in a Gestalt work session to unfold naturally in the present moment. In addition, Taoism reinforces the reverence for nature that is typical of Gestalt Practice. 35:
These techniques, and many others beyond the ambit of therapy, are regularly used in Gestalt Practice, with the same objectives of enhanced awareness, spiritual growth, 154 and respect for the natural environment.:
Gestalt Practice is most often taught in groups, 64with an experienced reflector serving as group leader. However, after participants have learned the basics of Gestalt, they frequently choose to do awareness practice work together on their own, outside of a group, without a leader. In this way, a Gestalt Practice group functions as the model for a Gestalt community. Indeed, Gestalt Practice, as Price conceived it, quickly evolves into a congregational awareness practice that transcends the confines of any meeting room. :
Price led Gestalt groups at Esalen for fifteen years until his death in 1985. 158–59 His wife and collaborator at Esalen, Christine Stewart Price, carried on the Gestalt Practice tradition by developing her own form of awareness practice, which she calls Gestalt Awareness Practice or GAP. Christine Price now teaches GAP in the United States, Europe and Japan. Christine and Tibetan Buddhist practitioner Gail Stewart also offer workshops, in which they teach Gestalt Practice methods and theory to experienced practitioners. In 2013, Christine Stewart Price founded a new facility, called Tribal Ground Circle, dedicated to continued teaching and development of the Gestalt Practice legacy.:
Gestalt Practice influenced many people at Esalen. 160 Prominent among them was a student of Dick Price named Steven Harper, who incorporated aspects of Gestalt Practice, along with principles of ecopsychology, into his own unique wilderness practice.:
Contemporary American forms of psychoanalysis, such as relational psychoanalysis and intersubjective psychoanalysis, have had an impact upon Gestalt Practice, leading to the development of Relational Gestalt Practice by Dorothy Charles.She teaches this practice at Esalen, and in Japan, Spain and Greece.
Chakra are various focal points used in a variety of ancient meditation practices, collectively denominated as Tantra, or the esoteric or inner traditions of Hinduism.
Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Scholars have found meditation elusive to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.
Friedrich (Frederick) Salomon Perls, better known as Fritz Perls, was a German-born psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. Perls coined the term 'Gestalt therapy' to identify the form of psychotherapy that he developed with his wife, Laura Perls, in the 1940s and 1950s. Perls became associated with the Esalen Institute in 1964, and he lived there until 1969.
Claudio Benjamín Naranjo Cohen was a Chilean-born psychiatrist of Arabic/Moorish, Spanish and Jewish descent who is considered a pioneer in integrating psychotherapy and the spiritual traditions. He was one of the three successors named by Fritz Perls, a principal developer of Enneagram of Personality theories and a founder of the Seekers After Truth Institute. He was also an elder statesman of the US and global human potential movement and the spiritual renaissance of the late 20th century. He was the author of various books.
The Esalen Institute, commonly called Esalen, is a non-profit American retreat center and intentional community in Big Sur, California, which focuses on humanistic alternative education. The institute played a key role in the Human Potential Movement beginning in the 1960s. Its innovative use of encounter groups, a focus on the mind-body connection, and their ongoing experimentation in personal awareness introduced many ideas that later became mainstream.
Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy which emphasizes personal responsibility, and focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist–client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation. It was developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s and 1950s, and was first described in the 1951 book Gestalt Therapy.
Michael Murphy is the co-founder of the Esalen Institute, a key figure in the Human Potential Movement and author of The Future of the Body and other books on topics related to extraordinary human potential.
In psychoanalysis, introjection is the process by which the subject replicates behaviors, attributes, or other fragments of the surrounding world, especially of other subjects. It is considered a self-stabilizing defense mechanism used when there is a lack of full psychological contact between a child and the adults providing that child's psychological needs. Here, it provides the illusion of maintaining relationship but at the expense of a loss of self. Cognate concepts are identification, incorporation, and internalization. To use a simple example, a person who picks up traits from his or her friends is introjecting.
