In and Out the Labyrinth of the Mind (A Personal Note on Gestalt Therapy’s Impact)

The most tremendous voyages
are sometimes taken
without moving from the spot.
—Henry Miller, The World of Sex

THE GESTALT MARATHON is an indoor, static marathon. All its participants are sitting on the floor most of the time inside a large, conducive room, weary and confounded from the in-depth processes, emotional exercises, experimentations, and self-encounters and discoveries. Yet they are equipped with an awareness so sharp it cuts deep through the surface of their perceived experience and evokes rich and different perspectives from within—perspectives which are at least insightful, liberating, and integrative, if not directly curative.

“Awareness per se, by and in itself, can be curative. (Perls)”

In August 2009, after two days of intensive self-awareness activities, I have stepped upon this new ground where I have made contact with myself and understood “awareness” not just in its psychical nature but also in its biological, instinctive sense (as an élan vital that encompasses not just humans but all of life). “Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in us. Everything else about us is dead machinery” (Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions).

Though abstract—and sometimes abstruse, elusive, and ineffable—awareness also seemed like a state of matter, at least to me, perhaps even of a solid form. I feel my hands on it, as if I was holding a heart, consciously feeling its pulse throb from inside my head as I become aware of awareness itself.

Franz Kafka spoke of literature “as an axe with which we chop at the frozen seas inside us.” The same thing can be said of the Gestalt marathon. With all the compression and pressure already inside its participants—their lifelong suppressed issues and traumas remaining incessantly percussive through neuroses—the release is akin to an eruption of a dormant volcano that has long forgotten about its own existence but suddenly awakens from this amnesia of living.

The Gestalt marathon offered me a chance to let my deep-seated feelings burst and tear down my prison and chains, albeit not permanently. Soon I found out, through theory and experience, that there’s a rhythmic relationship (contact and withdrawal) even to things such as freedom and captivity,

Not long, I started building another prison, this time, of my own choosing: an inner world where I can give my thoughts free rein without extrinsic influences as much as possible and only led by pure and spontaneous impulses bubbling from the well that is my “soul” (perhaps soul is nothing but the fancy word for “awareness”). I believe that opposites complement one another, as in the principles of Taoism: “light and darkness.” Truth is that nature is cyclic, always inevitable and necessary. I believe that some walls are just built in order to be broken altogether soon. They are also there to make one realize that he had outgrown the walls of his being.


This voyage of the mind, a plunge deep into my skull-sized ocean, lets me arrive at a fecundity of potentials that is seeking to be brought into life. It’s like slipping into a dream and waking up with a flower in my hand.

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then? (Coleridge)

Conversely (this time, the flower is from the outside), at moments of selfless subjectivity, which I soon learn from Gestalt therapy, I take note of how an external stimulus passes “through my senses and into my mind.” I observe the whole course of this awareness continuum bifurcating through the labyrinth of my mind, along with its curious loops and random turns and associations. This is why time passes inside the mind differently (in our heads lies a battleground of invisible forces).

I am aware of the age-old adage of the “mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” The mind is the center where I process what our senses gathered. The Gestalt marathon freed my mind—and thus freed me from it—and attuned me well with my senses. I experienced an awareness that is not only run by the mind but also by the pleading of my guts and senses. (The finish line of the marathon is integration, the mind-and-body split made whole.)

The “frozen seas” are chopped down; the seas become an ocean. My awareness circles above like a bird. But all of life follows the rhythm of life. Parts of my ocean will, in its own time, freeze. However, that’s not a bad thing; it has to happen so I can rest on top the labyrinths.

Koryu, look. The birds are going back north.
I wonder who said that birds are free?
Though they fly in the sky freely,
If they had no place to arrive or branches to rest on,
They might even regret having wings.
What is true freedom?
It is, perhaps, having a place to go back to. (Koumyou Sanzo)