Philip H. Farber, writer of several books and NLP teacher, provides a explanation on hypnosis and meditation via HAWK RIDGE PRODUCTIONS
Originally published in The Journal of Hypnotism.
I’m often asked if there’s a difference between self-hypnosis and meditation. It’s a simple question on the surface, but there are so many different forms and techniques in both categories that it’s tough to make more than a general comparison. Nonetheless, while the boundary between self- hypnosis and meditation might not be clearly delineated, I think it is possible to make a distinction.
Both hypnosis and meditation can produce states of deep relaxation, both can claim a wide range of similar health benefits, but the routes to what might be a similar destination are a bit different. In meditation, the conscious awareness of the practitioner is called into play. That is, the meditator intentionally focuses his or her mind on something in particular: a symbol, a candle flame, a mantra, the rhythm of the breath, or an overall awareness of the environment. In most forms of hypnosis, the practitioner may begin with some conscious focus of attention, for instance counting, visualizing, gazing at something, but as the trance is induced, the conscious concentration becomes less important.
Concentration may continue, but it is not necessary to the experience. In fact, when I’m in session with my clients, I usually offer the suggestion that “it’s not necessary to listen to my voice” (which suggests that consciously they may drift off however they choose, but unconsciously they will, hopefully, still be “listening”). Please remember that this is a general tendency, and there are multiple exceptions to every rule.
While many people initially begin meditating for well-defined reasons, perhaps a particular spiritual goal or something as practical as physical relaxation, the practice is usually less goal- directed than hypnosis. Indeed, more experienced meditators often discover that a key to practice is “meditating for the sake of meditating,” practicing simply for the experience of practicing. The expressed purpose of meditation in many different systems is the quieting of the conscious mind, the general chatter and parade of images, sounds, and feelings that constantly occupy our minds throughout the day. Concentrating on a goal or objective, even, paradoxically, the objective of quieting your mind, will itself constitute a break in concentration from the object of meditation.
With that principle difference between meditation and hypnosis noted, I would suggest that meditation is among the most useful things a hypnotherapist can study or practice. The ability to pass along simple meditation techniques to your clients can extend the range of effective modalities that you offer. Once a client has experienced the state of relaxation or quiet produced by meditation, that state can be incorporated into behavior modification in numerous ways. For instance, a client can be taught to meditate or experience a state similar to that induced by meditation, instead of having a violent reaction, smoking, drinking, or any other habit or situational behavior that is associated with stress. The act of meditating can be linked to the situation using hypnotic suggestion.