Thinking of getting into meditation?
It’s an awesome thought. Meditation has fundamentally changed my life.
But the sad part is that countless people all over the globe may work up the courage to give meditation a try only to stop after the first few attempts.
They go and sit for a moment only to discover that it’s virtually impossible to still their minds.
But that’s what they’re supposed to discover in stage 1 of the nine stages of meditation.
Yep you read that right.
In stage one you realize that you probably suck pretty bad at meditating.
But guess what?
Everyone sucks at it when they first go to sit.
This is called achieving stage 1 of the nine stages of meditation.
Most people are.
The nine stages of meditation are like a roadmap as we venture forth into unknown territory.
These nine stages give us a fantastic framework in regards to understanding our progression as we go deeper into our meditative practice.
Below you’ll find the stages of meditation mapped out for you.
Check them out and use them to help you explore the amazing world that meditation can open up for you.
They’ve been tested by thousands upon thousands of yogi for the last 2000+ years.
The 9 Stages of Meditation
PHASE 1: The Flow of Involuntary Thoughts Are Like A Cascading Waterfall
1) Learning the Instructions & Placement of the Mind (Directed Attention)
At this stage the practitioner hears the instructions and becomes familiar with the meditative posture. The practitioner is able to place his attention on the object of meditation (for example the tactile sensations of the rise and fall of the breath felt within the body), but is unable to maintain that attention for very long. Distractions, dullness of mind and other hindrances are common. You can usually maintain your attention on the meditation object for 5 – 30 seconds. In this stage your thoughts, distractions and the overall blah, blah blah of the mind that you experience when you try and meditate is occasional interrupted by meditation.
2) Continuous Attention
The practitioner experiences moments of continuous attention on the object before becoming distracted. This is when you can maintain your attention on the meditation object for about 1 – 5 minutes. But most of the time you’re off target. In this stage your thoughts, distractions and the overall blah, blah blah of the mind that you experience when you practice is a little more frequently interrupted by meditation.
3) Repeated Attention
The practitioner’s attention is mostly fixed on the object for the majority of the practice session and she or he is able to immediately realize when she or he has lost their mental hold on the object and is able to restore that attention quickly. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche suggests that being able to maintain attention for 108 breaths is a good benchmark for when we have reached this stage. This is when you can maintain your attention on the meditation object for about 5-15 minutes. In this stage you’re really starting to get the hang of it. Now at this point meditation is occasionally interrupted by the blah, blah blah of the mind.
PHASE 2: The Flow of Thoughts Are Like A River Quickly Flowing Through a Gorge
4) Close Attention
The practitioner is able to maintain his attention throughout the entire meditation session (an hour or more) without losing their mental hold on the meditation object at all. In this stage the practitioner achieves the power of mindfulness. Nevertheless, this stage still contains subtle forms of excitation and dullness or laxity.
5) Tamed Attention
By this stage the practitioner achieves deep tranquility of mind, but must be watchful for subtle forms of laxity or dullness, peaceful states of mind which can be confused for calm abiding. By focusing on the future benefits of gaining Shamatha, the practitioner can uplift his mind and become more focused and clear.
PHASE 3: The Flow of Thoughts Are Like A River Slowly Flowing Through A Valley
6) Pacified Attention
This is the stage during which subtle mental dullness or laxity is no longer a great difficulty, but now the practitioner is prone to subtle excitements which arise at the periphery of meditative attention. According to B. Alan Wallace this stage is achieved only after thousands of hours of rigorous training.
7) Fully Pacified Attention
Although the practitioner may still experience subtle excitement or dullness, these are rare and he or she can easily recognize and pacify them.
PHASE 4: The Mind Is Calm Like an Ocean Unmoved by Waves
8) Single-Pointed Attention
In this stage the practitioner can reach high levels of concentration with only a slight effort and without being interrupted even by subtle laxity or excitement during the entire meditation session.
PHASE 5: The Mind Is Perfectly Still
9) Attentional Balance
The meditator now effortlessly reaches absorbed concentration and can maintain it for about four hours without any single interruption.
Full Achievement of Meditation (Shamatha)