By David Draper, MBA, M.Div
Chapter I Introduction
There are many studies indicating the benefits of meditation for a person’s mind, body and behavior such as mental clarity, lowered blood pressure, and stress relief. Many students within the western culture (hereafter referred to as “western student”) who begin meditation practice; give up in frustration. There are numerous reasons for this however; I believe it is largely due to the western student’s limited understanding of meditation and its practice options. The western student tends to focus on observable external actions of meditating such as sitting cross-legged and chanting mantras for extended periods of time.
The western student also typically seeks a step-by-step guide of specific actions or a checklist that may be marked off as they are performed. A commonly held belief is that there are specific steps to follow in order to achieve one’s mystical experience. If the meditation experience does not produce the expected outcome soon after performing certain activities, there is a tendency to give up and surrender to the perception of either personal failure or that meditation does not work.
Ingrid Bacci describes the culture, of the western world lives in, as focused on doing; effort and stress are required to do important things in life. “Most of us still define our day in terms of a to-do list……we have lots of criteria for making it in the arena of doing” [Bacci 2000:22].
The physiological response to meditation is often described in the literature, as the “quieting of the mind.” In the context of western culture, the western student generally prefers an activity (doing something) rather than quietly sitting and doing nothing (being). Additionally, the student of meditation often struggles with the concept of allowing as an action and instead, initiates a battle of wills with the ego as to who is in charge. The student may experience feelings of frustration as she/he tries to stop the continuous stream of thoughts that are observable during meditation.
Integrating hypnosis into the meditation practice for western students is not a new concept, yet it often does not appear to be utilized as an alternative or in combination with meditation. This thesis explores the hypothesis that if a person integrates both meditation and hypnosis practices, then the student is more likely to achieve and enjoy a satisfying experience. As a western student myself, who has failed to attain a satisfying meditation practice in my life, this thesis and hypothesis is both personal and meaningful as I seek my own way to achieve my desires. This hypothesis, if found to be positive, will result in a provision of guidelines for western students to create an individualized plan which will help them achieve the results they desire for their practice of meditation.
Chapter II Review of Literature
In the literature review of meditation, I discovered a wealth of information related to a wide variety of approaches and benefits of meditation. Although there is diverse range of meditation techniques, the basic instructions described in these techniques have significant commonality which may be represented as ‘Focus on one thing, and watch other thoughts and sensations with detachment,” and “Meditation is any technique that relaxes the body and gets the mind clear” [Harrison 2001].
The ancient tradition of meditation, (which often included yoga practice) began during Indian prehistory as a system of mental, physical and spiritual exercises. In approximately 500 B.C., Patanjali, physician and sage, formalized this tradition into a science with four major and four lesser branches involving ethical restraint, self-discipline, mental focus, and physical exercise. Patanjali’s meditation design utilized an approach which resulted in the attainment of a unique mind and body state of spontaneous and psychological integration. In the field of modern psychology, this state is generally likened to individuation, self-actualization and/or self-realization.
More than 600 scientific studies verifying the wide-ranging benefits of the Transcendental Meditation technique have been conducted at 250 independent universities and medical schools in 33 countries during the past 40 years [Dr. John Hagelin: www.tm.org/research-on-meditation]. Research on the processes and effects of meditation is a growing subfield of neurological interest for the physical and mental benefits it provides. Additionally, there are studies that describe changes that occur in the body during and after meditation. Studies also focus on which part of the brain is utilized during meditation however, it has not yet been determined how or why that specific part of the brain is involved.
As an example, the types of studies common to meditation conducted by The National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine are:
- Mindfulness Meditation Is Associated With Structural Changes in the Brain (January 2011)
- Transcendental Meditation Helps Young Adults Cope With Stress (December 2009)
- Mantram Instruction May Help HIV-Positive Individuals Handle Stress (January 2009)
- Meditation May Increase Empathy (March 2008)
- Meditation May Make Information Processing In the Brain More Efficient (June 2007) http://nccam.nih.gov/health/meditation/
While there are some commonalities among the various instructions, meditation remains a highly personal, experiential, and unique process for the individual practitioner. This explains why the literature ranges from very specific and detailed actions that must be followed closely to instructions which are comparatively relaxed in approach. In part, the literature may be summarily categorized into the following themes:
1. Meditation is simple to learn
- Teach Yourself to Meditate in 10 Simple lessons ( Eric Harrison 2001)
- HOW TO MEDITATE: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO THE ART AND SCIENCE OF MEDITATION (John Novak 1989)
- THREE STEPS TO ENLIGHTENMENT (Gary Rutz 2011)
2. Meditation does not necessarily require a lot of time
- E IGHT MINUTE MEDITATION (Victor Davich 2004)
- HURRY UP AND MEDITATE (David Michie 2008)
3. There are many types of meditations to pick and choose
- 101 WAys to Meditate: Discover Your True Self (Linda Lavid 2010)
- WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE (Jon Kabat-Zinn 2005)
4. Meditation does require specific actions
- SCIENCE OF BREATH: A PRACTICAL GUIDE (Swami Rama 1998)
- TRANSMISSION: A MEDITATION FOR THE NEW AGE (Benjamin Crème 2006)
- THE CALM TECHNIQUE (Paul Wilson 1985)
5. Meditation is best practiced with understanding of the science
- PICTURES OF THE MIND: WHAT THE NEW NEUROSCIENCE TELLS US ABOUT WHO WE ARE (Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald 2010)
- EVOLVE YOUR BRAIN: THE SCIENCE OF CHANGING YOUR MIND (Joe Dispenza 2007)
Since there are many viewpoints and approaches to meditation, it often may feel daunting to the western student to find and discern the information that will be most helpful. While meditation is a simple process to describe, it can often be challenging to apply. For this reason, hypnosis may be a viable alternative as it has the same goal as meditation -- quieting the mind. Hypnosis techniques, including self-hypnosis, may be combined with meditation to achieve the desired result.
