1). At the beginning, arising thoughts are liberated upon being recognized, like meeting an old friend; When
you simply show up for meditation you have already committed yourself to actively taking part in your own
journey. This is a powerful step and leads to the recognition of how we have been creating ourselves and our
reality. The thoughts arise and are recognized or labeled and one returns to the beginning/present moment, over
and over again.  One is actively involved in this process of awakening. The next step is usually to start to
recognize the patterns of when and where we cling to a thought, or to a feeling, and demanding of ourselves to
delve more deeply into what we believe as our truth of who we are. Our thoughts eventually become like old
friends. We offer ourselves fully to our friend, while still being aware that we are separate.
2).  In the middle, thoughts are liberated by themselves, like a snake uncoiling its own knots;  After
strengthening our practice we begin to bear witness to our thoughts, without clinging. Soon they seem to have a
life of their own and come and go as they please. This process becomes easier with practice, until we get to a
place where we find ourselves stuck; where we again cling/grasp.  We know what we need to do and become
more able to remain unattached, lessening the need to hold or grasp.  Soon we actually begin to.  Just Sit!  One
feels awake to the present and desires fall away (or at least we don't invest in them).
3). At the end, arising thoughts are liberated without being of either benefit or harm, like a thief breaking into
an empty house.  When we have sat for many years, we can look back and realize that these thoughts were
always free; just encapsulated bits of energy and nothing more.  We learn that we were the ones who have
crystallized this energy into ideas or objects.  Arising thoughts are just that-- arising thoughts; and inherently
carry no motivation to help or harm.  A thief breaking into an empty house is a great metaphor for practice.  We
began our practice by thinking that what we desire or find repulsive is outside of us.  The Buddha dharma
teaches that each one of us is already enlightened, perfect and complete, lacking nothing. But the problem is
that we don't truly believe this.  At some point in our practice we realize that if this teaching is indeed true, then it
must be ME who is invested in working hard to not be enlightened, not be realized.  It's time to check our
houses/ourselves to see if we have cluttered them up. The effort now made in meditation is to keep one's feet in
the fire.  To face all of it; the basement first! This is also the time when a teacher is most necessary. We start to
see and understand more clearly, but we are blind to that which we hold closest and dearest to our hearts.  
Because we are so clever in holding on to our delusions and deceiving ourselves, we do the dance of ignorance
most beautifully.  We become convinced that it is someone or something else that stops us from realizing
ourselves.  We claim that the missing piece is outside of us; or right around the corner.  We grasp onto whatever
carrot we have created, and place it in front of our face, allowing it to pull us from adventure to adventure, from
teacher to teacher. Lying to ourselves we say, "If I could just....then I would feel this Perfection and
Completeness that you are talking about."  We say that we want peace, enlightenment, realization, but as we
become aware of our thoughts we begin see how we resist the realization of our own perfection.  We seem to
need to convince ourselves that we are lacking something and then proceed to work hard to get it.   As we
continue in practice it becomes harder and harder to hold to our delusions.  We soon begin to see how we are
placing these barriers, and then struggling to remove these same barriers.  It's too simple to sit in our
transparency/our naturally enlightened state of being. When we really begin to acknowledge this, then the house
empties on its own and the thief realizes that the house has always been empty, but one still remains a thief.  
Remaining a thief is a very important teaching.  It's like the prodigal son returning to where he started, but now
he claims his completeness by embodying the Buddha's teaching which is now no other than his own.