Tapas | Staying With Suffering Makes Us More Resilient

Happy Monday, and welcome back to the eighth week of the yamas and niyamas series. This week, we're featuring Tapas, and no, it's not the amazingly delicious hors d’oeuvres you get at a Spanish restaurant. No, Tapas in its literal translation from Sanskrit means heat; however, it can also be thought of as self-discipline, change, or transformation. 

In order to create change and transformation within ourselves and our lives, we need to build heat through self-discipline in order to burn away our old selves and create space for an improved, better version.

This can be done through daily practices like yoga or meditation, eating a healthy diet, or through sticking with unforeseen events that cause pain or suffering. Now, that last part may not sound a likely way to create change or transformation within our lives and might leave some people wanting to run for the hills; however, think of it this way - the experience of pain and suffering can lead to something truly profound. When we are willing to fearlessly open ourselves up to suffering and being broken down, we have the opportunity to come through those moments a stronger, changed person with a clearer picture of what we want for our lives.

These are the moments that teach us about our strength, our values, the people in our lives whom we can trust and count on. A crisis or event that causes a great deal of suffering acts as this burning away that Tapas is referring to in order to allow for us to emerge on the other side a transformed, stronger person.

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.
— Unknown

Tapas in Daily Life
So, let's get back to the self-discipline and daily practices part of Tapas for a bit. One of the ways that we can bring Tapas into our lives on a daily basis and not rely on a crisis to happen in order to create change is to build daily practices that are going to build heat and help us change into the version of ourselves we're seeking.

These practices can include yoga, exercise, leaning a new skill, meditation, playing an instrument, or paying attention to the food we put into our bodies. This is a list of examples that could easily be build upon and, the main objective here is to develop a daily practice of some sort that will require us to commit and put forth our best effort. 

Practices such as this can literally build heat within us - uh hello, hot or vinyasa yoga! - and allow us to explore and grow as an individual. This is what we're after when thinking about Tapas. When conceptualizing this part of Tapas, think of that hashtag you see all over social media but was said first by a pretty profound individual...

Practice and all is coming.
— Pattabhi Jois

Staying Power
The second way to practice Tapas and create change within our lives is to build up our staying power in dark and difficult situations. Often, when we face something difficult or painful, our immediate reaction is to run away, hide in the corner and pretend it's not happening. Sometimes, we even completely deny the existence of a problem, a defense mechanism known as denial. 

If we can resist this urge to hide or deny and stay in the fire, we open ourselves up to receive the blessings that these dark and troubling moments can provide. All those characteristics I talked about above - strength, courage, knowing your values, resilience - these are all waiting for us on the other end. We just have to stay with the pain in order to receive it.

Think about someone who is going through grief from the loss of a loved one or someone who is in the grips of addiction. If, in these moments we choose to deny ourselves of feeling the grief of that loved one being gone or ignore the existence of having a problem with substances, we deny ourselves of the possibility of getting better and becoming a better version of ourselves. We completely miss the chance to move past these dark moments and commit ourselves to the prison they promise.

When you're in the grips of a dark moment, ask yourself if you can hold on in order to receive the blessing of the pain and suffering. Will you be someone who is willing to stay in the unknown and unpleasantness rather than run away in fear?

The Power of Choice
The one thing that a crisis can promise is that it will pick us up and put us down on the other side of something. In these moments, we have the choice to either sit and surrender to the crisis, or we can run away and hide. One will produce the outcome of a strengthened inner self, while the other will ensure a fragmented inner world and lack of control over our lives.

We also have the choice to create daily practices that will build our inner strength that will prepare us for any future fire that comes our way. If we choose to always go for the easy, immediately satisfying option, we will surely be setting ourselves up for a more painful struggle in the future. Rather, if we make the choice to do the things that may not be immediately satisfying but create lasting change, we'll be able to handle those crises with strength and grace. Which type of inner self would you like to create?

Take these exercises with you into the coming week to practice building that fire and staying power.

- Notice times when you sit in the fire and times when you run away, both in the past and your present life. What were you feeling in each of these moments? How did you feel as a result of choosing each option?

- Choose ways of nourishing yourself and preparing for the fire. There were many suggestions listed above that you could choose to start or pick some that make sense for you and your life. Make this daily practice a priority and stay disciplined to do it each day.

- Practice staying just a little longer in the unpleasantness. Try to allow the heat to burn away expectations and open you to the potential blessings that this can bring.

- Pay attention to your daily choices. Are you making decision based on indulgence or making choices that will build your strength?

Hope exploring Tapas will bring some strength and resilience into your coming week and the rest of your life. As always, if you have questions or thoughts, let me know below.

Feel your inner strength and know you have the ability to create any life you desire.
- Namaste