Hypnosis is improperly named based upon the Greek word Hypnos which means sleep [Goldberg 1998:2]. Hypnosis is a natural state of mind in daily life. Common examples of hypnosis are daydreaming and periods of intense concentration. People experience about 4 hours of natural hypnosis a day, induced by television commercials, a good orator, or evangelistic appeals. [Goldberg 1998:3].
A common paradigm is that hypnosis requires “going to sleep,” however it would be better described as entering a trance state. Everyday activities such as music, theatre, etc., create the right environment for altered states which is known as “waking hypnosis.” Hypnoidal contacts guide us into a receptive state as we watch television or listen to the radio, especially commercials. Good actors who create rapport with the audience are producing a hypnoidal state.
A good motion picture is an example of powerful hypnoidal states which take the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions. One’s critic or ego, the controlling part of the conscious brain, enters into a mode of suspended disbelief. Still pictures flashing across the screen give the illusion of movement. This allows the person to participate with the movie, experiencing strong emotional states and identification with the characters. One last example of waking hypnosis is consensus thinking. In this context, individuals agree to hold their personal interests in check as the group discusses the topic, making concessions to what is viewed by all as the best solution for the group.
Heterohypnosis is the term for the induction of a subject into a hypnotic trance by another person. If someone induces the state themselves it is referred to as self-hypnosis or autohypnosis [Goldberg 1998:4]. The subconscious mind can best be influenced when a person is in a passive or relaxed state, such as in hypnosis during a state of deep concentration. “This restful quieting of the mind cleanses it, opening it to pure and more elevated thoughts. Hypnosis builds both mental vigor and enthusiasm because it removes the negative fears and thoughts that act as roadblocks to energy, inspiration, and accomplishment [Goldberg 1998:8].”
Hypnosis has a colorful history dating back to the 1700’s with Antoine Mesmer who based his healing practice on the theory of animal magnetism. Mesmer believed that it was an occult force or invisible fluid emanating from his body and that, more generally, the force permeated the universe, deriving especially from the stars. Mesmer’s success in treating his patients was not well received by the Parisian physicians, who asked the King to form a royal commission to investigate Mesmer’s assertions. The commission concluded that there was no energy such as animal magnetism being transferred in healing. The royal commission’s final paper on the subject stated that Mesmer’s results were in fact “the effect of suggestion on weak minds.”
Mesmer’s healings often ended with the patient shaking violently in a cataleptic trance. Mesmer described these “fits” as a healing crisis with the disease clearing up soon. A student of Mesmer, the Marquis de Puysegur, continued to experiment with trance states. One of his subjects responded to hypnotic induction with a relaxed, slow moving state with the ability to speak. This somnambulistic trance was quickly adopted and the cataleptic trances were rarely seen thereafter.
Prominent physicians such as Dr. James Braid, Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot, and Dr. Pierre Janet, expanded the knowledge for identifying hypnotic phenomena, however the therapy was again rejected by the medical community based largely upon Dr. Sigmund Freud’s condemnation. Interestingly, although Dr. Sigmund Freud was taught hypnotism, he reportedly wasn’t very proficient in practice.
Hypnosis was again championed in the mid 20th century by another physician, Dr. Milton H. Erickson, who was a major figure in the development of modern hypnosis. He developed a conversational form for inducing a trance, named “naturalistic hypnotism,” which is still practiced today.
One of the most valuable discoveries that early hypnotists made, is that a person in trance can remain in rapport with the hypnotist and be guided to make positive changes. Dr. Lee Overhosler, describes hypnosis as “the use of words to induce trance and guide a subject’s imagination in trance,” or “hypnosis is trance with words” [Overholser 2000:30].
