While I have to admit, this does look absolutely amazing… it is not the sort of tapas I am talking about.
This is the tapas I am referring to…
The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn.” The traditional interpretation of tapas is “fiery discipline,” the fiercely focused, constant, intense commitment necessary to burn off the impediments that keep us from being in the true state of yoga (union with the universe).
Examples of tapas:
Making a commitment to get on your yoga mat every day.
Putting on those running shoes each morning (and then actually running).
Finding time each day to write, journal, meditate.
Intending to practice patience instead of losing your temper with your partner or child — and sticking to it.
Choosing a fruit salad and kale chips over cheese and crackers.
Wow. If I could commit to even two or three of the things on that list each day, I’d feel better, look better and probably be finished with my book proposal by now (if not the whole book).
Sticking with “it” (your commitments, goals and intentions) will inevitably come across some bumps in the road, hills, mountains and even perhaps some brick walls that takes the fire of determination to overcome the challenge and obstacle you are facing.
I have decided to meditating on tapas as I feel I might be hanging out too much in the “start up energy” tapas and not so much in the “sustaining and long-term” tapas department.
For me, tapas is the required discipline or the work we know we must do in our own individual lives to overcome our fears, burn away karma… you know, just get to the other side of that inner obstacle. It’s “the work” right? We all have it, know it and it is only up to us to decide how we will show up to it.
Like most things in life, I feel confident I can tackle it with a great to-do list, but I am finding that even my extraordinary organized to-do lists are not cracking into some of the core issue around meeting a few significant goals, dreams and desires.
I have been just “to-do’ing” around them, if you will. I mean, it is not like there are plenty of distractions out there. So, I was thinking that perhaps I should just throw in the towel and start creating to-do lists that look a little more like this:
I’m not kidding.
In this experiment or self-study, if you will, of my relationship to tapas, it revolved more around doing and trying to make happen instead of focusing on being and committing. There was more striving and less showing up. More “working hard” and less listening to how my efforts were making me feel — and when I did finally sit down to listen the message I got was loud and clear.
I was running in circles and not addressing the fact that fear was keeping me from my goals. I realized that I had been so damn focused on the end result that I was conveniently distracting myself from seeing what was keeping me from getting started in the first place.
The yogic path speaks to me more than any other — so I looked to the wisdom there for an answer and the answer was tapas. Begin focusing on “what is the practice that I need to undertake to help me move past my fears around writing my book.” (There, I said it.)
Well, lo and behold… the answer came loud and clear. Write more. And, ride a unicorn.
The other insight that luckily managed to make its way into a wormhole in my brain was that in doing your tapas, you are realizing your goals and dreams in each moment. That there is no “when this happens, blah blah blah…” or “once I write my book I will feel as though I achieved my goal.” That the gift of embodying the dream is only a thought or word on a page away.
There is not some faraway land where published authors and Mr. T. riding unicorns live. It is all right here in this moment (especially the Mr. T. on a unicorn bit).
I interview people as a part of my job and I recently had the opportunity to interview Krishna Das for my radio show. I had all these questions about following the spiritual path, being a householder and how to infuse your life with your spiritual practice.
His answers were all the same. He challenged me in coming back with,
“What, do you think it is different? Is Jessica the yogi and Jessica the writer and Jessica the mom-to-be all a different person? No. You are the same person. If you can’t get to your meditation cushion daily, then you will probably see that coming up in other areas of your life.”
Do the work. Show up. Again and again and trust that life will unfold as it should.
There is not some 3 or 5 or 50 step process to this. So, I won’t waste your time or mine with it. Here it is…
We are only one thought, one breath away from union with the present moment and that is all that truly matters. If we can have the courage to keep breathing into it — to perhaps make that our tapas for a little while, then the inner wisdom of our true self will not let us down.
When I have the opportunity to speak to amazing teachers, leaders or experts — this is their message distilled in some form or another by the branding of their own DNA. Over and over again I hear this. And, yet — I still keep putting off today when I can put on a to-do list for tomorrow.
We can only grow, change, move onto the next challenge once we have truly faced the one that is in front of us. And, here I am. Standing and starting into my own illusion of a brick wall.
For what it is worth, because God knows I am not trying to create a 5-step and share a fool proof 5-step plan to overcoming challenges in your life, I am committing to sitting down at the foot of this brick wall and rather than plan a zillion strategies on how I can get around it, I am removing one brick at a time and taking frequent breaks to play with unicorns.