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Four Stages of Mindfulness

So there’s the idea of four stages of competence, right? Unconscious incompetence (you’re bad at something and don’t even know it), conscious incompetence (you’re bad at it, but you know that), conscious competence (you’re good and you know it), and unconscious competence (you’re so good you don’t even have to think about it anymore).

The other day, while meditating, I realized a form of this applies to mindfulness:

Unconscious lack of focus — I am distracted from what I’m supposed to pay attention to — usually my breath — and I haven’t even realized that fact.

Conscious lack of focus — I am distracted from what I’m supposed to pay attention to, but I have noticed that fact. (Which means I am succeeding at the basics of mindfulness, yay!)

Conscious focus — I am paying attention to the correct target, but dammit, my awareness of the fact that I am focused keeps on breaking that focus. (I am again succeeding, but I’m annoyed at my own observer effect.)

Unconscious focus — I am paying attention to the correct target and don’t even realize that fact. (I am succeeding, buuuuut I’m lucky if this stage lasts for two seconds at a stretch.)

. . . and if you’re thinking, “But if you realized this while meditating, that probably means you were somewhere in the ‘lack of focus’ half of that list,” you are quite correct. 😛