Today, most hypnosis involves behavior modification and employs some form of visual imagery [Goldberg 1998:13]. An exception to this is the self hypnotic induction which Dr. Bruce Goldberg calls the “superconscious mind tap.” Spiritual growth through
hypnosis is what Goldberg termed “cleansing” and an introduction of the subconscious mind to the subject’s superconscious mind (higher mind) [Goldberg 1998:14]. The superconscious mind tap is the most similar to meditation. Most hypnosis is based upon suggestions made to the subconscious in an effort to modify behavior whereas meditation seeks to make contact with the superconscious and grow spiritually.
The literature reflects that the western student may adopt self hypnosis more easily than meditation. A comparison of recorded references regarding hypnosis from both western and eastern cultures reveal that western experiences are primarily derived almost exclusively from the waking state. In contrast eastern cultural experiences are rooted in from induced dreams, meditative, or contemplative states. Interestingly, most eastern references can be termed as self-induced (self hypnosis) while western references are primarily induced [EzineArticles.com/1653630].
In my literature search on hypnosis the following themes illustrate the diversity of information found:
1. Power of the mind
- Thoughts Are Things (Prentice Mulford 2007)
- DEEPER AND DEEPER (Jonathan Chase 2000)
- MIND MAGIC (Marta Hiatt 2001)
2. Psychological and medical treatment
- HOW TO HYPNOTIZE YOURSELF AND OTHERS (Dr. Rachel Copeland 1995)
- HYPNOSIS FOR CHANGE (Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher 1996)
- THE PROFESSIONAL ART OF HYPNOTHERAPY (Jonathan Royle 1994)
- KEYS TO THE MIND (Nathan Thomas 2009)
3. Easy to learn and apply in self-hypnosis
- INSTANT SELF-HYPNOSIS (Forbes Robbins Blair 2004)
- SELF-HYPNOSIS REVOLUTION (Forbes Robbins Blair 2007)
- HYPNOSIS FOR BEGINNERS (Dylan Morgan 2008)
4. Using the subconscious mind without trance
- GET THE LIFE YOU WANT (Richard Bandler 2008)
- NLP THE NEW TECHNOLOGY OF ACHIEVEMENT (Steve Andreas1994)
- NLP TECHNIQUES ANYONE CAN USE (Roger Ellerton 2010)
- THE EMOTION CODE (Dr. Bradley Nelson 2007)
5. Using hypnosis to access the higher mind
- SPIRIT GUIDE CONTACT THROUGH HYPNOSIS (Dr. Bruce Goldberg 2005)
- SELF-EMPOWERMENT THROUGH SELF-HYPNOSIS (Carl Llewellyn Weschke 2010)
- NEW AGE HYPNOSIS (Dr. Bruce Goldberg 1998)
The external physical characteristics the literature reveals hypnosis involves are:
- Relaxed state
- Focused concentration
- Immobile body
- Hyperawareness of the five senses
- Rapid eye movements
- A physical characteristic that is not observable with the naked eye is brain-wave frequency changes. There is an effect on brain-wave frequency moving from Beta to Alpha states in hypnosis [Goldberg 1998]. Brain wave frequency ranges are summarized as:
- Beta state: Conscious mind brain waves, roughly 25% efficient – analyze, judge and criticize everything
- Alpha state: daydreaming, meditation, yoga, hypnosis (therefore hypnosis is a natural and efficient waking state of mind. Subconscious mind - 95% efficient – enter just before going to sleep and arising
- Theta state: Light sleep
- Delta state: Deep Sleep
Meditation has similar features that involve the western student’s focus on:
Brain wave frequencies are similar to hypnosis, moving from Beta to Alpha, with some Meditation Masters going to the Theta state. Comparing the two lists of the external characteristics of hypnosis and meditation illustrates the similarities.
In both meditation and hypnosis, there are initial steps to relax the body, closely followed by some activity with the mind. Helen J. Crawford of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute has studied the brain during hypnosis, and in partnership with John Gruzelier, produced a four stage model of what happens when a person enters the hypnotic state.
The four stages are:
- The body relaxes and enters a parasympathetic state.
- The left hemisphere of the brain focuses on an idea or an object.
- The frontal lobes of the brain are inhibited.
- The left hemisphere of the brain is inhibited and the right hemisphere becomes dominant [Crawford and Gruzelier 1992].
In summary, hypnosis and mediation processes result in bypassing the conscious ego and using the subconscious mind to reason with or commune with the Higher Mind to gain insight. Meditation works from the inside out while hypnosis works from the outside in. Both processes involve a blending of the minds (conscious, subconscious or Higher Mind) in an effort to obtain greater understanding and personal growth in the life experience.
Chapter III Methods
The methodology I utilized to test the hypothesis was a subjective documentation of individual efforts and the results of exploring different types of meditations and hypnosis scenarios. The four key areas included documented meditation scripts, recorded guided meditations, self-hypnosis and hetero-hypnosis. As part of the testing process, observations were made concerning body positions, mantras, breathing, focal points, and the location/environment. Experience in each of the four areas were summarized and evaluated in terms of:
- Ease of use
- Physical conditions noted (slowed breathing, relaxation, concentration)
- Speed of exercise to reach an altered state
- End result
I selected meditation scripts from the literature review. The scripts were recorded and played during personal meditation sessions. Recorded guided meditations included the use of subliminal programming and sine wave generated “binaural beats” products. Binaural beats involve two separate tones which are played, one in each ear using headphones, usually with a soundtrack of nature or very light new age music. The brain processes these tones and creates a third tone from the two original tones which occupies the conscious mind.
