Exploring Tapas

exploring-tapasHow Passion, Will and Right Effort Create a Happy Life

“Living life with zeal and sincerity, the purifying flame is ignited (Tapas), revealing the inner light.” Sutra 2.43 *

Zeal is not a commonly used word. It is one of those tiple point words that you get excited to remember when you have a ‘z’ in your words with friends. But on a daily basis, how many of us LIVE with zeal? What does zeal even mean and how can it ‘reveal our inner light’?

Zeal means enthusiasm, an eager desire, intensity, passion, earnestness and devotion–all rolled into one. Can you imagine what kind of fire would be inside of you if you lived and breathed those qualities all day every day? No wonder the yoga masters have been known to levitate–ignite some zeal and it’s like a hot air balloon blasting off.

Of course it is one thing to identify and feel passion, it is another thing to feed the fire and keep the mechanism moving. Consistent tending of every thought, word and action is required to cultivate the right level of heat in our inner fire, so that it becomes a purifying flame sustaining the warmth and joy of living our dreams, but not a wildfire that runs out of control or burns us out.

In thought, we need to apply will and effort to break free of habituated patterns of thinking that keep us doubtful and suffering. Eliminating negative thoughts and consciously applying positive ones is what the Yoga Sutras teach as Pratipaksha Bhavana. Tapas of thought is the practice of watching for thought saboteurs and escorting them out.

In speech, we can remember to apply these filters: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? These will undoubtedly lead us to far more silence than idle chatter.

In action, we can bring our full presence to whatever activity or person we are with. As we offer enthusiastic attention and passion filled intention to all that we do, ordinary moments become spiritual Sadhana.

All the yogic practices that discipline and cleanse the mind and body are essential: daily asana and meditation, fasting, practicing deep concentration, holding silence, and controlling the life force energy through pranayama. These are fuel for the inner fire that clears away the impurities of our ego nature–revealing instead our true nature–the inner light of the soul.

Take this quick self-assessment test:

On a daily basis, doing whatever you are doing, do you…

feel restless, bored, lazy or unambitious?

Or do you feel inspired, charged with energy, excited to give something of yourself to the world?

If you answered yes to the first question ponder these to get your inner flame ignited:

What invigorates you?

What do you keep coming back to when you think about what you want to do?

What makes you want to go the extra mile?

What are you really good at and how could that help others?

The sparks of enthusiasm that live within us are what will eventually lead us to our inner light – the purpose for which we are here. By bringing passion, diligence, enthusiasm and devotion to each day, we explore new edges of personal growth and learning. And this reveals the fullness of our unique soul purpose. Knowing our purpose gives us a guide by which to determine the validity of our choices — how and where we expend effort and will on a daily basis. It gives us a focal point and a charge to action, and a meter for when we stray from what is important. In order to be fully alive, we must be on fire with purpose, and use our will to move forward with undaunted determination toward our goals.

By far the greatest use of our will is to cultivate deeper and deeper faith that our purpose can be fulfilled. Eradication of doubt is the difference between a master and a novice. When our enthusiasm is high, its energy naturally generates the flame of effort toward our goals. But in times of doubt, the discipline of dedicated tapas practice is necessary in order for the inner light to shine through the darkness.

If we do our work; if we say a wholehearted yes to life even when it is difficult; if we use our willpower to overcome obstacles and negative habits, we will be rewarded with a vibrant life. Here’s to triple points for zeal.

* sutra translation in Secret Power of Yoga, by Nischala Joy Devi

Note: This article is 7th of a 10 part series on the Yamas and Niyamas: the instructions in the Yoga Sutras for qualities and behaviors we should develop to be in harmony with natural and spiritual laws, liberate ourselves from limitations and open our consciousness to a more expansive state.

Courtesy of My Yoga Online.

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