The Gradual Stages of Mindfulness Practice
1. Settling the body and respiration in their natural state Introduction of basic techniques for relaxing the body and settling the respiration in its natural rhythm.
2. Mindfulness of the breathing with relaxation Introduction and elaboration of practices for learning to calm the conceptually discursive mind for the purpose of attenuating involuntary thoughts. Stability of attention is practiced with the goal of sustaining attention for longer periods.
3. Mindfulness of the breathing, with relaxation, stability, and vividness
Continuing practice of techniques designed to instill a deepening sense of physical and mental relaxation, stillness, and vigilance. When successful, involuntary thoughts subside and vividness of attention gradually increases. This gives rise to an overall sense of greater presence, calm, and equilibrium.
4. Settling the mind in its natural state (i. e., mindfulness of mental events) Introduction of practices for further refining the meditator’s metacognitive abilities, with the goal of attenuating the immediate and habitual absorption in one’s thoughts that characterize most mental functioning. When successful, insight into the nature of the mind and its activities is achieved.
5. Settling the mind in its natural state Continued practice with the goal of developing increased relaxation, stillness of awareness in the midst of mental activities, and vividness, together with heightened metacognitive abilities to observe mental states and processes without identifying with them.
6. Awareness of awareness In this final technique, relaxation, stillness, and vividness of attention continue to be enhanced, leading to a perception of the process of becoming aware, as opposed to only perceiving the contents of awareness.
7. Awareness of awareness As the meditator develops greater facility with this practice, the mind rests in its own luminosity and awareness. When successful, this practice leads to insight into the nature of consciousness itself.