This guideline speaks to our personal effort. Tapas, or self-discipline, means “heat.” It can be translated as catharsis, spiritual effort, change, tolerance, or transformation. Tapas has the sense of “cooking” ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves. It is our determined effort to become someone of character and strength.
Tapas can take us to the place where we feel we’ve got nothing left. We’re tapped. Done. No mas. It is in this barren place, where we have exhausted all that we have, that new strength is shaped and character is born if we choose to fearlessly open ourselves to the experience.
During those times when our character is tested we have two choices: to break down or to break open. We can’t prevent these times in our lives. However, we can prepare ourselves for them through our daily practice and through the small, daily choices we make.
Everyone of us has a wellspring of untapped potential within. That potential is our true nature. A baby bird doesn’t know it can fly, at first. It doesn’t know it’s true nature until it takes flight. Despite countless flopped landings and wobbly take-offs, they persevere. They practice. Well, it’s the same for us. We fell during our first steps, too. Once we remember, the question becomes “What are we practicing for now?”
The discipline of Tapas molds us into someone of great depth and profoundness. Can we stand the heat of being dismantled and changed forever? Can we prepare ourselves daily through our practice, our staying power, and our choices? Our choices will decide.
Now it’s time to take all this good discipline and apply some reflection. Self-study is the next guideline in the Niyamas.
Beams of gratitude to Deborah Adele for her wisdom and inspiration.