The first stage is that of self knowing. Human beings were not born with an owner's manual, but there are various maps available to provide insight and guidance into the self discovery process. This process entails becoming aware of much that one is not currently aware of which includes unconscious patterns of thought, behavior, and ways of relating to others. This exploratory work creates the foundation upon which a new way of being is possible. This work consists of self-observation and new learning material to become acquainted with the self.
For example, one may be identified with a certain problem that results in undesirable feelings. This problem is often perceived as something coming from outside of oneself and the cause of the discomfort. This creates inner conflict and this perspective keeps one locked in an undesirable state of being. Further investigation may show there is something inside oneself that insists on things being different in order for one to feel safe, secure, and satisfied with the current situation. By seeing this, one is growing in self-knowing.
The second stage takes the learnings from self-knowing and applies them in your daily activities in order to raise conscious awareness. This stage opens the way for knowing self moment to moment. It shines a light on one's unconscious values, unknown assumptions, and hidden conflicts that obstruct higher states of being. This work consists of exercising mindfulness and bodyfulness.
For example, one may see that every time one initiates a task or aim like exercising every morning, many obstacles appear that seem to obstruct it from happening or being executed the way one envisions. One may feel tired or unmotivated, and one can react to these obstacles by quitting, complaining, resenting outside forces, or being upset with oneself. In the end, remembering that you are unconsciously operating allows you the freedom to observe the old patterns. Through this process, one is growing in self-awareness.
Once one is firmly clear regarding the contents of one's current inner state of being and unconscious patterns, stage three is available. During the re-evaluation process, one begins to discern what is truly of value and new possibilities emerge. One is now ready to discern where to direct one's energy, time, and purpose. This work consists of exercises that activate the mind-body connection and provides an ongoing practice or lived embodied experience to validate new perceptions.
For example, if resistance is viewed as a wake-up call, one can then see any obstacle as part of the solution rather than the problem. Understanding that resistance is a necessary part of the process, one recognizes that perpetual complaining does not seem to alleviate the situation; nor does this perspective make the problem go away. Through this process, one experiences re-evaluation.
Stage four is something that happens to one as a result of the work in the first three stages. It is not something one can do directly, but rather is a by-product. As one reevaluates one's life from this point of clarity and greater consciousness from the work of self-knowing and self-remembering, integration takes place. One's life becomes inwardly aligned with a newly found connectedness between one's initiatives and perceptions of the many obstacles encountered. Consequently, inner resistance, struggle, and conflict dissipates. The result of this union transforms old patterns of behavior into new ways of being.
The Four Fold Path works on each of these 4 stages by utilizing learning, understanding, experimentation, and discovery so that one can see life through a different lens and integrate these changes in perception with a knowingness that exists at the core of one's being. This is what is meant by inner transformation.
As a metaphor, one can learn about a far and distant land by searching the internet for images and various accounts given by others who have made the journey themselves, or one can take the trip personally to experience it for oneself. The former gives some clues and hints of what it might be like to visit that far off land. The latter provides first-hand accounts of the sights, sounds, smells, and other sensory perceptions including many other unanticipated encounters and interactions with different customs and new traditions. This approach provides a first-hand account of the journey: one that is deeper, richer and more meaningful.