The Difference and Similarity between Hypnosis and Meditation

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View from the far side of the recliner

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “what is the difference between hypnosis and meditation?”. My answer is that they are similar and different. My own experience with formal hypnosis over the last seven years is fairly extensive in terms of varied flavors, the number of sessions, as both the hypnotherapist and the client. I do not teach formal meditation and don’t claim to be an expert. I have practiced meditation in a formal way inconsistently over the last ten years. I’ve had some amazing experiences of peace and at times simply being gone. I’ve basically used focusing on breathing, on nature or music and once a walking meditation. Just as in hypnosis there are different techniques in meditation.

One similarity is that in both hypnosis and meditation the conscious mind can become very quiet. Both can involve the visualization of objects and scenes that exist only in the mind in the current moment. In hypnotherapy this could be seeing/experiencing oneself in the future having recovered from a health/medical issue, being at an ideal weight, hitting a golf ball just right, being comfortable flying in a plane, having achieved basically any goal. In some traditions, like Mahayana Buddhism of which Tibetan Buddhism is a part, meditation might include visualizing a complex mandala*, various bodhisattvas**, world peace, the liberation of all being from suffering. Perhaps the main difference that I can think of, is that in hypnotherapy the experience is guided at some level by another person while meditation is internally guided.

There is a great book about Meditation; Meditation for Dummies by Stephen Bodian. I love the “for Dummies” books that I’ve bought. I’m thinking about writing a Living my Life for Dummies.


For my clients that are interested, I certainly encourage meditation in addition to any techniques that have been recommended as part of their sessions. The health benefits of meditation have been studied extensively.


A way to make meditation more user friendly and perhaps more effective for some people.

Meditation can be a daunting experience in the way that it is commonly presented. One version is sitting on a cushion for extending periods of time. Trying to have a quiet mind rather than the “monkey mind” of internal chatter is a challenge.

At The HypnoThoughts Live conference, I attended a seminar on Hope Coaching/Mindful Hypnosis. (For information on Hope Coaching visit .) One of the speakers, Michael Ellner brought up an idea which is great. Instead of one long meditation session, how about several ones of a few minutes. Stephan Bodian in his Meditation book also mentions brief sessions. Just like with exercise, many people say that they don’t have the time but almost everyone has six minutes or so here and there throughout the day. Starting first thing in the morning with a meditation can set the tone for the day. With exercise if the goal is to burn calories, then it doesn’t matter if you walk one mile a day or four, quarter mile walks, the calories burned are the same. There are things that are likely beneficial in the long periods of sustained meditation and that maybe something for people to aspire to. For people who are in pain, who may not be able to sit in one position for long, whose lives feel so chaotic, who are stressed and anxious, the small bouts of meditation may bring a sense of peace and increased comfort.


*for a cool website to explore the concept of mandalas see: .

**for information and images of bodhisattvas an internet search will result in at least a couple of different definitions and many varied images. But you’ll have a better idea of the concept of bodhisattva than you did before. Especially if you had no idea to begin with.


Next time I’ll write about hypnosis/trance and body work.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.


Don Berlyn


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