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Tapas (purification, discipline)

Tapas (purification, discipline)

This piece was originally published in the OWY newsletter in November of 2013.

Previously I touched on the second niyama, santosha (contentment, modesty, acceptance).  As a quick review the 8 limbs of yoga are:

  1. Yamas (external restraints)
  2. Niyamas (internal observances)
  3. Asana (postures)
  4. Pranayama (breath control)
  5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (absorption)

The second limb, Niyamas, include:

  1. Saucha (cleanliness)
  2. Santosha (contentment, modesty, acceptance)
  3. Tapas (purification, discipline)
  4. Svadhyaya (self-study, witness consciousness, who am I?)
  5. Ishvara Pranidhana (yield to Ultimate Reality, non-attachmeng to the benefits of our actions)

Fire is an element involved in transformation, which is exactly what it symbolizes in yoga and ayurveda. It’s through our inner fire that we transform our liabilities into assets. It’s through that inner fire that we energize to take on the world, and ourselves.

Tapas is a strange one. It has a lot of interpretations or meanings. Inner heat, inner fire, purification. For me discipline is the definition that is easiest to grasp. Every goal we have requires discipline to achieve. Whether it’s improving our diet, exercising regularly, meditating daily, or improving our skills related to our career, discipline is needed. This can be extremely difficult in the face of adversity. If life has been full of disappointments and a lack of success in our endeavors, having the energy to persevere can be the biggest challenge of all.

For myself the most difficult part of any endeavor is getting started. But keeping with it can be just as hard. I regularly have the thought “I did that yesterday, I’ve been working hard and deserve a rest, so I’ll get back to it tomorrow.” I shoot myself in the foot with that mentality quite often and once I set that procrastination in motion it’s back to getting started all over again.

When I have the energy and mindset to keep with it, to do the work necessary to attain the goals I’ve laid out, I can feel that inner fire (especially if we’re talking about a physical practice). When I finish a project, or a step along the way, there is a burning away of the negative mental and emotional baggage. A replacement of negative with positive. One of my favorite sayings is “to build self esteem, do esteemable acts.”  If we wish to cultivate something, we must have the discipline to practice what brings what we want about.

What does it mean to you to have discipline? Is there a negative connotation with it? Can you remember the feeling that you get when you accomplish something, and use that to motivate you when you don’t feel like doing anything? What can you do this week to build that inner fire to motivate you to be all that you can? To accomplish all that you wish?

Continue with Svadhyaya.

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