TAPAS

Sustaining the flame of practice

The years and then the decades roll by; and to sustain a vigor and passion for the humbling practices of yoga… well, it’s not easy. None of the teachings of yoga say it will be.

Indeed, they caution us again and again that dedication will take every last drop of effort, surrender, and humility.

It will demand a willingness to keep showing up in the midst of the ebb and flow, the stripping-bare, even the pain of what’s revealed.

Since falling in love with the practices of yoga many decades ago I’ve certainly fallen out of love with them many times.

Sometimes I’ve found myself grieving and grasping for that early, all-consuming passion and devotion. Other times—like a long-term relationship—I get annoyed that it’s still hanging around, bothering me with its yoganess… and when did it stop doing its dishes by the way; and why does it leave the toilet seat up; and how could it possibly have forgotten that I have to drive the kids to the school play tonight and… suddenly the guilt arises because I can’t bring myself to give it the attention it deserves; and I don’t know where that passion went; and no, I’m too tired to talk about our relationship over dinner tonight.

That’s where tapas comes in. Sometimes it arrives quietly and taps me gently on the shoulder; other times it dispenses with every ounce of tenderness and hits me squarely on the forehead.

It’s a reminder that if I was still in honeymoon phase” after all these decades, I would have missed the practice entirely.

It’s a reminder that no one else is going to tend to the flame—whether it’s a brilliant bonfire or a tiny ember, barely visible—except myself.

It’s a reminder that I make the flame; that I must hold fast to my deepest intention for this life’s journey, recommit to consistency, and add my samskaras (old undigested emotional imprints), karmas, and ego resistance into the fire, for fuel.

Or what? you might ask. And I admit, I sometimes ask that too. What really would happen if I just put it all down, set myself free of the “burden” of discipline, of the exhausting work of uncovering, of looking the truths I uncover directly in the eye; of humility.

I sometimes catch glimpses of who that person would be—the self who one day simply turned and walked away from tapas when it came calling. And I know that person would soon start aching for clarity, would feel a certainty that there was more to it all than “this,” an emptiness that couldn’t be filled no matter what she tried to fill it with.

I think of the alternative… and so today, once again, I show up.

I recommit to tending the fire. I ask for help from my teachers to hold me to my practice.

I remember those early moments of vitality and clarity, yes; but I don’t cling to them. I’m no longer the person who experienced them.

There’s a different kind of work—and a different kind of willingness—demanded of me now.

And where I can, I revel in the resistance, the thrashing, the desire to be anywhere but here.  Because resistance to the practice is in the nature of practice. And that’s how I know I’m in it.

OM,

 

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