What are the 7 Factors of Awakening?

Take a deep breath.

The title may sound ambitious, but these factors are merely the developed forms of practices that we do in our everyday lives.

The Seven Factors of Awakening is an ancient list of seven qualities that blossom within us as we become more aligned, aware, and balanced. These factors are mutually supportive, and can be seen as a progression moving from one to the next (or as the spokes of a wheel, with each spoke supporting the others). This list can help us find balance between various areas of our lives.

So what are the factors?

The first factor is mindfulness (sati): a clear awareness of things just as they are.

  • Being mindful means simply noticing - rather than judging, evaluating, and drawing conclusions. While we may think mindfulness takes place in the whirling thoughts inside of our heads, it is actually anchored in the body. It is often called bodyfulness or heartfulness by modern practitioners.

The second factor is investigation (dhamma vicaya): a further refinement or sharpening of mindfulness.

  • The quality of investigation is coming to life when we see cold as cold, warmth as warmth, pain as pain, and pleasure as pleasure, without applying our preferences, desires, or aversions.

The third factor is energy or effort (viriya).

  • This one is all about showing up and giving the things that are good for us a wholehearted try. Just to be clear, this one is all about calm and collected determination, not burning the candle at both ends.

The fourth factor is joy (piti).

  • This is the deep, wholesome, unmoving kind of joy that it independent of things going exactly the way we think they should go.

The fifth factor is tranquility (passaddhi).

  • This is when the endless mental chatter becomes less distracting and you can sail into a state of deep, open awareness of everything. You’re sitting right in the middle of your “stuff” but it doesn’t bother you at all.

The sixth factor is concentration (samadhi).

  • We don’t love the translation “concentration” for this one because it feels like a forced, tight focus. Samadhi is more about gathering the different threads of the mind so that the mind becomes unified, singular, steady and bright.

The seventh and final factor is equanimity (upekkha): having a soaring, bird’s eye view of the situation.

  • This grander perspective often makes problems that seem insurmountable feel smaller than they did before.

You got this.

If you’re looking for some practice, try to write one sentence about each factor for every day of the week, then repeat the process each week and compare your answers over time. Take it step by step and before you know it you’ll have your own alignment routine!