Tapas: Self-Discipline

Maybe I´m not the only one thinking about food when hearing the word “tapas”?! And indeed, it is the same word. In Sanskrit this word literally means “heat”. And in English the most common way to describe it is “self-discipline”, but one could also translate it as spiritual effort, change, or transformation, which might be more “enjoyable” or at least appealing for me. Transformation has for me more of a positive meaning. But as so often with both the yamas and the niyamas, this is no walk in the park, so to say.

Tapas has the sense of “cooking” ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves into something else.

Tapas is the day to day choice to burn non-supportive habits of the body and mind, choosing to forsake momentary pleasures for future rewards.

We all have habits, more than we are aware of, I would even say. However some of these habits are not really working fully in our favor. They are what one could call, non-supportive habits. It has taken time to form our habits, and it´s gonna take time, and determination to change habits. But first step is to become aware of the habits that we do have, and think about which ones are supporting us on becoming the person that we want to be, or that are taking us closer to where we want to be tomorrow…

“Ask yourself if what you´re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.”

This guideline encourage us to “willingly burn away” our laziness, our non-supportive habits, our selfish desires. To willingly stay “in the heat of the fire” that is required for the transformation to take place.

It asks us to develop discipline. Discipline to “forsake” what we might want right now, for what we want more. Or what we want “in the bigger picture”. It asks us to ask ourselves “what is it that we are practicing for?” To become clear about what is it really that we want? What is it that we want to accomplish in this, one life? What kind of person do we want to be? What is important, and what is really not so important?

“Nothing worth having comes easy”

Transformation, into a person of depth, to become someone of character and strength, does not come easy. Often it is the result of having suffered through moments of hardship, times when it feels dark, uncertain, almost to the point where we feel we can´t “take it no more”. When we´re faced with the option of either breaking down, or breaking open. When we can trust the moment, when we can surrender to what is happening. Coming out on the other side of the crisis. We have been transformed. Often with the (emotional) scars to bear witness of what we´ve been through.

Each moment is an opportunity to make a clear choice of right action. Quite often the choices that prepare us for the fire are options that vote against immediate satisfaction and pleasure.