Meditation as an altered state has become very popular and there is some confusion about whether meditation is related to self hypnosis. Many CDs that feature ‘guided imagery’ are marketed as meditations yet are identical to self hypnosis techniques. There are distinctions and similarities between these modalities.
Both guided meditation and self hypnosis are intentional focused attention, and both usually invite a sense of well being and relaxation. Both are chosen by an individual for a specific purpose. Guided meditations and self hypnosis usually have a specific goal or intention, maybe to reduce anxiety or feel more confident or change a behavior, so they are very similar in that regard. The difference between them is that self hypnosis has an inner locus of control while guided meditations have the external influence of someone’s else’s voice and sounds. Traditional meditation is like self hypnosis in that it is internally directed, but is different in that the intention is to empty the mind of thought to attain a peaceful state rather than achieve a specific outcome. It can be argued that emptying the mind of thoughts is a goal of meditation, so perhaps the main difference is that traditional meditation is focused more on the awareness of the present moment without attachment to any future outcome, whereas both guided meditations and self hypnosis are intent upon something becoming different as a result of the practice.
Then there is mindfulness, usually defined as a mental state achieved by focus and awareness of the present moment without judging feelings, thoughts or sensations. Which is sometimes also a definition of meditation. A walking meditation is much the same as a mindfulness walk, but meditation and mindfulness are not always the same. It is easy to be puzzled by the distinctions, especially since all of them fit the Sanskrit translation of “meditation” as “to cultivate self”. One way to look at them is as occasionally overlapping subsets of an altered state achieved without external chemical influence. Whatever your perspective, they offer the potential of changing your reality in a positive way.