Tapas is the code identified with discipline or austerity –purification through discipline. Focus, discipline and commitment create a purifying heat, a fiery blaze that burns away impurities and distractions from our lives so that we can experience true union.
After I graduated college, I traveled aimlessly through a structure-less paradigm, seeking an ideal career and home. I realized that I was able to enjoy the freedom of college because my time was still grounded in the foundational academic structure: semesters, classes, deadlines etc., the predictable ebb and flow of academic cycles. It wasn’t until after graduation that I was truly without structure to lean on, and I suffered for it. I didn’t know how much I craved grounding I craved or a foundation to build upon. I freelanced from project to project and moved from place to place without even unpacking. Un-tethered and non-committal, I felt like my feet had been wiped from under me.
After floating through most of my 20s, I remember the moment at Hale Pule when the question surfaced: If you don’t know what you want to commit to, can you at least commit to yourself to your own truth, to following your own path? That was a turning point for me because it shifted my perspective from an outward need to find my place in the world to a more streamlined focus. I felt a commitment to remove all those distractions that kept me from experiencing each moment and began to hear and trust the silence behind a sea of voices telling me what to think and how to feel.
Tapas is the discipline to sit on my mat when I want to run – when I don’t think I have the patience or strength to sit with what’s inside me.
People are often surprised and impressed when I tell them I meditate every morning. I want to clarify that they don’t know the quality of my mediation. Maybe I couldn’t clear my thoughts. Maybe I had only one fleeting moment of peace before agonizing over my to-do list. But still, the commitment to sit on my mediation pillow morning after morning with the thoughts I don’t want to have is what outlives the moments of discomfort. That’s what will guide me into the silent, restorative meditation I seek. That commitment to sit in the face of failure is what will elevate my Yoga practice and catalyze the changes I want to see in my life.
And it’s always a work in progress. I recently had a meeting with someone in my field. He wanted to know exactly what I wanted to do, so that he could know how to help me. But I dodged the certainty he was looking for and kept my intentions broad. We discussed that I was afraid of committing to only one thing because I wasn’t certain and I didn’t want to limit the opportunities I could be presented with. He advised me that I could still focus on one path while keeping my options open and that I could get farther on any given path with a narrowed focus than by staying wide open.
If I indulge in all of my whims without fully committing to any one of them, I will be depleted and spread thin, not knowing which direction to take or how I got there. But if I set commitments for myself and have the discipline to follow through, even if it’s simply the commitment to spend five minutes sitting on my mat every morning, the spark created from that commitment will burn into something bigger. Over time, it will shine a light on the maze of fear and distractions and clear a path to commit to, even if that path is just choosing to commit to myself.
She currently lives in Los Angeles and works in film and television, aspiring to write and produce. She also teaches private Yoga sessions and small group classes in LA. You can follow her on Instagram @nicolelonero or email her at email@example.com.