You know we’re all at different stages in this progression through life.
And it’s not a linear thing.
Some people have already developed a certain awareness of their bodies, feelings and thoughts.
Others have a different mix. And others are just starting.
Plus we have different ends in mind.
Some people are looking to sort out a problem or heal a past event.
Others are looking for peace of mind. And others are looking for this magical thing we call ‘awakening’.
So, it follows:
People need to receive mindfulness based on where there are, and what they are looking for.
My four stage system is something I’ve worked out which addresses this.
It’s just a way of thinking about mindfulness which works for me. Hopefully, you’ll get something out of it too….
So here goes:
Stage 1: Empowering
Here we look at awareness of thought and the narratives that it spins.
We become aware that though thought often spins stories which take us off and may cause us to suffer.
And that we have the power to notice these narratives and bring ourselves back to what is actually happening.
This sounds simple but to someone who has never before been brought out of the narrative of thought, this can be life transforming,
This stage usually includes all the basic concentrative techniques that are taught in beginners mindfulness, such as breathing and mantra meditations.
Stage 2: Softening
Here we start to look at the emotional aspect of our experience.
Because our tendency to reside in thought is often driven by the avoidance of uncomfortable feelings and sensations.
So inevitable we then need to learn to become more aware of feelings and sensations. And to make peace with them.
This can be difficult for people as our inclination is to avoid discomfort, and often these sensations ‘seem’ to say something bad about us.
Thus this stage involves the development of self-compassion.
this means learning to be okay (or even love) who we are, rather than responding to ourselves with self-criticism.
This includes loving kindness practices and other compassion based forms of Mindfulness.
And again, it can give us a radical shift in the way we experience life.
Stage 3: Awakening
Here we begin to start to look at our own true nature.
Whereas Stages1 and 2 are fundamentally concerned with understanding and developing ourselves as an individual, by affecting our relationship to thoughts, feelings and sensations….
This stage is fundamentally about understanding our true nature.
Awakening leads to a shift in experience where we no are longer constricted by concepts by directly seeing through the empty nature of thought.
Awakening can and does happen at varying levels, but at whatever level, it will provide some relief from the personal story of ‘me’.
This means that life will be far less complicated and will tend to flow much more easily than before.
Rather than meditation, we are dealing with direct pointing in this stage.
In other words you are being asked to look at specific things in your experience to see if your assumptions are true.
Stage 4: Embodiment
Here we are applying the realisation we had in Stage 3 in the World.
After realising we are not what we took ourselves to be, we learn how to embody this in our day to day lives.
We do this by looking at the deepest tendencies of our mind and allowing them to transform in the light of awareness.
This work can be immensely satisfying as we learn to move through life from a bedrock of presence – no longer swayed this way and that by external events.
This again involves direct pointing and a lot of self inquiry where we ask ourselves questions to gain a greater understanding of ourselves.
Often in Stage 4 we are in a position to do much of the work ourselves.
How to plug into this model.
There are many resources and teachers out there who can guide you in any of these stages.
My current work is in Scott Kiloby’s Natural Rest Advanced Mindfulness (NRAM) practices. I like this approach because it spans all four tiers and can be taken at any level.
If you’d like to know more, would like my help, or want recommendations for any of these tiers, please do get in touch, or leave a comment below.
Please remember it isn’t a race.
It can be useful to think of stages, but from another viewpoint, there are no stages at all.
Being in the process is the important thing. Try to enjoy this moment. Because that’s all there really is!!!