Methods or slight variations of these methods were utilized:
- Breath counting (Zen Meditation)
- Mindfulness Meditation (Vipassana)
- Repeating a mantra (Transcendental Meditation)
Self-hypnosis was also practiced using scripts from several authors listed in the bibliography. Visualization was used as an essential component in the relaxing stage of self-hypnosis. I was treated by a hypnotherapist (hetero-hypnosis) to relax into meditation, as the fourth method. While under hypnosis, suggestions were implanted to aid in relaxation during meditative practice. I then compared my personal meditation results before and after.
Chapter IV Findings
In this chapter, the key findings of the literature review and the testing of the methodologies to my personal experiences will be discussed. The proposed hypothesis in chapter 1 was that it may be beneficial to integrate hypnosis with the meditation practice of the beginner student.
As part of testing the hypothesis I rated my experiences with different types of meditation and hypnosis. The sources were books, recordings, face-to-face experiences and the internet. The summary of the testing is contained in Appendix A. While there were options that did not score well the majority were all found to be helpful and relevant. What I think is more relevant to success is matching the personality of the beginning student. Some people are able to sit quietly while others may need to be more active in the early steps of the meditation process.
I saw the greatest benefit from having a clinical hypnotherapist hypnotize me and implant the ease and confidence I would have in my meditative practice. Another highly rated tool was the recorded guided meditations particularly those with a binaural beat played at the threshold of hearing. Much like the hypnotism, the soothing voice of the soundtrack worked well for me.
Due to the wide range of resources and their apparent differences in practicing meditation, I found that by learning and organizing information on mediation, I was better able to understand and successfully practice.
One finding of a negative nature was the confusing amount of information available for the student of meditation. Having a great deal of information available is helpful because you can find information in many places however, the downside is that there are many ways used to describe what appears to be a common experience. I found that information was at times confusing due to the many different ways to describe the process. The vocabulary and the names used to indentify actions and thoughts were quite variable with many terms in the language of the meditation origin.
A personal example of this was quieting the mind. In my early efforts to practice meditation I interpreted quieting of the mind to have no thoughts which led me to the heights of frustration instead of a calm connection to higher mind. I was trying to “stop my thoughts” because that was the way I interpreted the phrase in my early studies.
Another example of the vocabulary challenge was the definition of mind. I made the assumption that the mind was my brain which proved to lead me to some confusing conclusions. The term “the mind” appeared often but it could have been defined as many things such as brain, ego, conscious mind, subconscious mind, brain, higher power, soul, spirit and others.
A simple finding that appeared to be quite innocent was the preconception that mediation was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life before. I was looking for the secret of meditation as if it was a totally foreign, new activity. I had not considered that components of the meditation process could possibly be familiar to me and it was not as different as I presumed beforehand. The learning for me was that we do many of the steps of meditation in our everyday lives.
A finding that was overlooked by me in my previous meditation attempts was that my failure may have been due to not having a suitable environment for a beginner. I was trying to meditate in chaotic, noisy stressful environments because that was when I felt I needed to create a different mindset. An experienced meditator may find the environment of no consequence but it was an unnecessary barrier to success for a beginner. Carefully creating an environment proved to help a great deal.
The last major finding was the fact that the steps to meditation are very similar to hypnosis surprised me, I had always considered them to be very different. Once I was aware of the interchangeable nature I was able to craft an educational strategy that matched my needs, personality and life history.
These eight major findings became the catalyst for developing a different frame of mind and patience with meditation. There were many other moments of reaching new understanding but these eight became primary in my personal quest for a successful meditation practice.
Chapter V Discussion
Some of the key findings from the previous chapter can be categorized as the confusion that arises from the wide range of suggestions and teachings commonly found by the beginning student. I have selected six concepts that I believe are fundamental for a beginner to recognize and have. For example, a common vocabulary needs to be recognized. “Quiet the mind,” “watch your thoughts,” and “reduce your brain wave frequency” all allude to the same activity. The other five concepts recommended are:
- A clear mental image of the process and objectives
- The definition and description of the brain
- The grouping of meditation categories
- A self-review and feedback process
- A comparison of the similarities and differences between hypnosis and meditation.
Some of the difficulty of learning to meditate is lessened with a vocabulary that is clearly understood. Application of the principles of meditation begins with a clear mental image of the actions and changes the body and mind undergo in meditation. The student is best served if they get clarification about what the words they are reading or hearing.
