A Brief Overview of Stages 1&2 Meditation
The purpose of writing a simplified overview of the stages of meditation is to clarify how the technique of focused, connected breathing is used in all 3 stages of meditation. The singular difference in each stage is where one’s attention is focused. Connected breathing is explained in detail in Just Breathe and Stage 1 Meditation. Before beginning the transformative work in Stage 1 meditation, one needs to have a relaxed proficiency in this breathing technique as inner peace and smooth breathing are the keys to success for each stage. Meditation is a bottom up process which begins by developing an awareness of the creaturely body we humans inhabit as well as understanding its instinctual energies, physical urges and impulses, and compelling appetites. These primal forces, energies, and desires of the body influence critical decisions we make every day, like: what we ingest, what we avoid, what we like and dislike, and what habits we develop, etc. Many people never experience the inner peace and confidence of meditation because they have pre-determined that sitting quietly and breathing would be boring; thus they remain lost in the illusion of the world for their whole lives.
In the circular technique of focused, connected breathing, we begin by keeping our attention focused in the mid-section behind the navel (a source of vital energy) with the intent of sitting quietly and being still. We consciously follow the breath upward past the solar plexus, the heart, into the head and then allow for it to shower down into the body returning to the navel and a new in-breath. Connected breathing means we do not pause between breaths, instead the inbreathing smoothly flows into the out-breathing and visa versa. This is a very simple circular breathing cycle that energizes and revitalizes the body. The idea is to gradually slow the breathing and relax the body until breathing is smooth and easy. However, those who are new to breathing and meditation will quickly find out that their chattering mind will not shut up and their body wants to move, scratch an itch, or fall asleep. Let me assure you, if you have come this far, you are making good progress!
What we discover in this first effort to breathe and meditate is that the animal nature of the body tries to dominate and overrule our intention to sit quietly. It will interfere with any effort we make to do something that does not include pleasing and pacifying it; it resists all efforts through itching, sleepiness, wiggling, boredom and impatience. This begins the tug-of-war as to who ultimately rules in this life – you or your animal body! What is being encountered in this confrontation with the body could be considered as an energetic layer of the wild animal nature of the body we are training to be domesticated and peaceful. The technique of focused, connected breathing is the means of keeping the animal nature on a short leash while we tame and subdue these instinctual impulses of the body. Consistent breathing and meditation practice will strengthen your will to the point that the primal energies of the physical body will eventually submit. When this is accomplished, you, as an individual self, have risen above the animal nature of the world, literally.
The reason we focus on the vital center behind the navel in Stage 1 meditation is this point arouses the animal nature and draws it into the light of our attention where we can see it for what it is, subdue it and rise above it so we can eventually be free of its adversarial influences. These bodily influences include the sexual drive, self-preservation, self-gratification, and the drive to power over others. These various drives are felt in the body as urges, impulses, pain, hunger, compulsion, anxiety as well as vital energy. These drives and impulses are vital energy which has been contaminated by these lower drives and desires; meditation is a process for cleansing the vital energies of these dark, sensual, self-centered energies, and returning these clear, revitalized energies to the body.
Everyone’s experience is different; everyone has different degrees of intensity in their impulses, urges, and appetites; everyone has a different history and different fears, but the same animal instincts. All of these earthly or physical energies are powerful enough to adversely affect the psychic “waters” which is our psycho-cognitive awareness of who we are and how we feel about life. The initial phase of meditation engages the coarser aspects of our physical nature, so our task on this level is to purge and purify the body’s vital energies and the corporeal soul. (See diagram below) In regard to this level of meditation, be assured, there is nothing to fear in the self-transformative work as this is simply a process of cleansing the vital energies and the soul of these detrimental animal influences which brings health, vital life, stability and calmness to the body.
The work in Stage 1 must be fully completed before beginning Stage 2 transformation or the chattering mind and the restlessness of the body will disturb your concentration. The same breathing technique described above is used in Stage 2 Meditation, that is, breathing begins in the area behind the navel, but now the focus of one’s attention changes to the solar plexus. The solar plexus is where the animal nature interacts with the psycho-cognitive nature producing emotions, feelings, desires, likes/dislikes, wants/don’t wants, etc. in the self-image we all know as the ego-persona; this area is also the domain of the shadow. (See diagram below) For those who are not aware of this, the solar plexus is the open portal through which we receive energetic input from the surrounding world. We recognize this reality when we are suddenly confronted with a frightening or embarrassing situation or under pressure; in more peaceful circumstances, it is receiving intuitive input, but most people are too busy looking at their phones to recognize it.
In this system of meditation, the solar plexus, the psycho-cognitive consciousness of the ego-persona, and the animal nature of the body is referred to as the body-mind. The body-mind is where we experience the turbulence of life as human beings with its ups and downs, sensual enticements, urges, impulses and influences from the animal nature of our body. In the first part of Stage 2 meditation, focused, connected breathing continues, but the transformative work focuses on the self-concept of the individual. The personal self with all its opinions, arrogance, likes and dislikes, prejudices, prideful conceit, insecurities, and selfishness is primarily what comprises the self-concept intoday’s world.
For the majority of people, the personal self is so confused, conflicted, and insecure that people find it necessary to wear a social mask in public so no one can see who they truly are or what they are really feeling or thinking. Ironically, this mask has so many faces that people become confused as to which of the faces is truly their own. There are so many changing faces, feelings, thoughts, impressions, fears, moods, and opinions about self, life, and others that they do not really know who they are. This whirling, changing, shifting perspective of life and self is comprised of the ego-persona and the body-mind; it is who most people think they are.
