Yoga Sutra 2.43 – kaya indriya siddhih ashuddhi kshayat tapasah
Tapas – Through the training of the senses (tapas), there comes a destruction of mental impurities, and an ensuing mastery over the body, senses and actions. The 3rd Niyama, 2nd limb of Yoga.
Tapas is our heat, our fire, the dedication to practicing methods in which you become a more whole person. Tapas is what gets us up in the dark early hours of the morning in winter to roll out our mat when we would really love to stay in bed. Tapas is our willingness to continue on through the toughest of moments, knowing all will pass. There is a well know ancient metaphor in the Yoga world which describes the importance of doing this work and it goes like this –
Training the Self – There is a Chariot and this chariot represents the whole Self. The horses are our senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste), the reins are our mind (the constant thoughts which go around and around), the driver is the Intellect (the deeper mind beyond thoughts), the chariot is the physical body and the passenger is the true Self. If our horses, reins and driver are not well disciplined and able to be still and observant, they will run our chariot and passenger around to all the places we don’t really want to go, just because our senses get distracted (mmmm that chocolate cake smells good) or our mind tells us to go over there (that dress would look really awesome on me). This training is Tapas. The ability to sit with the thoughts as they come and go, rather than reacting to every damn thing that comes up.
I have found that the consistent practice, the daily dedication and ritualistic processes have lead to a place where I know myself, I know when my mind is bullshitting me and can tell when my intentions are not pure, therefore step back and take a moment before continuing along a road I know I will regret taking later. This whole ‘life’ thing is not easy. Often I feel it would be much easier to just drink a bottle of wine and watch The Bachelor, pretending everything away. But I’ve been there and it doesn’t work, the only way to a steady mind is to do the work.