Meditation is a natural skill that anyone can learn to develop. And while there’s plenty of information out there about why we should meditate, there’s not nearly as much about how we should, especially when it comes to improving our practice in the long term. Which aside from getting started, is what we really want, isn’t it?
It’s totally normal to want to get better at something that you’re dedicating time and energy to. In fact, I think the lack of structure within most meditative practices is what causes so many people to burn out or struggle with developing consistency in their practice. Progressing through a structured model not only helps us to see how far we’ve come, but it helps build excitement and enthusiasm that motivates us to continue.
But in order to see how we can improve our meditation, we need to have a map that provides us a progressive model that shows us how to advance. Something that we can refer back to in order to see where we’re at, where we’ve come from, and where we’d like to go.
Enter, The Meditative Path. Through our own research, experience, and understanding we’ve structured how to learn meditation into 4 progressive phases. Identifying where you’re at will give you clear areas to focus on within your practice so you can continue to develop your practice and experience some of the wonderful and uplifting states meditation has to offer.
This is such a useful model to work with, that I’ve structured my coaching process around it. If you find yourself stuck or need some help working with your practice, you can get in touch with me through my coaching page and book a free consultation!
But before we dive in, a couple of important points:
- The Meditative Path refers to the journey as a whole…the bigger picture
- It’s really a continuum of development instead of 4 isolated categories (so if you find yourself identifying somewhere in-between stages, that’s completely normal!)
- You can move as far along the path as you’d like given your personal goals, but the assumption is that you’d like to experience the wonders of advanced practice
With that said, let’s jump in and check it out!
An advanced practitioner begins to see meditation not just as a skill (The Novice & The Beginner), or an art (The Intermediate), but as a life practice that deeply affects all areas of their life.
The Meditative Path
The Novice meditator is pretty easy to identify, because for the most part, they’re just starting out with meditation. It’s the very beginning of The Meditative Path.
If this is you, chances are you won’t have meditated that much, if at all. It’s possible you’ve dabbled with it before, but have fallen off the horse a few times too. Either way, it’ll feel like you’re starting fresh again!
But there might also be some fear, uncertainty, or doubt around it as well, particularly around techniques and how meditation can fit into your busy life. This is completely normal and to be expected!
There will be plenty of misconceptions and lack of knowledge and experience, because you’re new to this. But that’s great, because you have a clean slate to work from! With clear instruction and focused goals, you’ll be able to advance very quickly!
It’s possible some novices will have dabbled with meditation before, know a thing or two from past experiences or research, or even practice meditation already (though very inconsistently). But no matter what your background is, there’s a sense of just starting out and getting familiar with meditation that unites all novices in this phase of practice.
How To Progress: Establishing a Foundation
As a Novice meditator, establishing a good foundation for practice and focusing on the bare minimum to get you started is most important. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with information and techniques, which can make it more difficult to get meditating and lead to bad habits down the line.
All you need right now is a good technique, some basic information and clarity, and to get started. Everything else will develop in time as you gain momentum in your practice.
When it comes to experience, it’s about finding out what works for you and learning how to troubleshoot your practice. Right now, how you practice doesn’t matter nearly as much as you practicing and starting to build the habit. The less constraints you can put on yourself, the better.
In fact, this is a stage of experimentation! Things like: “when should I practice?” or “should I be sitting up or lying down?” or “is it ok to have some coffee first?” are all examples of little nuances to experiment with in your practice. You’ll learn more about what does and doesn’t work for you, why that is, and how to build your practice around these things.
When it comes to meditation technique, it’s about finding at least one suitable method that works for you and your goals. Not all methods are created equal, but there’s always plenty of options no matter your interests. Finding a core practice that you can consistently return to and work with is important to progress along The Meditative Path.
Ultimately, this can be a really fun and exciting stage! With clear guidance, you’ll begin to see progress as you nurture the practice and develop the habit through positive reinforcement, as well as approach meditation with a healthy level of curiosity and experimentation.
Phase 1 Practice Goals:
- Find a core meditation style that’s a good match to you
- Learn the ideal mindset and effort for meditation
- Experiment with some logistics: posture, time of day, caffeine, etc.
- Overcome some common pitfalls related to your core practice and meditation as a whole
- Learn how to track your meditation and progress further
The Beginner meditator is still fairly new to meditation, but unlike The Novice, they’ve begun meditating. If this is you, your practice might not always be clear, structured, or consistent, but you ARE meditating!
If you’ve meditated before, this part of The Meditative Path is where you’ll most likely identify, even if there’s some aspects of The Novice you’d still benefit from going over.
Your practice might not always be clear, structured, or consistent, but you ARE meditating! Maybe you have a preferred meditation technique. Maybe you dabble with a few different things. But regardless, you are meditating! It’s no longer just a desire.
