Three Stages

To free the mind from all conditioning, you must see the totality of it without thought. This is not a conundrum; experiment with it and you will see. Do you ever see anything without thought? Have you ever listened, looked, without bringing in this whole process of reaction? You will say that it is impossible to see without thought; you will say no mind can be unconditioned. When you say that, you have already blocked yourself by thought, for the fact is you do not know. –Krishnamurti

The Sufis talk about the awakening journey as a journey in three stages: the journey from God, the journey to God, and the journey in God.

In the journey from God, you believe what you are is a bunch of beliefs. You are your accomplishments and your labels and your fears and your conditioning. You believe in changing your circumstances and in improving the image of you. You want a fat bank account and a thin body and approval and validation. You believe in struggle and effort. You believe this is what it means to be human.

The only outcome is uneasiness, and it manifests in different ways in different people, as anxiety, fear, unhappiness, depression, addictions and so on.
Cistine chapel roof
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dom H UK

Geneen Roth writes about this in “Women Food and God” and she says that the eating version of this is that you spend your life dieting, controlling, and exercising in and exhausting up-and-down cycle which ends in disappointment each time. And each time it works, and then doesn’t work, you go for more of the same.

In the spiritual version of this, you believe in an unforgiving and judgmental God. You may even have escaped the conceptual constraints of traditional religion, and then you believe in unforgiving and judgmental concepts. You search for spirituality and new-age stuff which fits into your version of fear and desire.

The lesson here is the insight that you are not your thoughts.

The next journey is the Journey to God. You have had the insight that you are not your thoughts and you take on practices.

In the food version, you stop all the crazy dieting. You understand that your over-eating or under-eating is not about discipline but rather about a deeper understanding of yourself. You understand that understanding is not figuring out, but looking at it in a whole, peaceful, allowing sort of way.

In the spiritual version, you create beliefs and beautiful concepts such as compassion and acceptance and forgiveness and karma and maya. You say the universe is benevolent. You believe, but you don’t know for sure. Your compassion does not include everyone, it does not reach out to perpetrators and requires validation and approval. You may have found yourself the ultimate spiritual guide, or the ultimate spiritual tradition. Your high monks and true spirituality trumps all the others.

The Journey in God, in all the versions, is the end of seeking. It is the end of lurching towards something different. Life is not a test. You don’t have to live by beliefs or morals or commandments or concepts of karma.

You are not a mistake. You are already whole. You only discover this when you allow, with love and patience.

34 thoughts on “Three Stages

  1. Eduard @ People Skills Decoded

    This God thing is a nice way of putting it. I like the conclusion the most: the point of realizing you are a whole, you are perfect, is one few people ever reach. So only few people enjoy their existence to its fullest.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Eduard,

      Yes, few people have reached it, but it seems more and more do. Perhaps this is the age of Awakening. I hope you are well!

      love and peace,

  2. Brenda (betaphi)

    This is beautiful, Kaushik. I’m always amazed at the many different ways you find to say basically the same thing, which is to quit grasping and just allow. I appreciate the reminders so much. I think someday I may get good at accepting and allowing. I’m already much better at it thanks to you. Thank you.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Thanks, Brenda. I got the idea of this article from Geneen Roth’s “Women Food and God” which is a fabulous book. Our relationship with food is a very basic thing, and the book very skillfully presents that microcosm as a portal to awakening. Even for those who are not interested in losing weight, it is an opening book.

      I hope you are doing well, my friend.

      love and peace,

  3. Janice R.

    Dear Mr. K.,
    Wow! What a great article. I have a feeling that I have bounced in and out of all these states. Of course, I have spent most of my life in Stage One and now I can see myself in Stage Two sometimes. But, what is totally cool is I know for a fact that I have experienced Stage Three even if it was only for a few minutes. It happened about a month ago during meditation.

    I am glad you explained this because I like things in a straight line. It helps me to understand more easily. I can live with the fact that I have no answers but I get completely frustrated when I don’t understand the question/situation.

    The layout of this information was helpful for me.
    Take care,

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Janice,
      Yes, me too, I continue to bounce around in all three stages, now more and more between the second and third. I spent 45 years in the first–most people live out their entire lives here.

