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How do hypnosis and meditation play together?

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Last week the YouTube Gods, in their Infinite Wisdom, deemed it fit to recommend some hypnosis videos to me. They had incredibly enticing titles: Sleep hypnosis to let go of negative attachments; Hypnosis for meeting an unexpected healing guide.

Curious and a little fearful, I tucked into bed and turned one on, flipping my phone upside down to hide the glow of the screen.

Fearful, because I'd never been hypnotized before and had actually gone out of my way not to be. Once in college a friend offered to hypnotize me and as I felt myself slipping deeper and deeper I bailed out: no, I don't like this at all!

So YouTube hypnosis? Who's going to be there to snap me out of it? Will I get stuck?

I detail my experiences over at my diary but in short:

• I became hypnotized; I fell into a trance state that I'd only experienced with certain entheogens
• I received delightful healing. That surprise of getting exactly what you need even though you didn't know you needed it
• At my next meditation sit, I immediately fell into a trance state and had powerful insights (for those interested in A&P events, I welcome you to check out my diary entry and chime in)

Safe to say that hypnosis is playing very nicely with my meditation practice at the moment. Which I'm a little surprised by, as I'd never heard the two mentioned together.

So I'm curious:

1. What are your experiences with hypnosis?
2. What do you think happens when we are hypnotized?
3. How can meditation and hypnosis play together?

I'll share my initial thoughts on 2 & 3, as someone with no knowledge of hypnosis and very early in meditation practice.

I believe in the unconscious mind and I see hypnosis as a way to invite it forward. During sleep the conscious mind shuts off. During hypnosis, the conscious mind steps aside, and maintains some helpful role once assured that the situation is safe.

I like Thich Nhat Hanh's understanding:
Store consciousness, also called root consciousness, is the base of our consciousness. In Western psychology it’s called “the unconscious mind.” It’s where all our past experiences are stored. Store consciousness has the capacity to learn and to process information.

[...]

Consciousness is like a house in which the basement is our store consciousness and the living room is our mind consciousness. Mental formations like anger, sorrow, or joy, rest in the store consciousness in the form of seeds (bija). We have a seed of anger, despair, discrimination, fear, a seed of mindfulness, compassion, a seed of understanding, and so on. Store consciousness is made of the totality of the seeds, and it is also the soil that preserves and maintains all the seeds. The seeds stay there until we hear, see, read, or think of something that touches a seed and makes us feel the anger, joy, or sorrow. This is a seed coming up and manifesting on the level of mind consciousness, in our living room. Now we no longer call it a seed, but a mental formation.

When someone touches the seed of anger by saying something or doing something that upsets us, that seed of anger will come up and manifest in mind consciousness as the mental formation (cittasamskara) of anger [...] In store consciousness, anger is called a seed. In mind consciousness, it’s called a mental formation.

Whenever a seed, say the seed of anger, comes up into our living room and manifests as a mental formation, the first thing we can do is to touch the seed of mindfulness and invite it to come up too. Now we have two mental formations in the living room. This is mindfulness of anger. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. When we breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing. When we walk mindfully, that is mindfulness of walking. When we eat mindfully, that’s mindfulness of eating. So in this case, mindfulness is mindfulness of anger. Mindfulness recognizes and embraces anger.

[...]

Our blocks of pain, sorrow, anger, and despair always want to come up into our mind consciousness, into our living room, because they’ve grown big and need our attention. They want to emerge, but we don’t want these uninvited guests to come up because they’re painful to look at. So we try to block their way. We want them to stay asleep down in the basement. We don’t want to face them, so our habit is to fill the living room with other guests. Whenever we have ten or fifteen minutes of free time, we do anything we can to keep our living room occupied. We call a friend. We pick up a book. We turn on the television. We go for a drive. We hope that if the living room is occupied, these unpleasant mental formations will not come up.

[...]

