August 21, 2011

Hypnosis and Meditation: Are they the Same or Different?

They say that "when the student is ready, the teacher appears," but when I began writing this article on Hypnosis and Meditation: Same or Different (Yoga and Health Magazine, August, 2011) it was just the opposite. The teacher appeared in the guise of a student, obliging me to take the role of teacher.
Temple Painting, Neyyar Dam
I was looking for a deeper angle on meditation. I didn't feel my own practice was enough to speak with absolute authority, even though I had trained in Raja Meditation back in eighties with the Philosophy School in the UK. With quiet-spoken candour, verging on shyness, the man I approached feigned ignorance of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.  He asked me to explain it to him, as though he was a novice. I was dumfounded - he had flattered me to thinking hypnosis was more interesting to him, when the fact was that I wanted to know more about meditation from him. It was a guileless, but nevertheless, clever technique to put me first and himself last.

From that interview in his office, I gleaned some of the insights into Vedic-style meditation from a serious, long-term meditator. His name was Nataraj - the spiritual director, not the overall master, but the de facto guru of the ashram. 'Nataraj' means 'King of Dancers' referring to one of Shiva's many forms. He explained meditation from the Vedic point of view - but for Buddhists too, meditation is the cornerstone of altering ordinary perception of reality to the subtle energetic layers of existence. It is a direct way of understanding that we are not our body - there is an essence beyond yet within it.

I drew three circles for him to explain what I thought were the similarities and differences between hypnosis and meditation and where they overlapped. This was my rough draft of the chart in the article- still being developed I might add.  He offered me ginger tea and seemed only mildly curious about me and my life in England. It was as though he was declaring the outside world to be an 'illusion' to be kept at arm's length; he rarely paid much attention to it, yet any little nuggets of info I could bring from my investigations were curiosities to him. I was, in effect, his news conduit.

This ruse deflected any awkwardness and nerves on my part about being with a real 'guru'. There's this silly idea that they can somehow see right through you. In front of them, you become emotionally naked. I thought 'this must be his strategy of selflessness so that everyone felt good in his presence; felt the allure of the spirit; and he must see a lot of people; yet each one must feel acknowledged; noticed; even though he probably will never remember your name - which would not matter anyway.

For him, the notions of the Causal, Mental and Physical Bodies and how they interconnected were very important, as was the concept of Karma, of cause and effect and Ahimsa (avoiding harm). Getting to the Causal body- where it all starts- is similar to accessing the subconscious mind to reframe beliefs and dispel problems.  He asked me to write names that I'd mentioned: Jonathan Goldman, Charles Tart, and the Epsilon frequency. As, he didn't spend a lot of time surfing the net, he was fascinated about the the Dalai Lama who encourages  scientists to do experiments on Tibetan monks, monitoring their brain-wave frequencies. I said that the Epsilon frequency, was linked to deep-sleep states, knowledge of which the Tibetans excel.

All this was at the Sivananda Neyyar Dam Ashram, near Trivinandrum, Kerala. Thirty kilometers into the backhills away from the coast, it is well known in the area as a true haven. Yet it still feels like a well-kept secret, being to my mind, one of the most secluded and peaceful beauty spots on earth, nestled as it is on a mountain side, near a lake with soothing water for swimming. Think - jungle foliage, hidden shrines, Ayurvedic massage huts, extraordiary Hindu god statues, a rigorous yoga routine, and the echo of lions roaring in the morning, and there you have it.

It's the perfect place to meditate, especially at dawn, but even if you don't know how to meditate, and prefer just to fix problems by going inwards in the privacy of your own bedroom, it is the same place that you arrive at - the inner space. 'Wherever you go, there you are' says J.Kabat-Zinn, and this is the paradox. We always land just where we are, and that is perhaps just where we are meant to be.

Daily Lecture on Yoga
It has to be said that going to exotic ashrams in itself does not make your meditation any better than anyone else's. Pretty surroundings can even be a distraction, though it does help a bit with peripheral focus. You can effectively do meditation anywhere, even while walking. For those who are stuck in a low-paid, nine-to-five job that doesn't permit holidays to yoga retreats, there's always the comfortable chair at home. Just begin just closing your eyes and 'being there'.

Likewise, for those who are turned off by all the Hindu or Buddhist terminology and iconography, you can relax too: hypnosis with a trained hypnotherapist or a session by yourself of self hypnosis, is a great way - and a gateway! - to the path inwards. Sometimes we don't need to travel far to get where we want to be. It's right there at home all the time.

Fortunately it's all a big cumulative, virtuous circle: the more people can genuinely relax, the more they breathe deeply; the more able they are to connect to their inner energies, the more able they are to gain intuition and insight; the more they are able to relax in situations that used to stress them out, the more they are able to gain a handle on tricky problems; the more confident they get at overcoming obstacles, the less fear and anxiety they experience, and so on and so on.

Siva, Lord of the Dance
So sit with a straight spine and gently close your eyes, listen to the regular intake of breath in and out, rest awhile here, and just BE wherever you are for a few minutes and that's IT. That's just fine.

Follow your goals, but hold on to them lightly, for goals sometimes make us feel upset with what we have.

Both Hypnosis and Meditation are healing and integrative processes - not exactlythe same, but sharing similar approaches - and while there are still people who have difficulties with life, or feel stuck, or afraid, or locked in patterns they can't get out of, these techniques will both be needed to restore harmony.


© Kieron Devlin, August 2011, all rights reserved

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