      This is the kind of explanation that the mind likes. It can categorize and demarcate and sink its mental teeth into the whole thing. It gives some structure to our experience, and the mind likes that. And this explanation is simple–it does not get into complicated theories of God and heaven and karma and so on. It doesn’t conflict with any existing beliefs we may have. And this way of looking it pervades many traditions. The Buddhists for example talk about three mountains.

      It’s a satisfying explanation. But we must also be a little careful. Part of abiding in the last stage, and staying there, is giving up all mental constructs.

      In the meantime, though, I fully agree with you–this is a helpful way of looking at it.

      Continue releasing, my friend!

      love and peace,

  4. Evan

    Hi Kaushik, I love Geneen’s ideas too (although her style is a bit gushy for me).

    I think one aspect of the journey with God is ethics. That is: some of what is, is not desirable (child abuse, preventable diseases, appalling inequity and so on).

    This is a bit of a debate I know. ‘Whatever is, is good’ has the problem to my way of seeing things of ignoring truly awful parts of our world (it is more popular with the wealthy). It is also a judgement of its own, which leads to intellectual circles that I find confusing.

    Hope I’ve managed to put this clearly.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Evan,
      It’s the eternal question, if God is good why does he allow preventable suffering of the kinds that you mentioned?

      But that’s an anthropomorphic way of looking at God. I think our ideas about God are anthropomorphized beliefs of nature and awareness. In that sense, God does not know that we suffer. I think that’s what the Bible means when it says “God shall not be mocked.” That’s not a warning–it says literally that God is not capable of being ashamed of us. Awareness allows all experiences, including suffering, if that’s what we choose.

      The ego, being what it is, will turn these concepts into something else. The question of ethics and morality comes up, and the tendency is to go to rules and commandments and hard concepts of karma and so on. All we really have to do is trust our true nature. Eckhart Tolle puts it very clearly:

      Question: Most spiritual traditions have a strong emphasis on morality. What role does morality play in your teachings?

      Eckhart Tolle: The main aim of this teaching is to transcend the Ego, the Ego being a false sense of self, a false sense of identity. Morality is important in many traditional teachings because those teachings have not gone beyond Ego, so they still function within the framework of the Ego.

      If you live in a society that is inhabited by Egos, you need certain external rules of behavior and regulations so that there is not absolute chaos. What you need then is commandments, or laws that need to be in place so that the Ego does not create absolute chaos in the world. The emphasis of this teaching is to transcend the Ego so that a different state of consciousness arises, we call it “presence”.

      Once this state of consciousness operates, external rules and regulations are not really needed anymore, because a knowing of what is right and wrong arises from within you, and you are no longer able to inflict suffering on others because the illusion of absolute separateness between who you are and who another human being is, has disappeared. You are no longer trapped in that illusion, so you know that ultimately, whatever you are doing to another, you are doing to yourself. Most importantly, there is love as the recognition of the other as yourself – the recognition of oneness. Once that is the basis of your life, you don’t need rules or regulations anymore because that arises directly and spontaneously from within you.

      One could say that all you need to do is to be in that state of love, which is not conventional love, but the recognition of non-separation, recognition of the ultimate Oneness of all beings. Once that is there, then the right conduct flows naturally from within you. You don’t need to memorize the commandments anymore to tell you what’s right and wrong. The emphasis of this teaching is transcending the Ego, and once that’s done, morality arises from within. The emphasis of this teaching is not on morality because that comes as really the effect of the transformation. It is the effect of the inner transformation. The emphasis of this teaching is not on morality, but on something deeper, out of which true morality flows.

      Thanks, Evan, for a very insightful discussion.


  5. Evan

    Hi Kaushik,

    Re God: I think God is compassionate. I don’t have much time for a religion (or metaphysic) with no place for compassion. This means, even if god is not anthropomorphised, there is some relation between god and people.

    Your statement, “Awareness allows all experiences, including suffering, if that’s what we choose.” gives a place to choice. I agree entirely with this and think that it means there is meaningful difference (no difference, no choice).

    Re Eckhart: The usual contradiction: everything is good (except the ego). Sorry, it’s just contradictory. I don’t buy this position. Did Jesus and Buddha get beyond the ego? They certainly voiced strong ideas about right and wrong. The rest of what he has to say, on my reading (see below), I agree with.