There’s still an excitement and desire to meditate, but developing your consistency and building that habit can be hard. Life tends to get in the way and makes practicing difficult. You mean to meditate, it just doesn’t happen as much as you want it to yet.
When you practice, you might not always be sure if you’re doing things right, and you’ll struggle with distractions like sounds, thoughts, body discomfort and/or fidgeting. Without knowing how to work with these, practicing can feel frustrating at times! You may even find yourself trying to control your environment for better results. Things like headphones, music, practicing when you’re the only one home, etc. are all common responses.
If you haven’t found a suitable meditation technique yet, you’re likely doing a lot of guided meditations offered on other apps and YouTube. You’re learning a lot from the practice you’re doing, and relying on a structured practice makes meditation easier and more consistent for you! But it’s important at this stage to find a core meditation practice that’s a good match to you!
Ultimately, the defining factor of The Beginner is that you’ve taken your first steps as a meditator, so your practice has gone from just a desire to meditate to actually meditating. Now comes the time to build upon that foundation and add more depth to your practice!
How To Progress: Refining Your Technique
As a Beginner meditator, the most important thing to focus on is refining your technique and working with common distractions. This will build off the momentum and experience you’ve been cultivating in Phase 1.
There’s a few major practice goals that will allow you to progress along The Meditative Path. But as you’ll see, almost all of them have to do with helping The Beginner cultivate more consistency and confidence with their practice.
Any meditators who have been practicing with guided meditations should first go through The Novice phase to find a suitable core practice and establish a proper foundation before moving forward.
It’s also important to work on your technique and make sure you’re confident and know how to practice correctly. There’s a balance between “trying too hard” and “relaxing” that needs to be found, that will help you feel confident that you’re doing things correctly.
You’ll also need to learn how to work with distractions, thoughts, body discomfort and/or fidgeting. All of these are common challenges at this stage as you begin to practice more. Learning how to work with them, without controlling your environment, will give you the tools needed to keep progressing.
From there, it’s all about improving your consistency of practice so you can benefit from the positive momentum. Not only does this make progressing easier, but you learn to apply everything you learned to a wide variety of circumstances. As you do so, you’ll gain more confidence and actually want to meditate more frequently and longer, as you’ll start seeing it benefit your life in positive ways!
Phase 2 Practice Goals:
- Learn how to establish proper mindfulness
- Learn how to balance the 3 E’s in your practice: effort, engagement, & energy
- Discover how to work with common distractions like thoughts, sounds, and physical sensations to calm your mind
- Discover how to overcome dullness within your practice to achieve more mental clarity and alertness
- Begin evaluating your practice after to more effectively adapt and grow through this phase
- Start bringing in an element of self discovery by exploring signs of personal resistance around your practice (like procrastination, uncertainty, too much pressure, etc.)
The Intermediate meditator is much easier to distinguish because there’s a confidence and consistency that has been developed in their practice. There may even be some exciting meditative phenomena beginning to happen!
If this is you, your practice is definitely more established than it used to be. You’ll identify as an intermediate meditator when you have a clear practice in place, and for the most part, you know what you’re doing.
You make time to meditate, and do so fairly consistently. Meditation isn’t an afterthought–you’re not just meditating for 10-15 minutes. You’re going through your process, working with distractions, letting your mind settle properly, and putting in some real effort.
Sometimes meditation might feel wonderful, easy, and like it just clicked into place effortlessly, but other times you might find yourself having to “knuckle down” more. This can pose some unique challenges with the quality of your meditation.
Of course, the majority of times will be somewhere in between. But you get the idea of the range of experiences that can happen in this phase.
On the “good days” exciting meditative phenomena are likely to show up as a result of skillful practice! This will vary from person to person, but there’s some consistent ones worth noting:
- Your thoughts and mental distractions will become faint, light, or wispy in the background and won’t be as enticing or forceful as they usually are
- Sudden “jolts” of mental clarity like “snapping to” an alert and clear, yet calm and peaceful mental state
- You may start to see balls or clouds of colored light behind your eyelids
- There may be a sense of brightness that shows up as if the sun came out from behind the clouds, or someone turned up some lights on a dimmer switch
- There may also be various types of energy sensations felt in the body like buzzing, tingling, twitching, movement of some kind, etc.
- You may have a pleasant feeling of being bright, open, and expanded yet calm, clear, and steady
You’re also going to start tapping into very uplifting mind states that will bring inner happiness, contentment, creativity, and clearer access to your intuition. It’s at this phase that people really start to feel like their practice is taking off!
If you haven’t felt any of these yet, it doesn’t mean you’re not an intermediate. But it’s not uncommon to show up as you near this stage of practice, so it’s worth noting.
As a whole, The Intermediate has come a long way from where they began. They have a clearly established practice. But they have a whole range of experiences within their practice that makes it hard to know how to continue.
