Regular readers of this blog know that I recommend an effortless mantra meditation to support a spiritual journey. It helps purify the physiology, bring us to source in samadhi, and culture inner acceptance. It is also the most thoroughly researched type of meditation. The benefits to all areas of life are very well established.
I also recommend you learn it properly, from a qualified teacher in an established tradition. As an experiential technique, it’s important to seed the technique properly and not develop bad habits. And I recommend a full life, not one of renunciation or retreat. Most of us are householders and will make the greatest progress in relationship and the world.
For context, I’ve been meditating for nearly 40 years, have trained as a TM teacher, have a graduate degree in Vedic science, and have studied Sanskrit and the roots of the science of mantras used in meditation. I’ve also compared notes with a wide range of people, including those in different traditions. And I’ve seen it benefit people both before and after awakening. It is from this experience that I recommend it.
But many people, even scientists and teachers, tend to lump all forms of meditation together as roughly equivalent. However, research has demonstrated each type brings a different class of benefits. This article talks about Concentration, Mindfulness and Effortless practices.
Rose Rosetree recently wrote an unexpected article on the subject. She has some similar background in meditation but is also a certified hypnosis instructor – not just hypnotist but instructor of hypnotists. This is not an area I have background in. Further, with the energetic literacy skills she teaches, she suggests you can test a given technique or mantra for suitability to the person: how it will affect them energetically.
When I saw the article, called Hypnosis or Meditation, my first thought was why would people confuse the two? But she brought out some important details that are not commonly understood. It then occurred to me that some people may see some practices as ‘effortless meditation’ when in fact they’re not even meditation at all.
Rose indicates that a given meditation technique will take you to a given level of existence, depending on the practice. In her words, some will take you to the astral (emotional sheath), some to the divine (higher Self), and some will stay on the level of the body, like body-awareness techniques. Yet all may be labelled “spiritual”. But if it doesn’t take you to spirit, in what way is it spiritual? (If it takes you to spirits, that’s likely astral at best.)
On the other hand, Rose indicates hypnosis will always take you to the subconscious astral. Because hypnosis does not take you to source, it is not a spiritual practice. As Rose puts it “hypnosis can be effective for helping ordinary people solve ordinary problems.” It’s good for quitting smoking, for example, but it’s not for gaining enlightenment.
But the key difference between meditation and hypnosis: in hypnosis, you are moved or led there by another. In meditation, you do the practice yourself. You do the moving, so to speak. Even in a group, everyone practices their own technique. If you’re not leading your practice, it’s not meditation – even if it seems meditative.
What does this mean?
Guided meditation, guided prayer and related practices are a form of hypnosis, not meditation. If you’re listening to background music, chanting, or singing bowls to relax, you’re enjoying a form of hypnosis, not meditation. In each case, you are being guided. You are not doing it. Such things may help you feel good and let go, but they are not spiritual practices because they don’t bring you to source. There may be a healing, but that’s a different thing.
You may also see them blended, such as when you are “lead in” to your practice – a meditation is begun with a form of hypnotic suggestion.
One of the hazards with guided practices is that groups may plant unconscious “suggestions” you don’t want. For example, they may reframe your problems in a “positive” way rather than solving them. While reframing can be useful, it’s also how you culture delusion and cults. People can believe they’re growing when they’re quite stuck, for example. Or they can believe making concepts about spirituality and affluence are the same thing as living them.
Rarely is such hypnosis actually called hypnosis. The leader or guide may not even recognize it themselves. They may tell you they are offering a spiritual experience or technique but are just taking you into the astral, the world of dreams and visualizations. As Rose observes, even someone who goes to church for social reasons and doesn’t believe the message can still be hypnotized. My church does guided practices both before and during every service. It’s also typical of self-help classes and other new age groups. Plus casinos, department stores, and malls. Hear music playing? There’s a good reason Muzak is called “mood music”.
Of course, there are degrees of “suggestion” here. Upbeat music in the background has none of the issues that unconscious suggestion does. But advertising does everything it is allowed to do to plant suggestions and guide choices. It goes on and on. The key question here – is where you go for spiritual nourishment about connecting to spirit or about making you feel good or about programming you?
There is nothing wrong with hypnosis if it is practised appropriately and ethically. The point of this article is to make it clear what the difference is. You want to be conscious of when you’re being “suggested” to. Then you can decide if you want to be lead. Or if you want to do the leading.