If we can learn not to fear our knots of suffering, we slowly begin to let them circulate up into our living room. We begin to learn how to embrace them and transform them with the energy of mindfulness. When we dismantle the barrier between the basement and the living room, blocks of pain will come up and we will have to suffer a bit. Our inner child may have a lot of fear and anger stored up from being down in the basement for so long. There is no way to avoid it.

That is why the practice of mindfulness is so important. If mindfulness is not there, it is very unpleasant to have these seeds come up. But if we know how to generate the energy of mindfulness, it’s very healing to invite them up every day and embrace them. Mindfulness is a strong source of energy that can recognize, embrace, and take care of these negative energies.

For some beginners to meditation, I think hypnosis may actually be more effective for engaging in the mindfulness Thich Nhat Hanh describes here. Truly inviting these seeds into our living room requires a level of receptivity that can be difficult to cultivate. Hypnosis induces receptivity (or suggestibility), at the cost of conscious participation. "Mind consciousness" is at least partly disabled during hypnosis, which might negatively impact concentration, clarity, or other conditions for "circulation."

My guess is that experienced practitioners of meditation have everything they need to host a party in their living room without the need of hypnosis. Or, to put a finer point on it, they might actually self-hypnotize lightly and fluidly without consciously thinking of it that way.

Looking forward to hearing others' thoughts!

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/17/19 10:04 AM as a reply to Demoxenos.
I often use a hypnotic induction, ( I go thought each part of my body saying it feels relaxed and heavy) as a shortcut to get into a deeper state of meditation. I might do that at the beginning of a meditation session or if I am not "in the groove" I might do it in the middle of a session to get it on track. I also do some other relaxation exercises at the same time. (I mentioned it here:
 https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8496517?_19_delta=20&_19_keywords=&_19_advancedSearch=false&_19_andOperator=true&_19_resetCur=false&_19_cur=4#_19_message_15564694

Quite often I snap into the soft jhanas just from doing that. 


I like to do insight meditation from the jhanas so it saves a lot of time.


I also have some experience with spiritual healing. I wrote about it here: http://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/spiritual_healing
Materialists can call it hypnosis if they like. Just don't tell them how hypnosis originated.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/17/19 12:18 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
so is hypnotism just jhanic states?

i seem to remember a video about some white guy monk saying that the pa auk monks were just doing hypnotism and fooling themselves.

they definitely must be related somehow, the states that is, not the monks

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/17/19 12:55 PM as a reply to Shaun Steelgrave.
There seem to be differing opinions about this. Some say that they are very related, some that they are opposites. Those who say the latter seem to think that being hypnotized means being at somebody else’s mercy. As far as I understand, that’s not true. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis (dualistically speaking). I’m trying to learn more about jhanas now, and the big difference that I can see so far is the openness to suggestibility during hypnosis, not because one is at somebody else’s mercy, but because it means that one is focused on something external (again, dualistically speaking). Both are deeply relaxed and focused forms of states, but the objects differ. I guess there may also be a difference in clarity. I don’t know enough about hypnosis to tell what extent of clarity is involved. Then again, clarity is a meaningless concept if one doesn’t specify what there is clarity about. Jhanas are very clear states, but mindfulness is restricted in scope. There are jhanas where you forget that you have a body. That’s not exactly what most people would describe as clarity, and yet there is clarity. Chrystal clarity. Maybe hypnosis could be viewed through a magickal lense? As consensual magick done together to achieve specific outcomes.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/17/19 1:49 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
As consensual magick done together to achieve specific outcomes.


now THAT is an interesting idea.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/17/19 2:19 PM as a reply to Demoxenos.
I have a hypothesis that people who are hard to hypnotize (such as I) find it relatively difficult to achieve samadhi, jhana, etc. Conversely, a whiz-kid who catapults quickly through the stages of meditation would probably be putty in the hands of a skilled stage hypnotist. I would say that modern hypnosis is a "scientific" overlay on the ancient and universal phenomenon of trance induction, in which skillful suggestion is applied in order to steer the experience. 