The work of Stage 2 meditation is to focus on one’s self-concept/self-image and unravel this confusion by clearly determining and eliminating all that isn’t
you. In the stillness and illumination of meditation these illusions of life can be brought forth, recognized, evaluated and eliminated by consciously and silently saying, “Be transformed or be gone.” Through this transformative work, one cleanses and purifies the self-concept/self-image as well as the psychic soul; this work is preparation for truly being born again within. When there is clarity and confidence in the self-concept, the next step is to focus on revealing the shadow – this paper explains the shadow.
The shadow self is the personal unconscious, that is, fragments of one’s personality which have been repressed. These unconscious fragments need to be brought into the light and known; this is the only way a person can achieve wholeness and peace within. This transformative work takes place in the waters of the lower psychic and can be summarized as purifying the emotionally-contaminated psychic waters with fire (focused attention), which transforms these waters into vapors (air) which will help us to rise to a new center of awareness – Self-realization in the Holy Self. In the diagram below, the center of the Holy Self is in the heart which is above the diaphragm and the Human Self is everything below the diaphragm. (See: Genesis 1:6-10 re: dividing the waters from the waters)
In the diagram below, notice that the Human Self is comprised of feeling and desire or in psychological terms, the anima and animus; these are the passive and active energies of the psychic nature. Feeling is the passive aspect of the psychic nature which is present above and below the diaphragm. When it is present below the diaphragm, it manifests as emotion, the dark-side of the feminine principle or anima which adheres to the nature of instinctual, bodily consciousness. The anima is the origin and substance of the body-mind, affecting it psychologically through negative emotions, moods, and resentments. This dark energy is part of the unconscious shadow which is below the diaphragm and felt in the solar plexus. When properly transformed, feelings above the diaphragm are pure, loving and receptive to intuition. Simply stated, feeling below the diaphragm is comprised of many varieties of emotion, and above the diaphragm is enlightened feeling.
Desire is the active aspect of the psychic nature which is present above and below the diaphragm. When it is present below the diaphragm, it is present as the dark-side of the masculine principle or animus which stimulates the lower desires, appetites and impulses of the body. Desire also stimulates feeling and often leads it astray; it is the cause of misdeeds, anger, insensitivity, and compulsive behaviors. As a result of these errant behaviors, desire is often the cause for transgressions which are hidden in the unconscious shadow. When properly transformed, desire above the diaphragm inspires and motivates us toward the divine nature. Men are primarily desire and secondarily feeling, whereas, women are primarily feeling and secondarily desire.
In the ego-persona, feeling is passive until stirred by desire; when aroused, feeling in turn, stimulates desire and the interaction between the two constantly creates waves which agitate the waters of the psychic. The ego, shadow, and the elemental energies of the body are the source of waves and mind-chatter which is the voice of the shadow; connected breathing can eliminate mind-chatter and meditation eliminates the waves. The shadow of the ego-persona keeps one’s attention constantly focused on the external disturbances, illusions of the world, inner turmoil, and unsatisfied desires which are felt in the solar plexus. The work on this level focuses on transforming these energies, allowing for your real, unblemished self to emerge. Meditation work below the diaphragm is about transforming the dual-perspective of ego-reality, the lower emotional, instinctual, psychic nature, the shadow, and the behaviors which result from this inferior experience of life; and the work above the diaphragm is about purification of the physical energies, and the union of feeling and desire.
The higher psychic nature above the diaphragm is considered as non-dual reality, so the work in the Sacred Heart center does not begin until duality and corruption has been transcended through the purification and transformation of the solar plexus energies. When one has severed attachments from worldly influences and internalized personal power, then one will experience non-dual reality (union) in the lower psychic and the Sacred Heart begins to awaken. That is, the work in the heart center begins to purify, synthesize and unite the energies of feeling and desire; turning duality into non-dual perception. This is an alchemical marriage in which the masculine/feminine, anima/animus become one or androgynous. Spiritual androgyny (genderless) is where humanity’s destiny lies. In the future, our bodies will conform to this new spiritual reality.
The second part of Stage 2 meditation requires that practioners be skilled in focused, connected breathing and be able to maintain a focused mind for a prolonged period of time. In order to begin part 2, it is necessary that the dark energies, psychological issues, and the dual-perspective of the lower psychic have been resolved and neutralized so nothing from that level disturbs this meditation. The final step in this meditation process is to be clear and selfless enough for the dual aspects of feeling and desire to immerse themselves into one another like a divine marriage; this union means being contained, complete, and serene in one’s consciousness as well as in the activities of life.
There is a point in this level of meditation when the reconciliation of the opposites (the union of feeling/desire, anima/animus, male/female) is fulfilled and one experiences an involuntary, spontaneous union of the psychic nature. The closest description of this experience is that it is a non-dual, knowing/feeling of the wholeness of Self (not a personal intellectual understanding, but a higher knowing which comes from above and within).This is the experience of wholeness, and Wholeness of Being is the goal of Stage 2 meditation. Wholeness of Being is Self-realization.
Stage 3 Meditation is not explained in this paper as anyone who completes Stage 2 will not need an explanation in order to proceed to the next level. In the next stage, the heart and head come together in a triune sacred union, that is, in the image and likeness of God, the Holy Trinity.