When we talk about stages on the path, in relationship to our meditation practice, we have a problem with the terminology. We tend to think of a staircase: We take the first step, and then we take the next step and the step after that. We think meditation practice is like being in an elevator. As things become defined or clarified on the path, we go up in the elevator, and the numbers of each floor appear as we rise from one stage to the next.
The problem is that meditation is not like progressing through stage after stage after stage. Rather, meditation is more like the process of growing up and aging. Although you may celebrate your birthday on a particular day, that doesn’t mean that, when you blow your candle out at your party, you suddenly go from being two years old to being three. In growing up, there is a process of evolution, a process of development. That is precisely the issue as far as meditation practice is concerned. Meditation is not based on stages, but it is a process that takes place in you. Such a process takes place in accordance with your life situation