TAPAS - Discipline
Yoga encourages tapas which is literally translated as heat / fire. This Niyama is known to refer to discipline. The word discipline has a negative connotation for many of us. It implies a forcing, a major effort required to achieve a task we have set for ourselves. When we fail, we beat ourselves mentally and when we succeed we praise ourselves.
In the context of yoga: On one hand discipline implies effort and trying in order to create good habits, such as keeping a regular practice of asanas and pranayamas. On another hand, where the main goal is (if we can call it that) self realization and breaking through the ego’s prison created by the mind, discipline has a deeper meaning where efforts and trying are let go off.
In my journey, I became familiar with the latter first. In the hope to create some stillness in my being, my father instructed me to do yoga every day – without exception - for 3 months following a book. At the beginning there was resistance, I felt I could do something better in my time, something more important, but as the days went by I realized the power of this discipline and started craving the stillness and the space that the practice created in me. What appeared as an effort at the beginning dissolved into an enthusiasm and an inner longing for the peace that I felt during yoga.
Mindful repetition holds many treasures. In my quest for realization, there was a big escape from the mundane. I wanted something better, more special that the ordinariness of doing the same thing day in, day out. I couldn’t understand how people could do the same thing all day, everyday, some of them looking lifeless and empty. I wanted to make sure I didn’t become one of them, although I envied their ability to find contentment that ordinariness. Through the repetition and practicing yoga regularly, I learnt that we never do the same thing twice. Every day, every time we do the same pose, if we keep the attitude fresh, like a complete beginner, the pose takes us to a different place, whether physically, mentally or emotionally. We do the same thing, but the inner experience is always different and new insights reveal themselves. Through keeping a regular practice, and repeating the same poses mindfully, we create a space in which the master within can enter and teach us what we have longed to know.
Tapas also refers to the choice we make about where our attention, focus and energy goes every single moment. A choice to fall in the trap of the ego – the self that believes itself to be separate entity from life – or to raise above the ego and allow life to work through the being. It is a choice to come home to ourselves or run around in the complicated maize puzzle of our mind. It is a choice to be at peace with “what is” rather than justifying our resistance to it.
This discipline relates to the inner fire of the desire for what is true and real. It is the channelling of our energy towards what we really want. It is about using everything, every situation in our life as an opportunity to see the reality and the truth of our being.
The biggest question we can ask ourselves in order to use our inner fire efficiently is “what do I really want?” If it is peace regardless of circumstances, choose to stay where you are at any moment in time – come to yourself, to your body, to your senses and watch as you return home and bring your awareness to yourself.
Discipline is the intensity of the desire to make peace with life and, thankfully this desire, unlike other desires transcends time and space and can be achieved EFFORTLESSLY NOW!
We can want it now, make the choice and get it immediately. ASK AND IT IS GIVEN. All we need to do is drop our resistance to whatever is happening right now. Drop all concepts on how it could have or should have been different and see what is left. This discipline is not an effort, it is dropping all effort to change what is happening NOW. That doesn’t mean not changing a situation that no longer works for us, it means dropping the effort to change what is happening NOW inside of ourselves.
Tapas is the fire of the desire to be home, to be at peace. This fire is alive in all of us. We were born with it, it is here now but, we have used it find peace outside of ourselves and as long as we think peace and home are outside we remain unsatisfied. Our entire life is running on the power of this desire but we are directing the power in the wrong direction. We think that when everything outside of ourselves is perfect, we’ll be at peace; but this future never comes, as there is only NOW FOREVER. Tapas is about seizing the power of desire for peace and happiness and directing it inwards. Next time you’re being challenged and feel angry, fed up or sad, instead of following the trains of thoughts just desire peace, choose peace without doing anything. Becoming still, stopping all efforts. As you become aware of your own breath, senses in your body, do nothing and see what happens without trying to achieve peace.
Peace cannot be achieved, the more you run after it the more it runs away from you. because it is nowhere out there in the future! It is here, now!
When there is no more doing from your part, watch how the moment takes hold of you completely and immerse you in life’s aliveness.