Stage Three: Mastered or Not?

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Scott 6 months ago.

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    Hi friends.

    When I read the conclusion of Stage Three, it says:

    “You have mastered Stage Three when forgetting and mind-wandering no longer occur, and the breath stays continually in conscious awareness.” It continues, “The mind still roams, but it’s ‘tethered’ to the meditation object, never getting too far away; the unconscious mental processes that sustain attention never entirely let go of the meditation object.”

    All of these are true for me in my practice. However, I was so patiently focused on Stage Two that I hadn’t gone back to check what determines mastery of Stage Two and Three. So when I checked up, I discovered that I clearly had mastered Stage Two and, based on the statements above, I have mastered Stage Three as well.

    Though I am hesitant to consider Stage Three mastered since I wasn’t focusing on Stage Three and therefore I haven’t worked on observing all the subtle details of the in- and out-breaths while “emphasizing both attention and peripheral awareness at the same time.” I also haven’t worked with “Connecting”, “Labeling”, and “Checking In”.

    So should I assume that I haven’t mastered Stage Three since I have more skills to develop (that I should have been practicing if I would have gone back and reread the sections on Stage Two and Stage Three sooner), or should I consider Stage Three mastered and continue to Stage Four while working with the breath skills from Stage Three?

    I know that the stages are just guides and that they may not conclude so neatly where everything falls perfectly into place before moving on to the next stage. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself and cause issues that could have been avoided. I’m in no hurry (which is why it took me so long to go back and reread the section on how I would know that I’ve mastered Stage Two). But I do want to put my focus where it is most beneficial.

    Thank you for reading this.



    I was in a similar position when I started working with TMI; I’d gotten to stage 4 (and occasionally 5) on the breath with my own ‘mini-techniques’, and noticed that I lacked some of the skills TMI encourages learning in stages 1-3. In particular, the peripheral awareness distinction, metacognitive awareness, and enjoying the ‘aha moment’ were lacking in my repertoire.

    I don’t have any conclusive answers for you, but I can tell you that I chose to take the time to learn to practice the TMI way. Metacognitive awareness in particular is too valuable to pass up on, even if it isn’t the only way to advance through the stages. Even at stage 4, mine benefited substantially from a late introduction of (IIRC) the labeling technique; the one where you briefly note the subject of a distraction as you return from it? My meditations also got to be much more enjoyable from learning to appreciate the aha moments. I might’ve progressed to S5 faster if I’d kept building on existing strengths rather than compensating for weaknesses, but this seemed like the better bet on the long term, and I don’t regret it.



    Remember, the stages are not linear. You don’t really “master” a stage. If forgetting and mind-wandering doesn’t happen for an extended period of time, you should move to stage 4. If forgetting and come back you need to keep practicing stage 3 practices. If you go multiple weeks without forgetting and mind-wandering you can say that you’re in stage 4.

    • This reply was modified 6 months, 1 week ago by  Chris.


    Thank you Raza and Chris for your replies. You have both confirmed what I was thinking.

    I’m not in a hurry, and I really like the idea of making sure I’m taking advantage of every tool in the book and that I’m mastering as many skills as I can. I think I’m going to work with the skills suggested for stage 3, and when I feel very comfortable with those skills, I’ll begin working with stage 4.



    Tom Kennedy

    Great attitude, Scott. Those skills you mention come in handy further down the track, too. So do take the time to get to know a bit about “Connecting” (very useful for spotting subtle dullness in stage 5), “Labeling” (useful again at stage 7, I found), and “Checking In” (training awareness to take over the job; what you want it to do in stage 6).




    Thanks, Tom.

    The whole point is to become *skilled* at meditation, right? So it makes sense to take as much time as needed to assure that the right skills are being developed. And you’ve pointed out some great examples from your perspective. So taking my time and working more with the breath makes too much sense to ignore.


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