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The Four Stages of Waking Up

Melli O'Brien



Melli O'Brien



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The Four Stages of Waking Up

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Hi, and welcome to your Daily Mindfulness.

Today, I'm going to talk about the

four stages of competence that we go

through when learning mindfulness as

spoken about in Rick hanson's really

awesome book, the Buddha's Brain.

So stage one is called

unconscious incompetence.

So to begin with, in meditation practice,

we're so caught up in our patterns

of thought and behavior that we don't

even know we're caught up in them.

We're completely identified with the mind.

In this stage, we tend to repeat

the same unhelpful thought

patterns again and again in loop.

So how this shows up in meditation

is that we might find ourselves just

constantly being caught up in thoughts,

struggling with emotions, or just really

unable to stay present with the breath.

We may keep getting caught up in

worries, negative thinking, strong

emotions, restlessness, for example.

Or we might just totally

phase out during meditation.

So after some time in practice,

we move into stage two, which is

called conscious incompetence.

So as we practice mindfulness, we start

to become more aware about thoughts

and emotions and our behavioral

patterns and how they're affecting us.

This is often the trickiest phase of the

four stages, because it can be really

uncomfortable to be more aware of the

unhelpful patterns we have and the

suffering they cause, but not yet quite

have developed enough mindfulness to be

able to set ourselves free from them.

This stage is where many

people want to quit.

Before we move on, two things that

really help during this phase.

One is understanding that it's not

personal what your mind is doing.

What your crazy mind is doing,

all of our crazy minds do.

It's just part of the shared human

condition that our minds get caught

up in all this kind of stuff.

The other thing is

learning self-compassion.

So instead of beating yourself up for

not being able to master everything right

away, seeing if you can have the attitude

towards yourself that you would have

towards a child learning to ride a bike.

And give yourself gentle encouragement

to simply try again, knowing that it's

normal to fall a few times before you fly.


So stage three is conscious competence.

As mindfulness starts to become

familiar and we kind of get the

hang of it, difficult thoughts and

feelings still arise, but we're

no longer so identified with them.

So because we're less caught up and

reactive to them because we've learned

to be the observer of our thoughts, to

allow them to rise and pass away without

always disturbing our inner state, we

feel a lot more calm and grounded within.

Of course, we still get caught out

sometimes, but a lot of the time we don't.

And so we're more able to

respond to life with awareness

instead of reacting out of habit.

And stage four, unconscious competence.

At some point along the way, after a

long time of consistently practicing

mindfulness, it just kind of

becomes second nature to be present,

non-reactive and non-judgemental.

To some degree, the practice becomes

effortless or without too much effort, in

the same way that driving a car becomes

effortless after a lot of practice.

You just don't really have

to think about it anymore.

So like anything in life, you can have

faith that the more effort you put

in, the more benefits you'll gain.

And although some stages on the path

will feel a little bit difficult, you

can be confident that with continued

practice, you'll be a more calm,

compassionate, and happy person.

So as always, thank you for your

practice and your presence here with us.

And let's now settle in

for today's meditation.

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