The primary outcome sought through meditation is to quiet the mind for inputting suggestions or opening to inspiration. These simple words appear common and well understood but I interpreted them vaguely and created a mental battle for myself. As I returned to my study of meditation this was my first breakthrough. Once I grasped new meanings and understandings the practice started changing for the better.
The concept for quieting the mind came from David Michie in his discussions of meditation, in which he states that to be successful, it is important to understand and practice balancing mindfulness and awareness. Mindfulness keeps the mind focused on an object of meditation while awareness is being watchful of what the mind is actually doing. Michie uses the metaphor of carrying a full cup of coffee across the living room. Mindfulness is watching the movement of the coffee in the cup taking care to not allow it to spill. Awareness is being aware of the obstacles in the living room like furniture or tripping hazards as you cross the room [Michie 2008:82]. Linda Davich describes meditation as “allowing what is. It is an action described as a confluence of the qualities of concentration, insight and wisdom” [Davich 2004:20].
The physiological process of quieting the mind requires a more comprehensive explanation of what the mind is. It is helpful to recognize that as used in everyday language, the concept of mind is typically generalized and vague. It is important to define mind in the context of meditation and hypnosis. In the Miriam-Webster Dictionary the mind includes the following aspects:
- “The element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons;
- The conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism and,
- The organized conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism [Miriam-Webster online dictionary:http://www.merriam-webster.com 2011 March 8, 2012].”
It is helpful to compartmentalize the mind into conscious, subconscious and superconscious parts. In this way, a person is able to better comprehend what happens in the mind during the meditation process. In other words, quieting the mind means quieting the conscious mind which carries the endless stream of thoughts. The conscious mind is typically described as the ego, the subconscious as the memory, and the superconscious as universal intelligence (the Divine or God). Quieting the conscious mind is an essential first step to reach the subconscious and superconscious, which is where one may tap into the available intelligence to enhance journeys of spiritual growth.
Western students seem challenged to overcome the ego or conscious mind as it constantly “chatters” and judges the outer world. A common perception in western culture is that meditation involves shutting down this continual stream of thoughts. Actually, I found that my meditation practice is significantly enhanced when I allowed the thoughts to “pass through” the mind and observed them in a detached fashion. Watching one’s own thoughts without reacting emotionally allows relaxation and focus. With practice and experience, one’s thoughts quiet down and while they may still remain present, they will have less influence and allow one to tap into the superconscious.
The western student of meditation often struggles to understand the concept of “allowing” as an “action.” In western culture, allowing something may be viewed as too passive and aggressive action and effort is assigned greater value. Strength and willpower are the preferred strategy. Often, an inner battle is initiated with the ego as to who is in control. The student becomes more frustrated and often feels like a failure while attempting to stop the continuous stream of thoughts rather than observing the thoughts during the practice of meditation. The process is considered to be in conflict with the nature of the western student.
Shifting focus from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind is a natural experience. While falling asleep or awakening, control is transferred back and forth between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Measuring devices have become more sophisticated and it has been confirmed that the brain wave frequency (amount of energy) changes as the focus in the mind changes. As mentioned in Chapter 2 brain wave frequencies are generally categorized into four levels which are pertinent to meditation and hypnosis. They are known as Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta.
During meditation, the mind experiences brainwave frequency pattern changes. The highest (most energetic) brain frequency level, Beta, (14 to 30 cycles per second), is
present when using the conscious mind. This is one’s normal waking state. The second level, Alpha (8 to 13 cycles per second) is exhibited as one’s conscious mind activity calms down. The third level, Theta (4 to 7 cycles per second) is reached as a person falls asleep or becomes unconscious. The final stage, Delta (.05 to 3.5 cycles per second), is reached in one’s deep sleep state. Successful experiences in meditate occur typically in the Alpha levels of brain wave activity. Masters in meditation can further reduce their frequencies into the Delta range after many years of practice.
For some students understanding these stages which occur in successful meditation may be helpful. A strong visualization of what is going on in the brain helps avoid emotion and control issues. Our thoughts are the genesis of our actions and visualizing the brain wave frequencies slowing down may help the western student of meditation.
One suggestion to calm the mind was to watch the thoughts in a detached manner. Watching one’s thoughts pass through mental awareness without engaging in an internal dialogue helps calm the mind. The internal “discussion” one usually participates in leads to increasing the brain activity with a corresponding increase in brain wave frequencies. Watching thoughts without judging helps avoid the escalating mental energy measured as brain waves that can occur.
One method for progressing to the Alpha state is brainwave entrainment, accomplished by listening to recorded tones near the threshold of hearing, played through headphones. Each side of the headphones produce a different tone, one in each ear; known as binaural beats. Often, gentle nature sounds are also included as a background to the binaural tones. The listener may not be consciously aware of the tones however, the brain attempts to process the sounds. The brain reacts by creating a third tone which is the difference between the original tones. This occupies the brain
with minimal effort and the effect relaxes the brain. The brain notes the ease of creating the third tone and with little else to focus on it reduces the brain activity. Studies have shown that these recordings help lower your brain frequencies into the Alpha and sometimes the Theta states.
