The first state of meditation which relates to the element of earth is that of concentration. The Indian yogis call this state Dharana; in the West we talk of contemplation. In this state we learn to make our focus rest on one point by holding it there with a firm unmovable focus. Our mind becomes as solid as a rock and as stable as a mountain. We are imperturbable and hold our subject in focus though its sustained concentration, whereby the attention continues to hold or repeat the same object.
To master this ability we need to overcome all major disturbances or traumas in our personality and develop a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
The second level of attainment relates to water. Known as Dhyana or Meditation to the yogis. In this state our mind is still focused on the object of meditation but as our skill develops we develop the ability to make our thoughts naturally flow towards the subject. Our mind is like a river flowing constantly towards the object or area of meditation naturally. By staying self-aware and not forgetting ourselves we maintain the stream in the direction we require. The subject of meditation is like a magnet pulling our thought towards it. We simply protect the flow from disturbances.
To master this art one must eliminate any conflicts or negativity in our being and direct our whole life towards good outcomes.
The fourth state of mastery is known Yoga as Samadhi or Union. In this state our mind, like air, becomes so close to the object of meditation that it takes on its form. In a state of deep absorption, wherein only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if the mind were devoid even of its own form. Just as we don't see air but only the light reflected from the object it surrounds. In this state we fully experience the object of meditation so much so that often there is a state of confusion between the object of meditation and the meditator himself. This state is often accompanied by a feeling of bliss with amazing insights.
To master this state, the practitioner needs to master his inner desires and to resolve any issues he has with the path of life, fate and death. He needs to be able to detach and let go of all worldly things at will and bring all aspects of his personality under his control.
In the Hermetic Tradition it is known as 'Becoming Aeon' the yogis call this Nirbija Samadhi. In this state our consciousness is like radiating heat; we are like the radiating sun. We become whatever we choose, just like the heat becomes at one with any object it touches. Heat is not separate to the object but is indeed part of the object it is within. In this state we no longer have any confusion between the self and subject - only the subject exists. We are no longer meditating, we are becoming the task or becoming the subject of meditation unhindered by any obstruction.
To master this stage of development, the practitioner must let go of all confusions and his perceived limitations. He must defeat vice and ignorance and embrace the true nature of himself.
There is a fifth state the description of which is far too complicated to cover there. Its a subtle state that few living masters have experienced.