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Ignite the Flame of Personal Practice- Tapas
The whiff of spring is in the air. Have you noticed? I am ready to let go of this grey winter and move out into the beauty and birth of spring. I can’t wait to throw open the doors and run out into the world of multi-colored flowers, trees, grass, sun, and birds. I yearn to fully experience the intensity of the invitation of the poet Rumi who beckons us to “Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.” I imagine the vibrancy of my colors, the tones, the depth, the internal shifts of my spirit and my life. I am looking forward to experimenting with the opportunity and renewal of this new season. Are you?
A new spiritual season also begins on Wednesday with the arrival of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent in Christian churches. Traditionally, it is observed as a 40 day period of fasting and reverence. Curiously, the number 40 plays a significant role in the practice of self-renewal and self-cleansing. In the Old Testament, Noah sailed on his ark through rain and floods for 40 days. Moses and the Israelites were banished to wander through the desert for 40 years until a new generation (spirit) sprung forth and was born. In the New Testament, Jesus traveled in the desert for 40 days and nights, was tempted to give up his self-discipline and faith, but persevered. Yoga science teaches us that it takes a consistent 40 day commitment to change a life habit, develop a new one or drop an old. Regardless of your spiritual or religious belief, the dedication of 40 days to a practice of self-discipline is an opportunity to let go of old patterns, create new habits, and look inward to examine our relationship with ourselves and the Divine. It is an invitation to enter our hearts and become transformed on a very deep level. It requires more than the typical practice of Lent of giving up candy or chocolate. It calls for flexing our ‘strength’ muscle, self-discipline, and cranking up the heat. It is this fiery crackle of heat that makes us jump out of our habitual skin and into new possibilities of growth, openness, and transformation. The question is how can we get the heat sizzling? Tapas can lead the way.
Tapas is the 8th jewel of the Yamas and Niyamas, the ethical belief system of Yoga. Tapas refers to the self-discipline and the heat that is necessary to affect change and deep transformation. It is traveling through the muck and not escaping around it to get to the other side. It is not an act of being ‘average’, or using verbs like wanting to, trying to, hoping to, or wishing to. It is putting oneself in the burning embers with a determined focus. Deborah Adele writes that “Tapas has the sense of cooking ourselves in the fire”. Our yoga practice, our belief system, and our lives are the quintessential laboratory in which to work with tapas. I am beginning a 40 day journey of self-inquiry and transformation. Are you curious? Think about what you would like to heat up on your stove. What, in your life, needs to be stirred up, examined, or redefined? Is it your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual state? You, alone, must make that decision. Is the hope of spring inviting you to re-evaluate your life and take a voyage on the path of self-evolution? It requires determination, inner strength, passion, and self-inquiry. Journal daily to note the challenges and emotions that bubble up during this period of certain transformation. What will have shifted after the 40 day period? Tapas is the knowing that if we stay on the path, we will get through. Tapas is not a rejection of who we are or the feeling of being unworthy. It is the decision to practice self- love, evolve and merge with the highest form of oneself and the Divine. Now is the time- dig deep and proceed through the swamp to find your deepest, most vibrant colors and invite your Light to shine!
“You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?” ~ Rumi
Honoring the highest in you,