Week 32 - Factors of Awakening: Energy

Progressing from Mindfulness and Investigation, the third Factor of Awakening is Energy. Joseph explains that Energy, or Viriya, at its most basic, is the power to do something. Energy keeps us on the trajectory to awakening. However there can be an unskillful application of Energy or effort and Joseph cautions against a sense of expectation or gain.  He recommends the qualities of interest, willingness and the courage to explore in order to work with the different aspects of Viriya. He discusses spiritual energy and reflecting on samsara as causes for energy to arise.

Discussion Questions

1.     When do you commonly use energy to create joyful interest (where it had a wise and wholesome quality)? When do you use your actions or energy to create discouragement and frustration (unwholesome quality)? How does this relate back to your practice?

2.     Viriya can be translated in many ways. Three examples were highlighted:     

capacity and power for action       

strength to shore up things, and 

courage and determination to meet life’s challenges 

Does a particular facet of this definition speak to you more than others, and why?

3. What lesson is Joseph presenting when describing a soldier’s marathon run with a 35lb pack? When in your life have you run your own version of that marathon?

4. Effort is an expenditure of energy to accomplish some goal. How can a forcing of the mind, full of expectations, be shifted to a mind full of openness and receptivity?

5. Joseph stresses that spiritual urgency causes the type of viriya that is a factor of awakening, which can be quite different from cultivating the type of energy needed to accomplish our life goals. How does this relate to the idea that we are living on a treasure island, with every happiness available to us?

{In-class exercise: Sometimes we need to rest to expend more energy, but sometimes effort can create energy. Joseph recommends we gather our courage to extend our limits. It’s a way to flex our muscles and create an energy reserve. There are probably millions of ways you can do this—fostering life concept in TCM…Let’s sit for a minute, but incorporate movement of our hands in order to feel the potential energy within our bodies.} 


1. Are there ways you can foster your own viriya more effectively? If so, make some specific plans this week for how to do that. 

2. Several times during the day, ask yourself: “Is the mind too tight? Is it too loose?”  In other words, “Am I efforting or is the mind drifting off?”

3. Imagine those two years when Joseph painfully sat hoping to return to his “body of light”. Are you currently efforting this way in some area of your life? Are you “dragging around the corpse of previous experience”?