    Eckhart seems to attack external rules, not ethics as such. I think most traditional faiths see the rules as being related to the essence of reality our being and so on. In Christianity, the religion I know best, St. Paul said, “love is the fulfillment of the law”. St Augustine summarised Christian ethics as: love god and do as you like (my paraphrase, he was writing in Latin I think).

    If you dislike a rule based ethics we are in complete agreement. I think we need to revive a virtue based ethic (ethics is about developing particular kinds of people).

    Oneness can be organismic rather than involving identicalness. I am one but my liver is not my heart. They are different but still part of one me. Likewise a relationship of love need not abolish differences but can be enriched by them (if we are willing to be hospitable and creative).

    Like Eckhart I think that ethics are part of life – they arise spontaneously, are not imposed from outside, but still a part of life. For me this means that life is a positive value and not a neutral force.

    I’m not trying to argue semantics I think this is important. I think it is important to think as clearly as possible (even this only means clearing away what can be seen to be false). I’m really wary of undermining compassion (this is why I take up this question): it sounds grandiose, but I think our survival depends on compassion – and given the situation of our planet, our survival is by no means guaranteed.

    Sorry, if this just reads like a wrong rant. I don’t mean it to be self-indulgent, but to engage with something I feel strongly about and that I believe to be of first importance.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Evan,

      Yes, it’s conventional these days to see the “ego” as a separate and a “bad” entity within us. I do that too. It is sometimes useful to talk that way, but it can be misleading in that it gives the idea that the ego is a dualistic, divided thing within us, when it is really a bunch of amorphous, changing ideas and beliefs.

      Bringing it down to love, as you have done is of central importance. Compassion and love are our true nature. The question is how do we connect with our true nature of compassion and love and easiness? How do we become what we a already are, not as beliefs and ideas and commandments and forced concepts–how do we remember again to be easy and natural compassion and love?

      I don’t think it is through thought and beliefs. That is circular and only confuses and traps us.

      It is through letting go of all the false we have built in ourselves. This is the choice we have, though most of us are very much embroiled in the thinking mind, and so we don’t realize it is a choice. We can reclaim our right to this choice through stillness and through letting go.

      Thanks, Evan, these are very helpful discussions.

      love and peace,

  6. Jeff Lapointe

    Very nicely put. Can you give me some of your experiences of standing at the door between stage two and stage three? Everything can bring us to this point – perhaps like sitting on the edge of duality and totality. Do you believe yourself to have made it to the third? Can you remember in your limiting belief system what you were thinking and feeling before entering through the door?

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Jeff,
      I hope I have not given the impression that these are clearly delineated stages. At least in my experience, there hasn’t been a time when I’ve said, ah, yes, this is where I am now. There are times when I find myself smiling, thinking how I might have reacted to a certain situation in the past. There is more clarity and more awareness and lightness, and there are also times when the there is stage-1 type of fear and anxiety. It goes back and forth–it gets easier and easier to remind myself now. Mostly with the practice of awareness and release, there is lightness, and glimpses of a natural feeling of ease and love, and sometimes backward experiences of fear and anxiety, but now there is also the confidence that this natural feeling of ease and love can be abiding.

      I hope that clarifies. Thanks for an excellent question.

      love and peace,

  7. Evan

    Hi Kaushik,

    Thanks for your reply.

    How is the central question I guess (at least for a pragmatist like me). It is certainly not through thinking and commanding.

    For me there are things like expressing our feelings fully, noticing what we are drawn to, and I also think experimenting (trying out things and seeing what fits). I’m very wordy (who’da thunk it?) so I use journalling to sort stuff through and come to stillness.

    I’m very glad you are putting out this kind of content and engaging in these sorts of discussions. Heartfelt thanks.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Evan,

      Yup, How is the question. It’s not through thinking and beliefs and intellectualizing. That’s what I did for 45 years, and then I discovered I don’t have to rely on thinking, with the help of Tolle’s Power of Now. And so I experimented with various techniques and found that “observing thought” to still the mind resonated very well. At a later time, to handle anxiety, I discovered that releasing works very well. And then that a gentle honesty with the self is important, and allowing and patience are also very important. Journaling has always been important–it somehow gives clarity to experience.

