Do you like Indian food?
It’s the spices that leave Indian food lovers wanting to go for more.
Like in yoga. Once you taste its transformational power you want to make it part of your life.
The spice in yoga is called Tapas and stands for the discipline. It takes commitment and courage to show up to our practice and grow the skills we need to navigate through lives challenges.
Too little is boring. Too much hurts.
How are we applying this truth to our lives? Especially now in the face of quarantine and neverending unsettling news about COVID 19.
If you’re one of the few who are not worried, ask yourself how are you doing with other annoyances in your life? Like politically? Oh, I know, that burns. Tapas teaches us to step into the fire but be aware how we do that so we don’t burn.
I thought a lot about what’s happening to us in crisis as many of my friends and clients are more frightened now than ever before.
I, too, have had some sleepless nights around how my medically fragile daughter will live through this. There is no normal for her when this is over. There was no normal before. She’ll always be vulnerable. Only now the questions that haunt us about our future are more urgent. Mine burned worry into my mind.
Centuries ago, the great sage Patanjali outlined the “Eight Limbs of Yoga“. These eight steps basically act as a roadmap on how to live well. Your Yoga practice consists not just of the physical postures alone but also of the awareness of your attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors. Tapas is one of the personal disciplines that help you to cultivate healthy habits and letting go of unhealthy ones.
Lying awake last night, I remembered Tapas. And how it has helped me to cultivate wise effort. It takes awareness to know what’s the right amount of spice. On the yoga mat we call this awareness honoring the edge. Discovering your edge offers a tool to check in how engaged you are. On a scale from one to ten. In any posture you can pause long enough to ask ourselves: „On a scale of ten, where am I?“ Ten stands for pain, One for boredom. Using the right amount of spice offers growth and burns away ego driving greed or laziness.
My mind was full of thoughts trying to understand, find solutions, make this work. My head hurt from overthinking, and most of all, from not finding answers. How will life be for my daughter? And consequently for us?
I paid attention to my feelings; I felt anxiety. Too much Tapas, I thought. If we abuse our body by stretching too deep sooner a later something will break. Thinking too much for too long does the same, it burns holes into our sleep.
Zen wisdom reminds us the most important thing is to remember to remember what’s important! To know something is great. To remember to apply it is the practice.
Tapas describes the fire inside of your belly. It sustains you and can burn you. It depends on your choices. The fire dies if you don’t attend to it carefully. It takes presence and patience to keep it going.
If you do learn to apply Tapas to your practice, you have a friend for life. It will support you in doing whatever is necessary to reach your goal without burning. Not more and not less. It lets your dreams come true. It keeps things real. It teaches you to put your hands softly on the steering wheel.
Here is what it’s not.
Tapas is not free. You have to work and show up for it. It doesn’t come easy at first. Once you have it, you can lose it. Tapas will burn you if you don’t respect your self-limits. It will die if you close your eyes to the circumstances of your life.
Right now, we must remember to pay attention to our thoughts. Yes, it takes discipline and our willingness to pause long enough to notice what occupies our mind. Are your thoughts driving you sleepless or crazy? It’s the same when we move our bodies. We need to pause to feel what’s going on, what motivates us. When we feel what’s happening in the present moment, we have a choice in how we move or act and want to feel.
We get a chance to choose the thoughts we want to grow. We can invite them to take the front seat in our minds. It’s a practice.
Early on in my yoga training, I pinned a quote to my wall:
“Remember, it doesn’t matter how deep into a posture you go – what matters is who you are when you get there.”
To me, self-reflection, checking in with myself on how I do what I do every day helps me to remember what’s important to me.
It matters how we show up to ourselves and our world. I try to notice when I’m doing things half-heartedly. Tapas teaches us to be 100% committed to what’s possible, not more not less. Tapas gives us tools to soften what’s hard and stabilize what’s weak.
How about you? Where are you in the world of effort and surrender? Is Tapas burning or barely alive?
I want to keep my fire sizzling. Enough to keep myself energized but not so much that I’m out of wood to keep the fire going before the night is over.
I invite you to hop on a
P.S. This story was inspired by the first blog I wrote for my first website in April 2016! Read it here!
P.P.S Join me for free online Sessions Mo – Fri 11 am P.T. Register here: www.manuelarohr.com