Now, I’m a nobody (not a famous teacher, and don’t want to teach at all: writing is my “teaching”), but this is how I see the “game board” of meditation:
We could say there are roughly three stages of meditation, three squares on the field of “spiritual progress” (it’s just a map, and they can overlap). Winning one square allows you to advance to the next, until you are beyond winning and losing, failure and success:
1. Meditation as a process: calming the mind, clarifying the mind… you are doing something, a technique which is a process through time (seemingly) for a person; a progressive movement, or “progressive path”. I am a human being with a mind and body and that mind is used to do something, such as with thinking (or perceiving and feeling). Some effort and discipline required. Examples: mindfulness, mantra meditations, breath meditations, certain yogic forms which aim for mental qualities like clam, clarity and so forth. However goals and motivations can vary (see my article What About Practices and scroll down to “What Drives Practices”). Successes and failures. Once the limitations are realized or you are stuck, go to:
2. Meditation as Self-Enquiry (along with, or facilitated by the steady clear mind from #1 or naturally) – as Understanding and Dissolution: the central question is raised, again and again: Who is Meditating (and the what aim)? Then one experiences glimpses beyond the mind / person, momentary Self Realization, knowing the Self, non-causal happiness, peace. The goal becomes clear. It comes an goes. But on is establishing a new “leaning” over time, new habits, dissolving or dropping unconscious habits as the unconscious becomes conscious: abiding in Self instead of self. A “direct path” approach. Many paradoxes are seen. There are still ups and downs. By understanding, courage, determination, grace or surrender go to:
3. Meditation Post-Self-Enquiry: living beyond the mind. Meditation is understood as “what one is”; Living is meditation, meditation is living (to whatever degree); the scaffolding that got you there is discarded, unconscious habits are largely vanquished. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do and no scaffolding in reality: turns out you were always there and didn’t know it. We are all awake but asleep to our awake-ness, paradoxically. Abiding in Self is self-evident and effortless. Nothing to approach. You have arrived. No one home. All is home.