      Thanks for expanding this discussion in a very helpful manner.


  8. Bella

    Very interesting and I also liked the three stages… I think that is true. Thank you! 🙂

  9. HappinessandWisdom

    I like your comment about the end of seeking. I believe that ideally hopefully), some of us will reach a point where we truly, deeply, absolutely discover and believe, that what we were ‘seeking’ was there all along – our true selves — God. The seeking can stop and the being can begin!

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi HappinessandWisdom,

      Yes, indeed, “seeking can stop and being can begin!” Thanks for visiting and commenting. I hope you are well.


  10. Patty - Why Not Start Now?

    Hi Kaushik – I like to come here and just give myself over to your posts and the comments too. Interesting conversation between you and Evan. And the “How” question. There’s a book called, “The Answer to ‘How’ is ‘Yes.'” Not related to this topic, but somehow I think the title makes sense here. When you speak of allowing, there seems to be a necessary yes that goes with it. I also like how you weave in Geneen Roth’s work. I think she is very wise.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Patti,
      What I say is simple: use awareness and release techniques, develop self-honesty and allowing and patience, and this will help with inner-discovery. You are so right, there is a “yes” built into it. I try to say this from different angles, as different things resonate with different people at different times.

      Yes, Geneen Roth is great–I am very impressed at her skill in presenting awakening (awakened eating) in what seems to be both a simple and deeply spiritual manner.

      Thanks for the insight, Patty! I hope you are well!

      love and peace,

  11. Nitin

    Good day Kaushik,
    Very well said.
    “The lesson here is the insight that you are not your thoughts.”

    I am at stage where my thoughts & Insight of me is NOT clear, How do I recognize my Insight with my thought process ?
    People like you, sharing the insight of you through thought process. and we thanks for it. Our acts are from our thoughts, so how do the Insight communicate with the thought ?

    Being now, continue releasing with witness and be enjoyed.
    Is this right way?

    If we happened to meet/find the “GOD”/Enlightenment/Suspense of life, it will be the end of it. No mind will/can survive the truth of it. Not finding is keep us going. Thanks God.

    Enjoy your articles.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Nitin,

      Yes, you make an important point. In the very first few pages of The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says that the biggest obstacle to natural being is our identification with thought, which cause though to be compulsive. A few pages later someone says that he sort of understands this, but needs to know more. Tolle points out we don’t need to know more–once we’ve understood the basic dysfunction that we are in delusion because we are highly identified with our thoughts, there is not much more we need to know.

      But the mind will want to know more. It will want to make sense of what it cannot understand.

      Yes, we simply continue with “Being now, continue releasing…”

      Thanks for the important insight.


  12. Sibyl-alternaview

    Kaushik: What an amazing post and an amazing description of the 3 stages. Thanks for sharing your learnings and insights. I really appreciated all of them. It really is a journey isn’t it? Thanks for the guidance and the direction.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Sybil,

      Thank you for the kind words and the appreciation. Thanks for visiting. I hope you’re doing really well!

      love and peace,

  13. Sarah

    Hi K,
    I like this line “You search for spirituality and new-age stuff which fits into your version of fear and desire.” Fear and desire are such persistent themes of experience. Getting out of the cause-and-effect/timeline frame of mind when approaching fear/desire in one’s self is both challenging and rewarding. Cause-and-effect and dedication to a linear concept of time (control) makes so much noise in the mind, like an addiction. I can’t say I am anything different, but at least I am getting better at spotting the addiction.

    I wish you well,

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Sarah,
      You’re right, we see the world as we are, through fear and desire. I like your description of control as the desire to effect linear cause-and-effect. That makes sense.

      Gentle honesty comes into play here. It’s what can help us see our delusions about time and fear and desire. I’ve noticed in your writings there is stark honesty–that’s wonderful. Honesty is something that I had to work on.

      I hope you’re doing well.


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  17. Liara Covert

    To move beyond thought is also to move beyond words, into realms of cosmic energy and alternative communication. Telepathy is but one of infintite options through consciousness.

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