Another area of difficulty for the western student is deciding which method of meditation should be followed. One example of the many choices in style of meditation is represented in Linda Lavich’s book; she discusses 101 ways to meditate. There are many more but 101 choices is enough to leave the student confused about the many methods. Lavich provided a simple model to narrow the choices by creating categories of meditation: Processing, Imagery, Release and Inspirational Mediations [Lavich 2010].
Processing meditations include traditional approaches such as, breath meditation, counting meditation, and word repetition. Walking meditations, Yoga, outdoor meditation, chakra meditation and movie theatre screen meditation were noted as specific options for when a person is unable to focus his/her thoughts. This category is also suggested as a viable preamble to other categories.
Imagery meditations focus on the physical senses, for example, touch, sight, sound, taste, smell, and temperature. A common example is flame meditation using a candle. Bringing more of the senses into the meditation practice provides more stimulation for the brain however the brain can do much more. The brain becomes aware that this is all that is required so it essentially quiets the thought flow, lowering the energy.
Release meditations use metaphors as a means for identifying and releasing negative emotions. In Lavich’s book she states that creating an image of the negative emotion helps the mind in two ways. The first is to improve the communication with the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind communicates best using images,
symbols, metaphors, memories and emotions. The second way imagery helps is that reframing the negative emotion as a metaphor creates a more neutral, less emotional experience. This allows the emotion to be processed and released easier.
Inspirational meditations helped explore spiritual or transpersonal issues using imagery of gratitude, forgiveness, healing lights, talking with a mentor and others. Mentally visualizing a special soul to mentor you can help you connect with the Higher Mind by personifying the intelligence being contacted.
A common thread through the methodologies is successfully engaging the brain. The beginning western student may not understand the significance of this without instruction. A typical beginning for a western student is to assume a chosen body posture and start trying to control their mind. They attempt to stop the thoughts by thinking about their breathing or their mantra. Consciously stopping your mind works for less than one second before a thought intrudes into your awareness. The practitioner recognizes a thought or two has arisen in their mind and they add yet another thought, something like “that is wrong, no daydreaming allowed here.” They take another breath and begin again. After the next second a thought appears again and the student starts saying mentally “no thinking about anything!”
This becomes an exercise in frustration best exemplified by the command of “don’t think about pink elephants.” Of course, this leads to thinking about pink elephants. “No thinking” becomes a battle about thinking, a battle that escalates if not managed carefully. One recommended approach is to focus on your breathing with the caution of observing your breathing, not forcefully controlling it.
Another solution to this problem is the concept of “catch and release”. This phrase is usually associated with fishing. The rules of catch and release allow you to catch fish but you must carefully remove the hook and release the fish, letting it safely
swim away. When the student has a thought enter his awareness he calmly applies the catch and release technique. He notices the thought (catch) and allows it to drift away without processing it or becoming emotionally attached to the thought (release).
Meditation is a learned skill and can be improved much like any new activity that is undertaken. Review of the experience may provide helpful feedback to the student. For the review to be a useful tool care must be taken to devise a process consistent with the student’s personality. Considerations for individuality and personality of the student must be addressed; one size does not fit all.
Structuring a review can focus on the positive aspects (what worked well) and/or negative (what did not work well). It may be a review of what felt “right” or something more structured like a formal review with a checklist or a flowchart (see below) of review topics.
Journaling can be personalized to provide a forum for critiquing meditation sessions for areas that worked well and understanding why. Repeating patterns may indicate a need to deal with some aspect of life before returning to meditation.
Another consideration that may be helpful with your reviews is to seek a mentor and work together. For my personal experience I created and used the simple flowchart below. I found that things went better when I found a role for my left brain in reviewing my early attempts at meditating.
In Dr. Paul Leon Masters’ book, MEDITATION DYNAMICS, both meditation and self-hypnosis are presented with little differentiation. The majority of the text has teachings and exercises for both meditation and self-hypnosis. In fact, it seemed that there was more information on self-hypnosis than on meditation. The balance of the text is dedicated to lessons on living a metaphysical life.
Meditation and hypnosis do have a great deal of similarities. The early steps for both processes are very similar. Self-hypnosis is probably an easier way to begin a meditation session for a beginning student. The early steps in self-hypnosis have a similar impact on the body and brain to meditation. Using self-hypnosis in the early steps of the process may provide an easier platform before switching to more meditation focused process steps.
The beginning student may be hesitant to integrate self-hypnosis and meditation due to their perception of hypnosis. The average person thinks of hypnosis as what we have seen performed by entertainers. The stage hypnotist leads the audience to believe that they are in control of the hypnotized subject. The illusion is that the hypnotized person was a victim of the hypnotist. The reality is that control is not surrendered; it is just another way to enter the trance state.
