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by Philip H. Farber
(originally published in The Journal of Hypnotism)
In past issues, this column has examined hypnosis and meditation quite separately. We've compared and contrasted, and suggested how parallel practices of hypnosis and meditation can benefit each other. Some of you may have already come to the next question: What happens if you experience both hypnosis and meditation at the same time?
I discovered the answer to that question by accident, many years ago. When I was in college, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to meditate and work with a variety of esoteric practices, while I also attended classes and studied. In my junior year, I was working through a set of meditation and ritual practices that I had discovered in the back pages of a well-known text on ceremonial magick. The meditation was described as a technique for "drawing all to a point." Of four methods listed for that particular end, one was a form of chakra meditation that appealed to my interest in yoga. The technique involved transferring the responsibility for sensory awareness to the "Ajna" chakra, which is located in the center of the head, behind the middle of the forehead, the chakra sometimes referred to as "the third eye." The instructions included directions of this kind:
"The beginner must first practise breathing regularly through the nose, at the same time trying hard to believe that the breath goes to the Ajna and not to the lungs... "Walk slowly in a quiet place; realise that the legs are moving, and study their movements. Understand thoroughly that these movements are due to nerve messages sent down from the brain, and that the controlling power lies in the Ajna. The legs are automatic, like those of a wooden monkey: the power in Ajna is that which does the work, is that which walks. This is not hard to realise, and should be grasped firmly, ignoring all other walking sensations. Apply this method to every other muscular movement.... "Try to transfer all bodily sensations to the Ajna, e.g., "I am cold" should mean "I feel cold", or better still, "I am aware of a sensation of cold" --- transfer this to the Ajna, "the Ajna is aware", etc.... " Finally, strive hard to drive anger and other obsessing thoughts into the Ajna. Try to develop a tendency to think hard of Ajna when these thoughts attack the mind, and let Ajna conquer them. Beware of thinking of 'My Ajna'. In these meditations and practices, Ajna does not belong to you; Ajna is the master and worker, you are the wooden monkey." (Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice, London, 1929)
I practiced this as continuously as I possibly could for a couple of days, while going about the usual daily routine of a college student. I went to classes, meals, and so forth, while carrying out the meditation instructions as best as possible. On the third day of this meditation, I went to my "Chinese and Japanese Philosophy" class. The professor was an interesting character who was more interested in giving the class a taste of Zen experience than subjecting us to the history of Asian thought. To that end, rather than have us meditate in class, he guided us into awareness of the present through Ericksonian trance induction (though he did not describe it as such until years later, when a fellow student cornered him at a party and questioned him about it). On that day, his trance instructions were a listing of sensory details: "As you sit here now, you can hear my voice, and the sounds coming from the hallway, and feel the chair beneath you, and see the quality of light in the room, etc."
So there I was, still taking each sensory detail and transferring it to the ajna chakra, and there was my professor, deliberately listing sensory details in a hypnotic voice. Wham! Something fairly indescribable happened then and, indeed, everything did in fact draw to a single point of consciousness. At that time, it was one of the more remarkable states of consciousness that I had encountered through meditation - and there was no question that my professor's trance induction was a major catalyst.
Many years later, when I began leading group trance sessions on a regular basis, I gradually started incorporating meditation practices into what I offered participants. Chakra meditations similar to the "Ajna" meditation proved particularly effective for my groups. (Martial artists take note: that same meditation works very, very well with the "hara" or "tan-tien.") Even more effective, however, is a practice that I call "Chasing the tail."
Chasing the tail is a simple meditation of self-observation. Sit quietly and pay attention to where your thoughts arise. When you think something, anything, the thoughts appear to come from a particular location in space, usually somewhere in your head or somewhere in your body, though occasionally a thought may seem to arise outside the physical body. Just note where the thought arises and let all other thoughts fall from your mind. As each new thought arises, just note where it comes from. If you have thoughts about the practice itself, note where they come from. If you have thoughts about noting where a thought came from, note where that thought came from. Got it? Like a cat chasing its own tail, you turn your consciousness back on itself.
Chasing the tail is a great practice all by itself and it is a wonderful practice to have groups or individuals work with while you lead them through a detailed sensory-based trance induction. I often suggest that workshop participants practice this while I lead the group through variations of my "Into the Unconscious Mind" trance induction. This induction starts with sensory details that are verifiable in the present and then gradually widens its scope to include as many influences on the present moment as be considered. The meditation practice provides a framework and focus for the plethora of sensory details that arise from the hypnotic induction.
Either the meditation or the trance induction will induce a profound altered state by itself - but the combination produces incredible results with extreme rapidity. Participants have reported such things as "total ego loss," "dissolution of boundaries," and "something I've been trying to accomplish for years," among other descriptions I've received afterwards.
I think this kind of hypnosis/meditation combination is a wide-open field. The variations and combinations are probably endless. My own experiments have been limited to inductions that elicit richness of sensory detail combined with meditations that focus or utilize these details in some way. I'm sure there are many other ways to experiment with this kind of work. Obviously, it is best suited to work with groups or with a partner, but individuals can practice on their own by recording their inductions and playing them back as they meditate in particular ways, simply choosing an appropriate recorded induction that you may have in your collection.
I would be happy to hear from anyone who has experimented in similar ways, or who knows of traditional practices that incorporate such combinations.
© copyright 2004 Philip H. Farber. All rights reserved.