Meditation in its many forms has been in existence for thousands of years, mainly in the East. I have over 40 years experience of meditation and have observed and joined Buddhist monks and Masters of Meditation in Vietnam and India. I am a trained hypnotherapist and formal teacher of mindfulness so I hope I can help you understand the differences.
Meditation is the umbrella term for the variety of practices such as Zazen (Zen), Vipassana, Loving Kindness (Metta), Chakra, Kundalini Sound, Transcendental, Mantra, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, Mindfulness, Hypnosis among many others. Within those types of meditation will be various other teachings and practices. If you can imagine a tree and at the top of the tree is 'meditation' and each branch has different categories and within each categories will be different techniques, then that may give you an idea.
Within Zen for example, there are stories of some strict Zen Masters allegedly slapping their students across the face to shock them out of their complacent thoughts in order to 'wake them up'. Not practiced by all I must add! Vipassana dates back to the 6th century and is probably the closed to mindfulness as it focuses on the breath.
Some forms of meditation are about clearing the mind and others about entering into a different state of altered consciousness. The two most widely accepted states of altered consciousness are sleep and dreaming.
A study by the Mayo Clinic identified the following three categories of meditations, based on measured brain wave difference:
Monitoring brain wave patterns has shown differences in the alpha, beta or theta waves depending on which type of meditation is practiced, for example Transcendental Meditation (TM), Mindfulness or Vipassana.
Sometimes I enjoy Mantra Meditation using the Ohm chant. (It is purported that the vibration of the Ohm sound can help the body heal.) Mantra meditation is a practice that is primarily associated with Hinduism, but can also be used in Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism.. At other times I just like to listen to an audio file on guided mindfulness or I may enter into Transcendental Meditation.
Transcendental meditation (TM) became popular in the early 1970s by the Beatles who trained with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. There is a lot of research into TM showing psychological benefits for adults and children (especially those with ADHD).
Principally, mindfulness is more about being in the here and now and encouraging the mind to come back to the breath whenever the mind wanders off from what we are focusing on. Mindfulness techniques teach us to be observant of thoughts and feelings rather than getting caught up in them and to cultivate compassion and kindness to ourselves and others. Whilst meditation is a way to relax and empty one's mind, mindfulness on the other hand is more about being awake, or 'falling awake' as we describe it.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist who taught Jon Kabat Zin, a University Professor of Massachusetts Medical School who went on to introduce secular mindfulness (non religious) into the West through his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programme in 1979 which is still being used in hospitals and clinics today.
How is Meditation practiced?
Mindfulness can be practised by anyone from young to old. It is a way of quietening the mind through mental exercises such as noticing your breathing and body sensations. For example, these exercises help you not to take things personally, but learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky, observing them with curiosity. There are exercises to encourage you to be kind to yourself instead of being critical.
Mindfulness has been clinically proven to bring about long term changes with negative thoughts, depression and anxiety. It is not a form of religion, it merely trains your mind to focus more clearly. It can be carried out in a formal way by setting aside a time and sitting or being supported in a chair, lying down or sitting cross-legged on the floor, a mat the bed etc. There is also informal practice that comes naturally over time such as when eating or walking.
Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy
Hypnosis uses visualisation and deepening relaxation techniques to help the client enter into an altered state of consciousness. It is usually associated with stage hypnotists who get the public up on stage to act like chickens. A hypnotist cannot make anyone do anything against your will though. If they could, can you imagine what might happen? When I was a magistrate, a defense laywer tried to get his client off a charge of handing over money from the cash register to a complete 'stranger' saying they had been hypnotised. It did not stand up in court by the way.
Hypnotherapy on the other hand is similar to hypnosis but has been used for hundreds of years as a theraputic tool. By gently taking the person into a relaxed state, the therapist can talk to their subconscious mind and suggest changes but not for entertainment. It's all very natural and very safe. Modern hypnotherapists use hypnotherapy not only for medical purposes, but also as an aid for the resolution of many problems that are psychological in origin. All age groups will readily respond to Hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy is often referred to as meditation, visualisation or daydreaming as they could be right. In my personal opinion, hypnotherapy or hypnosis is more guided by the facilitator to take you into that brainwave state whereas meditation is often self achieved. Hypnotherapy tends to be goal orientated too. Because the hypnotherapist facitates the session, they can access more deeply into the subconscious and results are quicker.
During hypnotherapy You are aware and in control at every moment and you can terminate the session at any time.
It is impossible to get stuck in a state of hypnosis or hypnotherapy.
It is the most effective way of giving up smoking according to the largest ever scientific comparison of ways of breaking the habit. It is endorsed by and used by medical practitioners. Researchers at the University of Manchester believe hypnosis relieves symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS). It has also been proven to reduce blood pressure. .
As with all therapies or techniques that alter the mind's consciousness, caution should be applied if suffering from psychosis or any severe mental health problem. If in doubt, always discuss with a trained professional.
Well that's my viewpoint but if you want to comment or add your own, feel free!
EFT and Mindfulness Centre