Hypnotism may be better defined as a trance state. It can be induced but it is always the person in the trance state who has ultimate control. Working in a trance state through meditation, self-hypnosis or hypnosis with a trained professional are all very similar states. Trance work has been described by many names: autogenic training, progressive relaxation, relaxation and visualization, guided meditation, guided relaxation, visualization, hypnosis, trance work or meditation.
As stated in the methodology I enlisted the treatment of a hypnotherapist to implant suggestions of relaxation and success in meditating. I found the experience of hypnotism to be quite pleasurable and simple. An erroneous paradigm I had of hypnosis was that I would fall asleep or become unconscious while the therapist performed the hypnosis. I found that there is a level of awareness throughout the process. Someone observing me would state that I appeared to be sleeping or unconscious but my experience was that I was very relaxed however aware of what the therapist was saying to me. I was pleased to be able to enter the meditative state easier after the hypnosis session.
There are a number of resources that provide guidelines for entering the trance state. Using Crawford’s four stage model of the trance state, Lee Overholser created a four-step process for entering a meditative or hypnotic trance.
Relax your body – as you sit and become calm, your breathing slows down and your heart rate decreases. Your muscles are much less active and your body requires less to maintain balance. You are shutting down the sympathetic system and engaging the parasympathetic system.
Focus your attention – the left hemisphere of the brain is in charge of logic, language and attention. It is the critical voice, the guardian at the gate, it is large and in charge. When you give the brain something simple to perform the brain slows down and becomes calm.
Stop worrying – the frontal part of your brain is responsible for planning, judging and worrying. As the brain focuses on one thing the frontal lobes are inhibited because it is difficult for the brain to focus closely on something and worry at the same time.
Turn on your creative powers – As your brain continues to focus, the left hemisphere gets relaxed because this is an easy task with no apparent risk. Your mind starts drifting and the left hemisphere turns off. This leaves the door open for the right hemisphere to step up. The left hemisphere is very linear, logical and has trouble dealing with more than one idea at a time. It is loud and obnoxious, demanding to be in charge, which causes the right hemisphere to shut down. The right hemisphere has the ability to process many things at once. It looks at things from a different perspective than the left hemisphere and integrates all the thoughts and emotions together often creating new solutions. This is the part of the brain we want to engage in trance work, meditating or hypnosis.
The goal is to do those things that quiet the body and mental processes down enough to allow us to work with the right hemisphere of the brain. It is with this part of the brain we want to suggest changes in hypnosis or contacting the superconscious for inspiration in meditation. This is the one key difference between meditation and hypnosis. Meditation becomes an internal dialogue with spirit while hypnosis implants suggestions to change external behaviors.
The challenge in meditating is quieting the mind (left hemisphere and frontal lobe) enough to allow the right hemisphere to seek contact with the Higher Mind. This is a task that many students struggle with the most. An approach that integrates hypnosis or self-hypnosis with meditation uses the early stages of hypnosis to calm the systems enough to allow the right hemisphere to become dominant. The hypnotic suggestion is to open the mind to receive the wisdom and inspiration that we desire. This is my suggested transition point from hypnosis to meditation.
Meditation has had a long history with benefits for those who learn how to do so. In today’s world the fast pace of life seems to be increasing with more and more demands. In many workplaces the conversation among employees is that they feel just a little bit crazy trying to keep up with it. The focus of those discussions is often about a future day when we will be able to relax and enjoy life. It is just assumed that there is nothing that can be done today to help relax. The impact of today’s stressful lifestyles is affecting our mental and our physical well-being. There does not appear to be any relief or changes in the near future. The paradox is that meditation may be the solution to gaining more productivity and relaxation at the same time.
We have many different sources of information in today’s world, with some accurate and helpful and some information that is incorrect and unhelpful. We are looking for answers to questions in our life. One of the best sources of information and guidance is found within us is meditation. The Universal Mind is that quiet “voice” we seek in meditation. It may not be a voice; it could be images, emotions or other messages. Contacting this source in meditation is the ultimate goal for us all.
One of the benefits from a consistent meditation practice is the actual effect upon our mind. Many people talk of having better memory, clarity or personal productivity in life as a result of meditation. The trance state in meditation provides a resting state for the mind, a rejuvenation of your mental faculties.
Another quest for humanity is the search for joy, fulfillment and happiness. We are a goal seeking species, always seeking more. The goals we pursue in life are many; wealth, fame, and recognition just to name a few. But the root cause under the wide array of goals usually comes down to happiness or joy. By connecting with the Divine in meditation we are tapping into a joy with which no material thing can compete. The common quote we usually run across in our quest can be a little frustrating to the hopeful new student. “Chop wood, carry water. Gain enlightenment. Chop wood, carry water”. This short message talks of the requirement to provide the bare necessities for survival; whether we are enlightened or not. A common misperception is that when we achieve connection with the Universal Mind, become enlightened, all our problems go away. We still face all the same problems in life as before but what we gain from contact through meditation is an underlying sense of joy.
