Beyond Mindfulness: Introducing constructs and practices from Chinese Martial Arts into Western healthcare

Mindfulness meditation has become a widespread and influential set of concepts and practices within Western healthcare, education and neuroscientific communities. However there are several limitations emergent in the rapid transition from the heterogeneous Buddhist spiritual and cultural context of origin, to secular set of techniques in the West. Perspectives on these limitations are shared in this presentation from two clinicians who are also martial artists working with enduring complex physical and mental health problems in the UK’s NHS. Firstly the progressive disembodiment of mindfulness practices during their secularisation as psychotherapy techniques is explored, resulting in the restricted access/benefit of now predominantly sitting meditation practices to those with complex health conditions. A programme that uses Chinese martial arts movements, breathing practices and sequences to improve the accessibility of mindfulness concepts and benefits to these groups will be described. Secondly, the over-extension of mindfulness to many therapeutic mind-body practices within the Western lens is reflected upon, alongside the progressive loss of the original cultural and spiritual contexts of practices such as Tai Ji during their incorporation into Western healthcare. It is argued that these trends have inadvertently masked the unique applied potential of other ancient Eastern spiritual traditions. The Daoist concepts and practices of Flow (famously evangelised by Bruce Lee) and Neidan within Chinese internal martial arts will be shared as an example, together with their planned application within UK stroke rehabilitation.

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