This is a step by step sequence of the path(s) of meditation using 24 steps. Everyone starts at the same place but it's how far one progress or wishes to progress in their practice. There is no right or wrong place to be at any particular time. It's been my personal attempt and challenge to take other methods of meditation and see how they fit within this sequence. It is through the idea that all meditations are based on the same natural patterns of mind, and are simply given different names from different traditions but with the original mind being the same. The conditions are very similar for everyone and every practice. Each different technique and tradition might have fine nuances and meditation objects or places to focus the attention but the practices and results are basically the same.
The sequence starts from the gross hard material aspect of life through the different subtle layers of the practice and into the immaterial aspect of meditation. One could look at this to see what levels they progress into, levels they have experienced, and possibly levels to be experienced.
To begin, many like to start with an intention or a preliminary practice this maybe some type of heart opener such as a directing an intention for; appreciation, compassion, or loving kindness towards others or toward the gift of life.
1) We always start with the body this can include the subtle movements of the body and everything from yoga poses to noticing the flow of the breath in and out of the body.
2) Attention moves within the body noticing the length or the depth of breathing or warmth, muscle tension, or muscle relaxation. Strength or weakness within the body, flow or stiffness.
3) We notice and work with the body in the form of scanning and noticing separate organs by going deeper within for example the beating of the heart and how it feels when the body is calm and without pain.
4) The body becomes very light we notice how the breath conditions the body and how the body conditions the breath. Calmly breathing produces calmness within the physical body, a calm body produces a slowing and ease of the breath.
5) With the calmness of the body and mind a feeling of pleasure sets in, pleasantness pervades and can seem to be added as an extra element in our practice. We are begin feeling more than the pleasure of the body alone but also sensations of mind and body.
6) Peaceful joy sets in as the body itself becomes calmer; thoughts are more related to simply pleasure and non-pleasure.
7) The mind becomes very clear and many feelings are being experienced by mind alone and not the body, thoughts pervade but they are becoming soft. It is clearly seen that feelings condition mind.
8) As feelings become more understood as simply being feelings, thoughts soften as many feelings of pleasantness and ease set in. The mind conditions feelings.
9) States of mind are seen clearly as a rising and a falling away. We begin to experience the mind and how moods and emotions set in and are released.
10) Whether states are pleasant or unpleasant the mind becomes neutral and becomes gladdened by it's clear understanding of body, feelings, and states of mind.
11) The mind becomes more concentrated and concentration is noticed although the durations might be short, the moments and the length are more easily observed.
12) With the understanding of mind states and the pleasantness of clarity, the mind becoming concentrated, a feeling of liberation is noticed. There is a freeing of mental tension.
13) Spirituality in a more genuine way sets in as the body and mind are being freed from any kind of constraints or limitations. Contemplation and insight reaches new heights. Insights such as the impermanence of all conditioned things is noticed and understood.
14) A fading away of desire and for the need for things to be different than what they currently are is seen as the cause of suffering and stress.
15) There is a mental stopping for the need of any change, to be, or to become, anything else or more. stillness and clarity pervade.
16) Everything is seen as borrowed. Deep appreciation for all aspects of life settle in and a clear understanding and knowing that everything including the body itself was never owned, and there never is or was a belonging to a self. There is a relinquishment of I, me, mine, and a complete relinquishment or returning to the source is understood.
17) An unexplained, wordless level of concentration sets in. Thought is very much controlled, joy and blissfulness and clarity are prominent.
18) The mind becomes like a very powerful weapon used simply for penetration into previously unknown territory. Thought becomes sustained like never before. Powerful moments of pleasure and very steady blissfulness pervade.
19) Thought becomes something of the past as the mind becomes very placid we can set our intention and concentration on anything and it will not move. We are complete, Peaceful, and happy.
20) Equanimity sets in. This is the final area of materialism pleasantness and unpleasantness are seen as identical no duality. This is a state of complete non-duality.
21) Now entering into an area of immaterialism. The material world seems course and gross in any of the previous steps, this is a transformation of material form like being suspended in space without the vision of stars or planets. Formless, well beyond thought or words. Like throwing a formless blanket over the world of form.
22) The material recognition that everything is simply awareness. Awareness watching awareness.
23) A noticing of emptiness not even awareness. Not even space. Yet, noticing only by recall after the practice.
24) The final state of the immaterial noticing which comes after the practice. This is neither perception nor non-perception. Things are not things and are neither perceived nor not perceived. A state beyond emptiness itself. No perception of space, awareness, emptiness. Simply non-perception and not non-perception.
Note – this is an extremely simplified expression and a personal view of the many stages and practices of meditation and is written here as a tool for clarity in my personal practice and in the sharing, a hope that it provides clarity for others. There are many questions related to the many practices throughout the world and the point here is that there is one mind and the many meditation paths eventually come together.