It is my belief that meditation is a viable solution for today’s world of stress and fear. For the western student of meditation who has struggled with being able to calm themselves enough to meditate I would have them consider the possibility of including hypnosis as the missing piece in their quest. Hypnosis appears to be easier than meditation for the person who is fighting the challenge of calming the mind. I would suggest that they use self-hypnosis as a stepping stone into meditation. I believe many more people will be able to enjoy the benefits of meditation if they would ease into the practice using some of the options available. In my opinion, humanity and the world would be better served if more people were meditating regularly.
Chapter VI Summary and Conclusions
Meditation has been practiced for centuries with physical and mental benefits although it tends to be regarded as a spiritual practice. There are a lot of books or classes that can be confusing to understand exactly what to do. Many beginning students find that meditation is simple to describe but difficult to understand and implement. In my testing, I found that most of the tools or methods available were suitable for the beginning student to use. I would suggest that the student search through a number of options before settling on one methodology or tool to apply. I believe that the uniqueness of individuals dictate that a number of options are best. The key is to match the personality of the student with the type of meditative practice to follow. One student may be very satisfied with a walking meditation while the next prefers to sit in a chair and chant a mantra.
I do believe that hypnosis can play a helpful role in the early steps of a meditative practice for the beginning student. Self-hypnosis has many similarities with meditation, the key difference being the end state and the goal of the activity. They can both be described as a trance state. The trance state is a natural experience; we all enter the trance state several times a day. For instance, we experience a trance state when falling asleep and waking up. Meditation can be described as a trance state seeking information and hypnosis described as a trance state with affirmations focused on behavioral modification.
There are a number of common physical body changes in trance state. Most easily noticed are reduced respiration, lower blood pressure, and overall relaxation of the body. The brain experiences energy changes as well. Energy of the brain is measured in cycles per second. There are four major classifications of the brain wave patterns with many incremental levels for each category. The four major classifications are Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta brain waves.
Beta waves have the highest energy and are the active awake state. This is the conscious state in which we function in our daily activities; they measure in the range of 14 to 30 cycles per second (cps). It has been said that the efficiency of the brain in the Beta state is about 25% efficient. The major class with a little less energy than the Beta state is the Alpha state. It measures in the range of 13 to 18 cps. This is referred to as the subconscious level of the brain and is experienced in the trance state. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, maintains that the efficiency of the brain in this state has been rated as high as 95%.
Not only does the brain wave energy change as we move into the trance state but we also use different parts of the brain as well. As we begin our meditation practice we calm our mind and relax. The body shifts into the parasympathetic state. In meditation we focus on something we have selected: a mantra, prayer, thought, image, or flame, just to name a few. When we do that we use the left hemisphere of the brain which is usually the dominant portion of the brain. In focusing on a single item the left hemisphere is eventually lulled into a more relaxed state, it recognizes that not much analytical thinking is required to maintain this singular focus.
As the brain waves slow the frontal lobes of the brain (critical thinking) are inhibited and the critical gatekeeper of our brain relaxes its control over our thoughts. When we reach our deepest level in the Alpha state the left hemisphere of the brain has become inhibited (less active) and the right hemisphere becomes dominant. [Overholser]
The end result is getting past the conscious ego and using the subconscious mind to accept suggestions or to commune with the Higher Mind to gain insight. That is where the difference between meditation and hypnosis is recognized. Hypnosis is relaxing our brain until you can make suggestions for changes in perceptions or actions. In contrast, at the same step in the meditation process we seek to expand our mind to contact the higher mind, desiring wisdom and insight.
My hypothesis is that the beginning meditation student can use self-hypnosis to train the body and the mind to relax and prepare for meditation. When that has been accomplished then the student moves into the meditative process. Since the processes are very similar, switching from self-hypnosis to meditation is simple and hopefully bypasses the battle of the minds that many early meditation students experience.
An alternative to using self-hypnosis is to work with a hypnotherapist to implant suggestions of relaxation into a meditative state. My personal experience was that I found that I benefitted. After undergoing hypnosis to relax into meditation I was able to quickly enter a meditative state with less effort. In contrast, my prior experience was a frustrating battle of will that left me more agitated than if I had not even tried to meditate.
There are three key tools or concepts for the beginning student to implement. The first concept is to clearly understand the vocabulary and the physiological changes in meditation practices. The second tool is recognizing and dealing with the barriers to meditation using the journaling process. The review process used in journaling helps the beginning student recognize areas for improvement. The third tool is the catch and release concept for observing the thoughts of the mind in a detached fashion, allowing thoughts to flow without becoming emotionally invested in the thoughts. The fourth concept is to understand the difference between mindfulness and awareness in the meditative practice.
A potential barrier to using hypnosis as part of the meditative practice is the perception that entertainment hypnotists promote. Clearly understanding what hypnosis is helps the meditation student avoid negative paradigms of hypnosis making implementation more easily adopted. I would encourage the beginning student to further explore these concepts in their meditation practice.
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