Tapas: Spiritual Effort and Self-Discipline


Last week we explored drishti, focus, and where we wish to keep our focus towards within the scope of our life.  We were reminded by Ralph Marston to “choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting, and joyful.”  Read the blog HERE.

As we attempt to hold our focus towards the magnificent, we will experience a lot on the journey of life.  Some things are going to test us, push us, change us, move us, and all of it will mold us, just as much as we are a sculpture.  So, when we are feeling challenged, stuck, angered, sad, scared, hopeless, or uncertain, can we trust the process of life?  Can we trust that we ARE going to come out of dark times on the other side, changed for the better?  Can we hang on?  Can we support ourselves to have the staying power to see it/make it thru?

There is an observance, a niyama, in yoga that is known as tapas.  Tapas, as translated from Sanskrit, is ‘heat’.  It also is translated as self-discipline, Spiritual effort, austerities, change, and transformation.  Deborah Adele, in her book ‘The Yamas & Niyamas’, asks the questions, “Can you show courage and stay in the fire until you find the blessing?”  “Can we stay in the burning with integrity?”  “Can we hold on for the blessing?”  “Can we prepare ourselves daily through our practice, our staying power, and our choices?”

I love her questions, and yet, as the week passed on, I realized something.  Tapas, self-discipline, does not need to be felt as so daunting, rigid, and suffocating.  It does not mean to beat yourself down to a pulp, with nothing left.  This observance of tapas, for us to try to always be in a practice of Spiritual effort and ‘heat’, can be performed with grace, compassion, and Light.  Deborah Adele puts it this way, that tapas is “paying attention to what is possible, what is safe, and what is timely for us in our current life context.”  For example, I cannot go up into the Himalayan mountains to meditate for years right now.  I have two children, a husband, and a dog at home who depend on me.  Even though the meditation would be great Spiritual effort, its not timely for me right now; what is timely is how I raise my kids, how I support my partner, and how I am living out my practices right now.

“Tapas is the willingness to be both burned and blessed.” -Deborah Adele

So, can we trust the process?  Can we allow the unfolding?  Can we remember the alchemy of transformation, of tapas?  Can we trust that we will come out on the other side of dark times as better?  Better in the way of knowledgeable, changed, opened, and sometimes even happier.

In her article “Tapas: Find Your Inner Phoenix”, read HERE, Hellen Avery writes, “…we must practice what Krishna calls in the Bhagavad Gita, pure tapas – a tapas of “zeal” and “sincerity.”  And to do so we have to become deeply intimate with the true desire in our hearts.”  She continues, “The beauty of pure tapas is that when we make a choice that aligns with this fire inside, we fan the flames, so that the fire burns brighter, and the next time the choice becomes easier.  We don’t have to wait thousands of years like the phoenix to commit ourselves to the flames.  We can emerge more brilliant with every choice we make to follow the path to truth.”

When I read this a few things stand out.  One, we MUST listen to our hearts! And, two, I have made choices that used to feel ‘hard’ but are now easy because I choose from a place of the heart.  One of the hardest decisions in my life was a decision made from my heart. And, though, for a time, it caused my best friend to despise me, it was the loving choice to make at the time.  We both stayed in the burning for months after our separation. But, I CAN tell you, we made it thru, we are closer friends because of it, and we live in that blessing.  That was a choice that Deborah Adele’s quote  fits…it was a choice that “was timely for us in our current life context.”

You can DEFINITELY believe this weeks classes will be ALL about listening and TRUSTING your HEART!  Namaste.