Aimed at as something terminal or ultimate or absolute, quiescence is, from the standpoint of life, a form of death, a stillness and inertia, an impassivity. Life is infinite sensitivity to all things, the quicksilver sympatheticism of everything that belongs in the natural cosmos. The mind and will do close out or exclude extraneous distractions as a means to their powers of self-concentration ("Thinking is a momentary dismissal of irrelevancies," Buckminster Fuller). But Buddhism makes this quiescence not a means but an end in itself, incompatible as it may be with the very life of spirit and of will. Taken as a mere exercise or tonic, it has an utterly different value of course.
The way of the Buddha involves a metaphysical stoicism, a way of overcoming the power that worldliness has over oneself: the world rules us through our suffering no less than through our desires and appetites and hopes; all of this is Maya, the universe of delusorily desirable and despicable goods. The primal insight of Buddha is not that the suffering of the world must first be mitigated but rather that we must learn to recognize that our DESIRES are no less a form of SUFFERING than are our AILMENTS. This is what qualifies Buddhism as an authentic form of spirituality, its transcendence over the finite and merely psychological domain.
Gradual awakening means that change and healing happen gradually as a result of the accumulation of causes. This is more the common way that healing is understood to occur. As a result of doing this and that a person gradually gets better.
Source: The Psychology of Zen Buddhism (dissertation)