Energy (Viriya) is one of the qualities of the Seven Factors of Awakening. It supports us on our spiritual paths to continue to practice, to continue to strive to be mindful and aware.
It is easy to forget to be mindful. We numb out, procrastinate or get lost in this busy world of ours. It takes courage and energy to ‘wake up’ and be truly present with what is happening in our minds and how we are relating to the world around us.
There are times in my own practice when I loose focus or interest in being mindful. Why? I often ask myself. Because it takes energy, strength and determination!
One of the things that has inspired me again and again is a journey my son Andy took a couple of years after he was diagnosed with cancer. Discouraged with his treatment and tired of being identified as ‘being sick’ he decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.
When he decided to undertake this journey he was racked with pain. Despite this he found deep with himself an inner courage, a determination, to follow a knowing that this was the next step for him – to leave behind a medical model that was not supporting him and to follow a dream. His dream was to be out in the world, to make new friends, to be with Mother Nature and to live as if he was healthy and well. Many people close to Andy did not understand this inner yearning and challenged his decision to go against normal protocol for cancer treatment in our current times. But he wasn’t swayed by their doubts, he trusted himself and that propelled him to preserve what was calling – a long walk through the woods, a pilgrimage.
Andy opened himself to the third factor of awakening – this quality called Viriya (in Pali) translated as energy. This is the tireless energy that it takes to accomplish something despite all obstacles.
Reflecting back on this time in our lives, I realize that it took a tremendous amount of courage and self-resiliency for Andy to follow his heart. He could have easily succumbed to his diagnosis and wallowed in his difficult prognosis, but instead he chose what Joseph Goldstein states so eloquently in his book, Mindfulness:
“Courage is energized by challenges; it is inspired by difficult tasks and even seeks them out. When courage is present, we rise to meet different challenges for the sake of what we want to accomplish, and we’re not discouraged by thoughts of hardship or by length of undertaking.”
When I find myself questioning my commitment to my meditation practice and wondering why I practice I think of Andy and his strength. I reconnect with my motivation to wake up and lessen the ties that bind me. I recognize that by waking up and seeing the true nature of reality that I can find joy and happiness. Then I have faith that I may help others find inner peace and joy. Helping others motivates me and brings me energy to share and continue to practice!