Through dedicated practice (tapasaḥ) impurities (aśuddhi) are eliminated (kṣayāt) and the body (kāya) and senses (indriya) function at their maximum potential (siddhiḥ).
PRACTICAL LIVING At the same time that we practice gratitude and contentment, like we mentioned last week, we also exert effort and dedication in all actions we make. We want to grow, we want to change, we want to evolve. So there is a beautiful dance happening between gratitude and growth, between contentment and effort.
This sūtra reminds us of the importance of being proactive in life. We need to be doing something to change, to transform, to gradually let go of our cocoons so we can fly and experience freedom. And we do this day after day, moment after moment.
However it is we decide to change, there will be times that are easier than others. Here Patañjali is reminding us to stick to whatever we decided to do, even when we don’t get enough sleep, we are hungry, or there is something more enticing happening out there in the world. My daily yoga practice is a moment I take daily for myself, to go inward and practice being focused on the breath. Often, I feel lethargic, grumpy or simply want to do other more exciting things. Here I am reminded that it is okay to experience that, and that acceptance helps me remember to stick to my practice when I am about to convince myself that eating an earlier breakfast would be better for me that day.
In anything we decide to do, there will be that which gives us pleasure and that which we want to avoid as much as possible. The concept of tapas tells us to commit to our practices, whatever they may be, even when our minds are screaming for us to do something else instead.
So, step (i) what do you want to change? (ii) what practice will you implement in order to make the change? (iii) accept and understand that there will be times when you will want to skip your practice, and when that happens, do the practice anyway 🙂
IN THE YOGA WORLD Tapas means ‘to burn’. What are we trying to burn? To a large extent, yoga is the path of inner housecleaning. We experience lack of clarity on many layers. Yoga suggests different practices for us to commit to, which will help in making us see things clearer. Often these practices relate to diet, movement or practices related to the body and mind. There are many harsh cleansing practices in yoga, which often cause discomfort before they show us the cleansing effects. Fasting is a good example. Many Indian texts recommend fasting occasionally. Frequently, people will get sick at the beginning of a cleanse. If they stick to the cleanse even during the sickness, after the body has released toxins, then comes the experience of cleanliness, of lightness, of vitality.
Many of us are covered by a ‘veil’ that covers our sight. We don’t see ourselves and the world in the clearest way we potentially can. The external world, including our bodies, are usually distracting us adding to the veil. As we clean ourselves (physically and mentally), we have more control over our bodies and senses. With less external distraction, we are able to turn inward. Tapas are the practices we decide to commit to that will gradually remove the veil so that we can experience more moments of peace, of love, of awareness and expansive being – which are the siddhis, or powerful results of a committed practice.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON For years I’ve been blessed to have ‘encountered’ Pema Chödrön in my daily readings. Her ‘presence’ in my life, though only through her written words, has been transformational. Though a few weeks ago I actually attended one of her talks. Her physical presence was just like what I had encountered in the books. She speaks honestly about anger in the sweetest way possible. She talks about discomfort as grace. She emphasizes the importance of practice, of a practice that takes us on an inner journey of self awareness. Yet she also talks about the importance of acting in the outside world, of service. For me she represents a choreography of training the inner dancer to be a better outer dancer. In other words, she represents the dual work that we can all be doing – inner work to understand ourselves better, and outer world to contribute in our own ways to this amazing world that we live in. Thank you Pema, for the discomfort and clarity that you have helped me find!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will discuss self-reflection and the light it leads us towards!