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, a skill one develops through meditation or other training. Mindfulness derives from sati, a significant element of Buddhist traditions, and based on Zen, Vipassanā, and Tibetan meditation techniques. Though definitions and techniques of mindfulness are wide-ranging, Buddhist traditions explain what constitutes mindfulness such as how past, present and future moments arise and cease as momentary sense impressions and mental phenomena. Individuals who have contributed to the popularity of mindfulness in the modern Western context include Thích Nhất Hạnh, Herbert Benson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Richard J. Davidson.
The Vipassanā movement, also called the Insight Meditation Movement and American vipassana movement, refers to a branch of modern Burmese Theravāda Buddhism which gained widespread popularity since the 1950s, and to its western derivatives which were popularised since the 1970s, helping give rise to the mindfulness movement.
The Buddhist Publication Society is a charity whose goal is to explain and spread the doctrine of the Buddha. It was founded in Sri Lanka in 1958 by two Sri Lankan Buddhist laymen, A.S. Karunaratna and Richard Abeyasekera, and a European-born Buddhist monk, Nyanaponika Thera. Originally conceived as a limited effort to publish small, affordable books on fundamental Buddhist topics, the Society expanded its scope in response to the reception of their early publishing efforts. Reflecting its Sri Lankan roots, the Buddhist Publication society's publications reflect the perspective of the Theravada branch of Buddhism, drawing heavily from the Pāli Canon for source material.
Richard "Dick" Price was co-founder of the Esalen Institute in 1962 and a veteran of the Beat Generation. He ran Esalen in Big Sur for many years, sometimes virtually single-handed. He developed a practice of hiking the Santa Lucia Mountains and developed a new form of personal integration and growth that he called Gestalt Practice, partly based upon Gestalt therapy and Buddhist practice.
Śāriputra was one of the top disciples of the Buddha. He is considered the first of the Buddha's two chief male disciples, together with Maudgalyāyana. Śāriputra had a key leadership role in the ministry of the Buddha and is considered in many Buddhist schools to have been important in the development of the Buddhist Abhidharma. He frequently appears in Mahayana sutras, and in some sutras, is used as a counterpoint to represent the Hinayana school of Buddhism.
Gia-Fu Feng was prominent as both an English translator of Taoist classics and a Taoist teacher in the United States, associated with Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, The Beats and Abraham Maslow.
James Solomon Simkin was an early seminal figure in the history of Gestalt Therapy.
Elsa Gindler was a somatic bodywork pioneer in Germany.
Buddhism includes an analysis of human psychology, emotion, cognition, behavior and motivation along with therapeutic practices. Buddhist psychology is embedded within the greater Buddhist ethical and philosophical system, and its psychological terminology is colored by ethical overtones. Buddhist psychology has two therapeutic goals: the healthy and virtuous life of a householder and the ultimate goal of nirvana, the total cessation of dissatisfaction and suffering (dukkha).
Eastern philosophy in clinical psychology refers to the influence of Eastern philosophies on the practice of clinical psychology based on the idea that East and West are false dichotomies. Travel and trade along the Silk Road brought ancient texts and mind practices deep into the West. Vedic psychology dates back 5000 years and forms the core of mental health counselling in the Ayurvedic medical tradition. The knowledge that enlightened Siddhartha Gautama was the self-management of mental suffering through mindfulness awareness practices. Humane interpersonal care of the mentally disturbed was practiced in the Middle East in the Middle Ages, and later in the West. Many of the founders of clinical psychology were influenced by these ancient texts as translations began to reach Europe during the 19th century.
Joseph Chaim Zinker is a therapist who has contributed to the growth and development of Gestalt theory and also Gestalt methodology. He co-founded the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.
Miriam Polster was a clinical psychologist who was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America. Polster had an interest in music, which happened to be her undergraduate major and a subject she integrated into her work. Once reaching graduate school, she became an advocate for Gestalt therapy; a therapy aimed towards self-awareness. Polster was the co-founder of The Gestalt Training Centre. Polster was the co-author of two novels, and the sole author of Eve’s Daughters. Miriam Polster died due to cancer, in 2001.