I also hypothesize that when I assert intentions during meditation, such as "I want to keep attention here," I am using what hypnotists call autosuggestion.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/17/19 2:56 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim, the visualization exercise you mention in the linked post reminds me of another reason why hypnosis has been fruitful for me.

I don't generally experience mental imagery, eg., can't "picture a blue circle" in any visual sense, but visual imagery comes more easily and vividly during hypnosis. (Same for dreams.)

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/17/19 9:17 PM as a reply to Demoxenos.
Demoxenos:
 
I don't generally experience mental imagery, eg., can't "picture a blue circle" in any visual sense, but visual imagery comes more easily and vividly during hypnosis. (Same for dreams.)

kasina might remedy that

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/18/19 12:21 AM as a reply to Ward Law.
Ward Law:
I have a hypothesis that people who are hard to hypnotize (such as I) find it relatively difficult to achieve samadhi, jhana, etc. Conversely, a whiz-kid who catapults quickly through the stages of meditation would probably be putty in the hands of a skilled stage hypnotist. I would say that modern hypnosis is a "scientific" overlay on the ancient and universal phenomenon of trance induction, in which skillful suggestion is applied in order to steer the experience. 

I also hypothesize that when I assert intentions during meditation, such as "I want to keep attention here," I am using what hypnotists call autosuggestion.

I actually think it might be the opposite. In my experience anyway, jhanas require you to let go of the constant scanning of a point of attention across a spectrum of sensory contacts, thoughts, etc. that creates the illusion of a seamless self. Each of these contact moments is really shallow since the point is being spread in time over so many contacts, and that allows suggestion to slip in unobserved from the 'subconscious.'

The trick in jhana is to shift that constant scanning to a single point, focusing intensely on the object while decreasing attentional scanning on other aspects of experience. To do that you actually become hyperaware of every small suggestion from the 'subconscious', because it draws you away from the focus point.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/18/19 12:28 AM as a reply to Milo.
Just a speculation though. I'd be interested to find out.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
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9/18/19 1:59 AM as a reply to Milo.
I’m thinking that it’s more of a spectrum than a scale. Suggestibility might be within a narrow scope or a wider scope, I assume. Personally, I can be very open to specific suggestion that I choose to open up to, whereas most hypnosis doesn’t work at all. I strongly doubt that anyone would be open to any suggestion, but it seems reasonable that it could be less specific.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/18/19 5:30 AM as a reply to Demoxenos.
My theory is that hypnosis makes use of the dominance/submission mechanism that makes children listen to parents. In other words, it's a kind of trance state where kids don't have free will, but rather follow parental direction. This mechanism makes evolutionary sense because a child would not survive without the parent until they are ~15 years old or so, so there has to be a "command voice" that is pretty powerful.

This mechanism also needs to somehow supress cognitive dissonance. It has to work even in the case of really really bad parents, because unfortunately, even bad parents will keep the child alive longer than if the child just ran off by themselves... So another aspect of the mechanism is the child will follow commands, even if the parent seems wrong or the direction seems wrong. The child somehow rationalizes the parent as "knowing what is best" and rationalizes the command as making sense.

Which is why a hypnotic suggestion can make an adult be convinced that they are a chicken. (I just googled, there are 99,000 video hits on "hypnosis act like chicken")

But hypnotherapy can also be used to help a patient become aware of aspects of their experience that they are otherwise ignoring, which can help induce positive changes in their life. For example, they can be made aware of the feeling of emotional emptiness that fuels binge eating and they can be made aware of the pleasures that come with exercise... which can help make perminant changes toward their eating habits and health. 

In this case, a hypnotic trance is directing the patients awareness to aspects of their pathological trance which has been ignoring apsects of their thinking/behavior. Sort of fighting fire with fire.