How To Progress: Overcoming Limiting Mindsets & Achieving a Key Meditative State
As an Intermediate meditator, you’ve already put in considerable time developing consistency and technique in your practice, so the best way to help you progress is by focusing on the QUALITY of your practice by: overcoming limiting mindsets and achieving a key meditative state.
These limiting mindsets are mental traps that all meditators will face, but how they manifest for you will be unique. But no matter how they manifest, you can trace them back to the same 5 mindsets time and time again. Learning to recognize and navigate these mind states are the first area of focus during this phase.
In this phase, the limiting mindsets you’ll learn to overcome, directly block your ability to achieve a key meditative state. It’s known by a few names, some you might have seen before like: access concentration, light trance, beta/alpha brainwaves, Monroe’s Focus 3, the hemi-sync state, etc. I like to call it the “key state,” for simplicity’s sake.
Now that you’ve established a proper foundation and refined your technique, you get to start learning the more internal aspects of meditation. It’s during this stage that you’ll really start to see the artistry behind meditation. It’s not just a process-based skill, but a unique path that unfolds each and every time.
With that said, there is still an objective aspect to improving the quality of meditation. Remember all those meditative phenomena that might happen? If not, go back and read the end of “The Intermediate” real quick.
Despite what the internet will tell you, all of those meditative phenomena aren’t related to kundalini, energy (qi/chi/prana), astral projection, trance, etc. Sure, they show up around those practices when you do them well, but they are a direct result of skillful practice.
The meditative phenomena are clear indicators you’ve achieved this key state via meditation. You can think of this as a natural altered state of consciousness as a result of meditation, or a meditative state for short.
No matter its name, you can think of this meditative state as a key that unlocks a much higher potential for connecting with higher consciousness and utilizing your intuitive abilities. It has a mental aspect of happiness, peace, and contentment that’s ripe with creative potential and enhanced problem solving abilities.
Phase 3 Practice Goals:
- Learning how to identify and overcome the 5 limiting mindsets
- Learning how to balance this more introspective phase of practice with the more technical phases from before
- Accessing a key meditative state known in many different spiritual practices that helps you connect with higher consciousness and utilize your intuitive abilities
The Advanced meditator is identifiable by the fact that they’re now using the technique and self-awareness they’ve developed to connect with higher consciousness and utilize their intuitive abilities more effectively.
In this sense, an advanced practitioner begins to see meditation not just as a skill (The Novice & The Beginner), or an art (The Intermediate), but as a life practice that deeply affects all areas of their life.
While you’ll have seen many benefits in your life from meditation as early as The Novice stage, it only gets more transformative as you go on.
This can look very different depending on the practitioner. But if this is you, you’ve now progressively built a foundation of knowledge and experience, developed a consistency of practice, and have refined the quality of your meditation.
And as a result, you’re regularly achieving the key state consistently and letting it become the focus of your meditation before exploring various areas of practice.
There’s an exciting, uplifting, and open, yet calm, clear, and expanded state of mind you regularly achieve as a result, that might linger when you finish practicing.
But this state of mind is only the beginning of what’s to come! And that will be the focus of “progression” within The Advance stage.
It’s not so much about progressing any more, but connecting with higher consciousness and utilize your intuitive abilities more effectively, and accessing uplifting mental states that clearly and unmistakably give you access to happiness, contentment, and peace.
How To Progress: Connecting With Higher Consciousness
As an Advanced meditator, it’s not so much about progressing any more, but using what you’ve learned to further explore other areas of practice that connect you with higher consciousness and your intuitive abilities, while further developing mental qualities of joy, peace, and creativity.
When an advanced practitioner has learned to maintain that key state, it’s a great launch pad for further exploration. This can take many forms, from contemplating areas of your life to have transformative insights, connecting to your intuitive and creative sides, or to out-of-body exploration.
We categorize these areas of further practice all under the umbrella of “higher consciousness” because they let us connect to higher parts of ourself, our world, spirit, and a greater reality.
In Phase 4, there’s no clear way forward. There are many doors for you to walk through depending on your interest, all of which will be benefited from the key state (Phase 3).
Like I said, The Advance stage is a very exciting phase of practice and there’s lots of avenues you can explore. But one thing’s for sure, meditation will have become a life practice for you at this point, and the possibilities are truly endless!
*Potential Phase 4 Practice Goals:
- Learning more progressively refined mental states that give you a true sense of inner-happiness, contentment, and peace
- Learning how to access the immaterial through out of body experiences (OBEs) and astral travel
- Learning how to connect to the immaterial through trance speaking/channeling
- Learning how to use the key state for self discovery, creativity, and problem solving
- Learning how to use the key state for increased intuitive abilities like psychic development and mediumship
*This is not a comprehensive list