PART EIGHT: TAPAS
Living life with zeal and sincerity, the purifying flame is ignited, revealing inner Light. – Sutra II.43
The practice of Tapas is the third Niyama in the Eight Limbs of Yoga philosophy. The root of the Sanskrit word for Tapas is Taph translated as blaze, burning, focus, discipline, or illumination. It calls upon a burning desire to achieve one’s aims and aspirations.
Tapas, in all it's translations, strongly represents my own intention for sharing the deeper, broader teachings of Yoga to help you to discover and choose the tools that will be the best medicine for revealing your highest nature.
My most memorable translation of Tapas was a teaching delivered to me by Nischala Devi while attending a teacher training on The Yoga of Relationship. Her focus was on student/teacher roles and the importance of authentic communication: true listening as well as true self expression.
Nischala was seated cross-legged, adorned in her colorful Indian tunic, beaming out her compassionate smile, and flanked by fresh flowers and a large statue of Kuan Yin. At the age of 70-something, her spirit radiates youthful enthusiasm along with deep wisdom playfully symbolized by the pink streaks added to her long white hair. She is a true example of living with zeal and sincerity, while joyfully revealing her inner light.
Speaking clearly and eloquently, she encouraged us to dedicate ourselves to refining our actions in body, mind, and speech. “Allow the burning away of obstructions and distractions that obscure your true Self to be a slow, steady, subtle cleansing. Not a forceful bonfire. We certainly don’t want to burn out in the process of awakening. Choose the right practices that will gently ignite the spark of the Divinity within your heart.”
The sparkle in her eyes was inspiring enough to deepen my own commitment to this path. “I want to be like her when I grow up,” I heard my inner voice calling. Of course, I know I’ll be more like me, yet it is a sweet gift to have teachers that inspire our personal growth and development.
To reach goals of any kind we need motivation, fiery discipline, and intense commitment. These qualities of Tapas help to burn off the mental obstacles and physical impediments that keep us from being our true Self. By observing and applying Tapas we are fortified with burning enthusiasm to dissolve attachments to what no longer serves us, creating a calm mind while listening more clearly to the voice of wisdom that guides us in mindful action from the inside out. Engaging Tapas cultivates meaningful and healthful habits that become, not a discipline, but a way of life.
What are you willing to burn away that no longer serves you?
May you be guided by your own fiery enthusiasm, choosing to live this one wild and precious life with truth, grace, and an open heart. Let your Light Shine!