Today I'd like to share this snippet of an interview from the Shambhala Sun archives.
Donna Rockwell: How does the experience of meditation progress?
Joseph Goldstein: I think you could describe it in different phases. The first phase is just seeing that there is a technique—even one as simple as coming back to the breath—and practicing doing that. That's the hard work of meditation, coming back again and again and again.
The second phase is when the mind develops some concentration and there is stillness and steadiness and ease. It all flows by itself; there's not that same effort. That's a wonderful opening, because the meditation gets to be very enjoyable and is not a chore anymore. The mind/body feels very light and fluid and the thoughts are no longer predominant. They still come and go, but they don’t have the same power to drag you away.
The third phase is building on that concentration and using it, developing insight into the actual workings of the mind. So it’s not just abiding in the calm, but seeing and observing. You see the unsatisfying nature of arising phenomena, because they just all pass away, very momentarily. And you begin to see what in Buddhism is called the emptiness of self. Those are insights you begin to see with greater and greater clarity.
The entire article is worth the read. You can find it here.