Sunday, May 10, 2009


Tapas means heat, specifically, the heat necessary for transformation. I'm thinking of a kiln: what goes in the fire comes out unalterably changed.

Yoga teaches us that we are all in the process of refinement. We are always in the heat of change, of transformation. This lesson is most apparent in the practice of asanas, the physical poses. Through the heat of postures, we are literally experiencing the heat of our muscles changing as we purify ourselves starting with this outward layer of our body. Not to be misunderstood as a lesser form of learning, our body is our most tactile field of deep learning and awareness.

Tapas isn't only about asanas. Anything that causes us to grow, any friction along our path, be that physical, emotional, spiritual, is making us stronger and is a form of Tapas. Tapas is the necessary heat to shed the previous layer of our old self, like a snakes skin, the misidentification with a self that was less than our True Nature.

Unlike many of the burning challenges we face each day, fortunately we can choose the degree to which we burn in our asanas, the mirror of our daily challenges. In fact, the more skillfully we apply or do not apply the heat to our practice is a lesson itself. We may not be able to set the thermostat of the heat of every-day challenges. Often, our life's challenges rage through us like wildfire. And when it does, we can use the skills and hope (yes, hope) that we've found in yoga practice to focus this heat productively toward our refinement, or at very least understand it as such, instead of feeling like we're burning out of control like a lunatic with their hair on fire.

Unfortunately, we all burn. Fortunately, we are all in this sacred ceremony together, becoming the able vessels of a divine spirit.

Sarah Mclachlan expresses this beautifully in her song Witness.
Hear her song and watch a video. Here are the lyrics.

Make me a witness
take me out
out of darkness
out of doubt

I won't weigh you down
with good intention
won't make fire out of clay
or other inventions

Will we burn in heaven
like we do down here
will the change come
while we're waiting

Everyone is waiting

And when we're done
soul searching
as we carried the weight
and died for a cause
is misery
made beautiful
right before our eyes
will mercy be revealed
or blind us where we stand

Will we burn in heaven
like we do down here
will the change come while we're waiting
everyone is waiting


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