Stage 4 questions

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Paul Rimmer 7 years, 9 months ago.

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    Paul Rimmer

    Since The Mind Illuminated came out, I’ve realised just how much I used to try and push through the stages. I’m now being very cautious with examining my progress through the stages, and as a result I have a couple of questions regarding stage 4.

    Could you clarify whether the following would be classed as gross distractions please: during a sit where I have a fairly steady and continuous balance between attention on the breath and peripheral awareness, but a sudden noise or body movement arises to the level it momentarily captures attention, but I either almost immediately let it go, or briefly examine it and then let it go and go back to the breath – to the point where it seems to fit into a continuous and unbroken flow with the breath – is this classed as a gross distraction?

    I’m also a little worried my base-level attention of the breath in stage four is not clear enough to move on. While it varies dependent upon the level of subtle dullness and distractions, me attention generally follows the whole of the breath, but can often be quite dull, and perhaps I don’t always discern each part clearly, rather it blends into a continuous entity. I think maybe the balance between attention and awareness may be too much inclined towards awareness. Maybe a hangover of my time doing more choiceless awareness /noting practise. But, I’m also a little worried I may be being unrealistic for similar reasons. Could you perhaps give an example of the correct balance for this stage please?

    Hope the above makes sense?

    Many thanks for your time

    Paul 🙂



    I am only practicing in stage 4 and sometimes 5 but here are my thoughts:

    I think the goal of stage 4 is to avoid forgetting when attention has moved to another object. If you notice every time attention moves and can redirect it back to the breath within a couple of seconds, I think that is a sign of stage 4 mastery.

    With regard to dullness, the type I try to correct in stage 4 is the “sinking” dullness which gradually gets stronger over the course of a sit. The clearest sign of this for me is the “startle effect” that occurs when hearing a background noise. If I feel relatively alert and can perceive every part of the breath but not in great detail, I think that’s mostly subtle dullness which the practices in stage 5 will correct.


    Paul Rimmer

    Hi Paul, many thanks for the reply.

    Both points also formed part of my thinking about stage 4, but I wanted to make sure before moving on. The habit of trying to push through stages has been so strong in the past for me, I think it may be making me a little over-cautious as I try to break it. Although, I guess, unless it begins to hinder your practise, spending lots of time in each stage is only going to benefit in the long run.

    Thanks again


    Ted Lemon

    The disturbance you are describing from sense perceptions sounds more like subtle than gross distraction to me. If you started thinking about what caused the noise and trying to anticipate when the noise would come again, or what noise might follow if you correctly identified the source of a noise, that could be a gross distraction. When you are in the state you describe, I would suggest starting on the body scan and just see what happens. If you find that your distractions become worse, that means that you’ve increased the energy of your mind. When you notice that this has happened, you can intentionally go back to the breath so that you can work on the distractions until they settle. When they have settled, you can again notice that this has happened and very intentionally go back to the body scan.


    Paul Rimmer

    Thanks Ted, I’ll give that a go 🙂

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