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April 2019 - Qigong and Philosophy: An Intellectual Adventure

April 2019 | Program Host: Vicki Dello Joio

The word ‘philosophy’ comes from Greek roots meaning “love of wisdom,” and it is clear that this love of wisdom of philosophy can transform us in all kinds of ways, if it is pursued sincerely and diligently. Qigong practices have the potential to transform us as well, and many of us have experienced at least glimpses of a wisdom of the body that can be cultivated by sincere and diligent qigong practice.  Given these similarities, we might wonder:  Do the traditional Chinese body practices and meditation techniques of qigong count as philosophy?  Can they count as ways of thinking?

The answer might seem to be no, since the ritualized movements and postures of qigong practice appear to be quite different than the intellectual activity of thought.  This might especially seem true if we treat cognition itself as something that does not involve our bodies.

Nevertheless, as many qigong practitioners know, traditional Chinese movements and postures can help us experience and understand the world in new ways.  Qigong gives us new ways to think with our bodies and to understand reality through movement.  The ritualized practices of qigong are much closer to thinking the big thoughts of philosophy than they might at first seem, and appreciating that can help us get more out of our qigong practices.

Steve Geisz, Ph.D., is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tampa.  He is a graduate of Ken Cohen’s qigong teacher-training program and an instructor in the Universal Healing Tao qigong system of Mantak Chia.  He is also a 500-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT 500). His academic research focuses on the ways in which body practices such as qigong, yoga, meditation, and the martial arts can be seen as embodiments of philosophical ideas and even methods of engaging in philosophical activity. HIs teaching at the University of Tampa brings these practices into academic philosophy and religious studies classes.