As we welcome in June and the start of summer months, thinking of the heat makes me feel, well, HOT! Summer's bright sunshine can inspire us and ignite our inner inspiration. That internal flame that motivates us is called Tapas in yoga philosophy. It's that inner motivation that gets on our yoga mat everyday, or to floss our teeth when we don't feel like it, or to write a blog when we feel like we have nothing to say, or clean out that closet that you're totally fine with just closing the door on & pretending it's not full of crap you're never going to use. Tapas is the discipline and determination that fires us up not only with our yoga practice on the mat but our yoga practice OFF the mat, our goals and our dreams.
A little bit about this word Tapas. In Sanskrit, it literally means "fire", "to burn". It is the 3rd Niyama of Patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga which are "non-restraints" or observances meant to greatly enhance our progress on the yoga path. Think of Tapas as that little flame inside you that motivates you and keeps you on track when the going gets tough in life. We need this fire under our butts to keep us moving toward our goals and anything we deem important in life. Without it, we wouldn't even bother with the "hard" stuff and completely derail our progress.
Discipline...the 'D' word. When we undertake the practice of yoga, the flame of Tapas needs to be burning bright within us if we expect to achieve anything more than a little light exercise or we are 'O.K' with mediocrity. Tapas helps us through the uncomfortable sensations, motivates us to finally try that arm balance or anything difficult. It also pulls us back to safety before we hurt ourselves by not honouring our own boundaries. Without that inner discipline & determination, we'd be unlikely to look at the finer practices of yoga that through rigorous self awareness bring about inner peace.
So let's say we're having a day or two or week/month whatever of feeling completely unmotivated, our little flame is snuffed out?? Haven't we all had this experience where we go through these periods of time where we just can't get it together? We can't motivate. Feeling stuck and resistant can actually be a starting point to ignite Tapas. All things change - this is a universal law. And even in a state of inertia or suspension, we will experience a shift. Here's a good example, a compost pile. I love a good compost pile. I had 3 when I lived in Ohio and needed to "feed" my gardens. Each bin was in a different state of composition. I'd pile them full of grass clippings, veggie scraps, chicken poop (oh yeah!!), and leaves. Now you may look at my beauteous piles of rotting leaves and such and say, nothing is happening there. Well, kinda sorta. The leaves and scraps are indeed not doing but rather something is being done to them. With a few essential elements like warmth from the sun, a good turning with my pitchfork, my little pile of rotting yuck is being transformed from within into what I liked to call "black gold". And my plants couldn't have been happier!!
Let's use this analogy with meditation. You are sitting tall, being very still outwardly, breathing deeply, being so quiet. And it looks like nothing is happening when actually there is a tremendous amount of change going on under the surface. Sitting still creates heat, an internal motivation within one's consciousness. The next time you are feeling unmotivated, like your flame is going out, sit still, even for one minute a day to reignite your Tapas and start building some heat.
A little self observance.....bring the discipline of Tapas into observing yourself. Notice the next time you are feeling impatient and then practice being more kind and calm and fully present. Monitor your worries. What worries you and how much energy do you spend on worrying about those worries? Is it productive? Practice letting them go with your breath. Take a deep inhale through your nose and with your exhale, release those worries as if you were exhaling smoke out of your nose.
Utilizing these yoga practices both on and off the mat can help you develop the internal discipline of Tapas. Though they may be difficult, but if you take just a moment to explore them, you will increase your capacity to apply Tapas in the most challenging endeavors. A little bit each day or week will keep that inner fire of motivation burning.
After all that talk of heat, who's ready for a tall glass of something cold??