There is a wide variety of tools available that have proven to be assets to the recovery process. Of course, not everyone finds the same tools to be the optimal solution for their individual needs, but that’s why it’s beneficial to have such a variety of options from which a recovering addict can choose. Specifically, holistic techniques have become extremely popular in recent years with meditation, in particular, often recommended as a means of achieving a more comprehensive state of wellness. In fact, the ability to simultaneously address a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs is an extremely unique feature that’s almost exclusive to meditation compared to other methods available.
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept and history behind meditation, it’s a very old practice that’s believed to be prehistoric in origin, which means that the use of meditation predates the written word. It’s often associated with Asia and the Middle East as well as with Buddhism in particular, but meditation can be used for purposes that are outside of spiritual or religious practices. Therefore, the following will break down meditation to access its basic structure, which consists of ten stages and four milestones.
Stage One: Establishing Meditative Practice
The first three stages of meditation are the “novice” stages, during which time a person is establishing his or her meditation routine. In essence, this means having set times to meditate and sticking to that schedule unless there are extraneous circumstances beyond one’s control. It’s also important to set one’s goals at this stage and figuring out what one wants to achieve through meditation.
Stage Two: Interrupted Attention And Overcoming The Wandering Mind
In the second stage, the individual is simply trying to focus his or her attention on breathing. This is much easier said than done as the person quickly realizes how readily the mind begins to wander. During this stage, the novice should try to remember that he or she should be continuously focused on his or her breathing.
Stage Three: Extended Attention And Overcoming The Forgetful Mind
The third stage is much like the second stage; however, at this point the mind has begun wandering for shorter and less frequent periods, but the individual finds him or herself dealing with drowsiness and occasionally forgetting the purpose of what he or she is doing or that he or she is trying to meditate.
Milestone One: Continuous Attention To The “Meditation Object”
After mastering the first three stages, the novice or beginner has achieved the first level of skill. This means that he or she has become able to meditate without his or her mind wandering, without becoming drowsy, and without losing focus on the task of meditation. In other words, the individual is able to achieve stable meditation, which a person cannot do without mastering the first three stages and reaching this first milestone.
Stage Four: Overcoming Distraction And Strong Dullness
Although the individual can achieve stable meditation for a period of time, he or she finds that the mind will occasionally wander very briefly, rapidly shifting between focusing on his or her breathing and various environmental distractions and back to breathing again. A “gross distraction” is when a distraction is able to push meditation to the back of the mind, causing the individual to temporarily forget the purpose of the current exercise. Conversely, the individual may deal with an intense dullness or boredom, that can, likewise, cause him or her to forget the purpose of the current exercise. Therefore, at this stage, the practitioner is trying to maintain a continuous sense of inner awareness that doesn’t inhibit or distract from his or his focus on breathing and meditation.
Stage Five: Overcoming Subtle Dullness And Increasing One’s Mindfulness
Subtle dullness is sometimes difficult to distinguish from stable attention; however, subtle dullness doesn’t cause the person to become so bored that he or she loses focus on breathing or meditation. Instead, subtle dullness dampens and dilutes the vividness of one’s awareness and causes the individual the lose peripheral awareness. At this stage, the individual is trying to sustain a sharpened focus on breathing and inner aware, and trying to be able to distinguish a stable, sharp awareness from awareness that’s been dampened by subtle dullness.
Stage Six: Subduing Subtle Distraction
During the sixth stage, attention is mostly stable, but the mind still occasionally has brief shifts between the “meditation object” and background distractions. Therefore, the practitioner tries to increase his or her awareness to a level where backgrounds distractions fall away completely. In other words, he or she is trying to achieve “single-pointed”, or metacognitive introspective, awareness.
Milestone Two: Sustained, Exclusive Focus Of One’s Attention
Once the first through sixth stages have been mastered, the individual’s attention no longer alternates or shifts between inner awareness of breathing and distractions in the background and environment. He or she can focus on meditation while excluding everything else.
Stage Seven: Exclusive Attention And Unifying The Mind
Although the individual can keep distractions at bay, it still requires some effort. However, the individual can mentally investigate—or think about—any object or concept with as broad or narrow a focus as he or she chooses. The ultimate goal at this stage is to be able to cease all effort yet maintain a high level of clarity, stability, and focus.
Milestone Three: Effortless Stability Of One’s Attention
The third milestone is achieved after completing just a single step, which results in being able to effortlessly sustain powerful mindfulness and awareness as well as the selective, exclusive attention; this state is called mental pliancy. The implication of mental pliancy is that the analytical, discriminating mind and all internal chatter has ceased, allowing diverse mental processes to coalesce around whatever the individual chooses to direct his or her mind. Rather than having to struggle against itself, the mind is now operating in harmony.
Stage Eight: Cognitive Pliancy And Pacifying The Senses
The practitioner has reached a level of adeptness that he or she can maintain an intense clarity and awareness while selectively and effortlessly focusing on anything he or she wants; however, he or she is still limited by the amount of time the body can withstand the individual’s meditation before he or she begins to experience pain from sitting/standing/lying down in a single position for so long. Here the goal becomes to continue unifying the mind and pacifying the senses so that the mind grows quiet rather than being distracted by physical sensations of pain. Instead of focusing on sounds and sensations outside of the body, the individual tries to stimulate the senses from within the mind, focusing attention on the thought of light or of sound to create pleasure and comfort through the mental stimulation of these senses.
Stage Nine: Mental And Physical Pliancy, And Calming One’s Meditative Joy
Having achieved and honed mental pliancy, the individual begins to experience a state of meditative joy that brings both emotional and physical pleasure. It also fosters a sense of total wellness and health. At this stage, the individual practices returning to this state of mental pliancy at will.
Stage Ten: Tranquility And Equanimity
As expected, the tenth and final stage indicates that one has perfected all the previous stages and is able to maintain perfect attention, inner awareness, mental pliancy, can effortlessly maintain joy and happiness, and experiences continuous tranquility and equanimity. Moreover, with the continued practice of meditation, all of these feelings persist for longer and longer durations after the meditation session, which essentially means that the individual is nearing the point of enlightenment. And when the traits fade, they’re never gone completely, which means that after only the briefest period of meditation the individual can quickly restore those feelings to their full intensity. After the tenth stage, the mind is described as “unsurpassable”.
Milestone Four: Persistently Adept In One’s Mental Qualities
Now that the individual has attained the highest level of meditation mastery, all the qualities that he or she learned to achieve through meditation as present at all times rather than during and immediately following a meditation session.
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