I feel like there have been aspects of my meditation practice where I've used intentions to "self-hypnotise myself" to explore a particular aspect of experience... sort of like inducing relaxation and clearer perception through intention. Intentions are statements we make by ourselves and to ourselves... basically using the "command voice" on ourself!


Ultimately, a well-developed human will have more conscious control of this inner "command voice" and will, in a sense, be able to command themselves, rather than relying on an external voice. I suspect that most adult are still suceptable to external  "command voice", In other words, the mechanism possibly never quite goes away during adulthood. 


This is all just my hunch. Ironically, I just ordered a book on hypnosis last week, but it hasn't arrived yet...

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/18/19 6:28 AM as a reply to shargrol.
In the case of being open to chicken behavior suggestion, I’ll agree that it is far from jhana, haha. I’m still going with the consensual magick hypothesis, but I agree that the chicken-behaving person is a much more passive part in the equation and definitely less selective than what is required for attaining jhana.

There are other ways of using hypnosis, though, like willingly listening to a voice for the purpose of quitting smoking or getting pain relief. The boundary between hypnosis and auto-suggestion is not as clear there. As said above, auto-suggestion and setting intentions seem to be similar mechanisms or even the same thing. I also find that listening to guided meditations can sometimes be hypnotic, and I believe that is sometimes also the purpose of the guidance - to help the meditator overcome obstacles in the practice by way of suggestion. Doing it together, to facilitate for the meditator to do it without guidance later on.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/18/19 6:36 AM as a reply to shargrol.
You may find this article interesting:

As with many brain phenomena, scientists don't know exactly how or why hypnotism works, but they're getting closer to the answer thanks to recent EEG scans of hypnotized brains. Dr. Mark Jensen, a psychologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, found that hypnosis and meditation have similar neurophysiological profiles.

https://www.livescience.com/33046-does-hypnosis-work-hypnotherapy.html

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/18/19 7:07 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Maybe it could be a good idea to separate concentration ability from morality training too (in a wider sense), just like with insight? The wholesomeness aspect. Clucking like a chicken - not necessarily the most unwholesome thing to do, but not the prime example of wholesomeness either. Believing oneself to be a chicken probably takes a great deal of concentration, I imagine, but it’s not good judgement and/or not very mindful. Great focus but not much discretion as to how to put it to use. That person knows how to focus but isn’t very picky about it. Quitting smoking - more wholesome. Still depending on the outer world, though, so not jhana. But for it to work, I suspect that concentration is required of the person being hypnotized.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/18/19 7:15 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
My theory is that hypnosis makes use of the dominance/submission mechanism


I believe you are right, but I also happen to know that most (? Many anyway) adult people actively playing with that kind of submission are very selective and picky (which unfortunately doesn’t necessarily mean that they make wise choses about whom to entrust). They wouldn’t just get into trance with anyone. Trust is something that one gives willingly. Sorry if this is a sensitive topic, but it is relevant to the discussion.

RE: How do hypnosis and meditation play together?
Answer
9/18/19 6:42 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
This mechanism makes evolutionary sense because a child would not survive without the parent until they are ~15 years old or so, so there has to be a "command voice" that is pretty powerful.

This reminds me that Jaynes devotes a chapter to hypnosis in his wonderful Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which had a tremendous impact on me.

Jaynes' thesis is that consciousness emerged very recently in human history and is not genetic or fundamentally tied to being human. Before it, we were pre-conscious beings that obeyed the hallucinated voices of the gods.

For him, hypnosis supports that thesis. In other words, in hypnotic trance states between subject and operator, we re-enact the relationship between subject and hallucinated voice. So he'd actually describe it as vestigial.

Personally, when you described "command voice" it immediately evokes for me a voice I've heard on one or two occasions of intense experience. A solemn, curt voice that I obey meekly, like a dog obeying a command: sit; stay... In contrast the hypnosis I've been doing feels much gentler, more like suggestion. They may be two different ways of attaining the same result but feel different to my limited experience.