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Eastern Meditation and Hypnosis
Publish date: May 20, 2010
Summary: Hypnosis, by design, by passes the frontal lobe as it helps the subject enter a trance-like state.
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Eastern religions use the principle of a solitary focus to induce a meditative state, similar to the technique employed by the hypnotist. As one author explains, mental focus for transcendental meditation can be achieved by focusing on a single word (called a mantra), a single shape, or a body part. He mentions that another ancient practice is to focus on the navel, the forehead, or some other body.i Just as the hypnotist requires this single-minded focus and an environment free from all outside diversions, so does the meditator.
Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard researcher and physician, has presented what some have called a secular version of Eastern meditation. However, Benson uses the same elements as the Eastern meditator and the hypnotist- a quiet environment and a single-minded focus (in his case, a word or phrase of Hindu worship).ii Benson also mentions another essential element in this process—a passive attitude. In fact, he states that this is “perhaps the most important of the elements.”iii Rice observes that all of these Eastern-style meditative relaxation techniques emphasize a passive attitude.iv
It is this passive attitude with a prominent alpha brain wave that illustrates one of the greatest problems with this meditative style. Although it may temporarily provide relief and relaxation by removing the mind’s focus on certain stressors, the practice does not appear able to help in subsequently dealing with stressors in a constructive way.
This stands in sharp contrast to the reflective meditation of the Christian. With biblical meditation and prayer, the emphasis is on an active reflection that helps focus the frontal lobe. Rather than striving for a passive state that represses thoughts, Christian meditation emphasizes communion with God, thinking his thoughts, sensing His presence, and knowing His will. In addition to providing release from stress, this type of meditation provides an opportunity to get meaningful answers and solutions to problems.
There is further concern that the passive mental state cultivated by these meditative techniques may do more harm than good. It has long been known that Eastern meditative secular relaxation training may have deleterious effects on the nervous system. A classic study found that, when compared with an American control group, yoga produced higher levels of sympathetic activity with increased adrenaline output. Thus, yoga produces the same physical reactions as a sudden stressor, which was explained in a previous chapter. This was true for most measurements made on Eastern yoga practitioners.v
In another study, subjects who received training in transcendental meditation displayed a higher cardiovascular stress response after learning this meditative practice.vi
We see that problems arise when escapist meditative practices are employed in place of constructive strategies to deal with stressors. Such a hypothesis is consistent with work cited by Dr. Larry Dossey. Research that studied stress hormones before, immediately following, and two days after surgeries yielded a surprising result. Immune-weakening stress hormones significantly increased only in those that had formal relaxation training. Those who apparently addressed their anxieties and fears without using escapism relaxation techniques did not show the rise in stress hormones.vii
i. P. Rice, "The concentration techniques: Meditation and biofeedback," Stress and Health: principles and practice for coping and wellness (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1987): 308.
ii. H. Benson, The Relaxation Response (New York, NY: William Morrow and Company Inc., 1975): 19.
iv. P. Rice, "The concentration techniques: Meditation and biofeedback," Stress and Health: principles and practice for coping and wellness (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1987): 308.
v. M. Wenger, B. Bagchi, "Studies of autonomic function in practitioners of Yoga in India," Behavioural Science 6 (1961): 312-323.
vi. A. Puente, I. Beiman, "The effects of behaviour therapy, self-relaxation, and transcendental meditation on cardiovascular stress response," J Clin Psychol 36:1 (January 1980): 291-295.
vii. L. Dossey, Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine (New York, NY. HarperCollins Publishers, 1993): 62-63.
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