Are hypnosis & meditation more similar or different? When you start to look into the world of meditation it can be very confusing, as there are so many different types and methods of meditation. It is best to trust that you will be guided to the practice that is best for you. Also, realize that your experience with meditation will grow and change. Over time, you will find yourself using different styles, and of course going back to your favorite ones.
To help simplify the types of meditation think of meditation as having one of two purposes: provide calming and serenity, or insight and clarity.
As the name implies, calming or serenity meditations are for relaxing and soothing the body and mind. They help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. The intention of this style of meditation is to clear the mind and create an open space for calmness. To get in this state, a point of focus, like deep breathing, or a repeated phrase called a mantra, can be used.
“Calming or serenity meditations use techniques of ‘fixing’ on a single object, excluding all secondary objects to produce calm and one-pointedness. Examples are techniques using visualisation, following the respiration, mantras and contemplation. The second meditation mode is practices that develop awareness. That is, paying close attention to the predominant object in your physical and mental experience with moment-to-moment awareness. The result of this meditative attention will lead to insight knowledge.”1
Insight meditation, as stated, is intended for developing awareness. Instead of emptying the mind to go blank, the mind is used in a different manner to focus very explicitly on what is happening moment to moment. This is still done in a very relaxed state and is a very deep type of focus and awareness unlike just thinking about something consciously. It is a contemplative process versus an analytical one.
To fully benefit from meditation using both types of meditation styles in your practice is ideal.
When comparing hypnosis to serenity meditation they are different. However, if you are comparing insight meditation and hypnosis they are very similar.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary accurately defines hypnosis as “a trancelike state that resembles sleep but is inducted by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject”. The Guild of Hypnotists of America teaches that hypnosis “is a trancelike state of focused concentration.” Although hypnosis has somewhat of a controversial reputation, perhaps of television and stage show portrayal of it, it has been used in therapy for many years. Many people are using hypnotic techniques through different forms of therapy and self-development strategies without realizing it. Not to mention advertising uses the art of suggestion all the time.
Hypnosis and insight meditation both have the element of focusing in a concentrated state on what lies within and making suggestions to alter or change the thought patterns to something more positive. Of course there are situations when hypnosis can be used to do silly things but that is stage hypnosis. In personal development the hypnotic suggestions are for the purpose of positive transformation.
One of the fears people express about hypnosis is the misconception that it is a surrendering of will. It is not actually possible to be forced to do anything that you are not open and accepting to do. If you pay close attention during stage shows the hypnotist does some quick tests to the audience to determine who has suggestibility and sends others back to their seats. With hypnosis or insight mediation if you are not ready or open to the awareness, you simply will not get it.
Many forms of meditation use hypnotic suggestions to induce the state of relaxation. These include visualizing a safe place, counting down, repeating a positive affirmation. All of these are used to focus the mind on the suggestion given. In the case of serenity meditation the suggestion given is used to achieve the outcome of relaxation. With hypnosis after using the suggestions to achieve the state of relaxation, the use of suggestion continues. With insight meditation you may or may not be continuing to use suggestions, but you are definitely remaining in a focused state of concentration.
All in all, there is a definite overlap between hypnosis and meditation. A common experience is for the meditation to start off using focusing tools like visualizing, deep breathing and suggestions of relaxing (all hypnosis techniques), followed by some insight, and ultimately may drift off into a serenity meditation.