Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tapas Makes Things Shiny

So I’ve realized I’ve been avoiding Tapas my whole life. It seems to be my anti-thesis and I try to work on it but feel myself repelled from it like a force field. Tapas is a Niyama of yoga, one of Patanjali’s observances in the eight limbs of yoga. I’ve practices it before and talked about it before and the first time I tried it it came easily too me like it was just the right time, but now it’s fighting me, or I’m fighting it (same thing really).

Tapas can be translated into burning enthusiasm, austerity or integrity. I guess I would describe it as when you put your whole effort into something and place the best piece of yourself in that effort. Where as the opposite of this would be doing things “half-assed” (I don’t know if there’s another synonym for that term). I know I should be hiding this fact but if I were to describe my work efforts “half-assed” could practically be put on my name tag.

In my life time I’ve met a lot of people who come by Tapas naturally. If you know me you may have heard me referring to these people as “morning singers”. When I was in camp as a little girl there was this fellow camper in my cabin who woke us up well before we had to get up (sometimes as early as 6am) and would start singing, and not just humming, full out singing to start the day. At the time I’m pretty sure I lobbed something at her head, but as I grew up I found out she wasn’t the only “morning singer”. There are just some people born with a lot of enthusiasm for life. And the fact that they irritate me says a lot more about me then it does about them. I mean there’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm, it makes work going quickly and I’m sure the quality of the things they do is of a higher level than mine. I find myself on a constant quest for that level of interest in life’s going on. I mean I can get completely consumed by some activities like yoga or climbing or nature but how do you get excited about typing up notes no one will read on a computer every day.

I know part of the issue is my outlook on things. I need to work to reframe my mind to find my Tapas for my everyday efforts. Eckhart would say I have to live in this moment as if I have never lived it before.

I’ve been trying to think more about Tapas over the past few weeks. The topic came to a head for me this weekend when we decided to clean and wax my truck. We spent 7 hours working on it and my brain kept rebelling by saying “Why are we doing this? You could get in an accident tomorrow and you would have spent 7 hours shiny scrap metal.” And sometimes when I’m having trouble staying focused that’s the problem, my brain is looking for an escape route and works hard to convince me I’d be better off running around in the woods like a tree sprite. But I try to remember that after a monk scrubs the floor he meditates and experiences enlightenment. And after he experiences enlightenment he goes back to scrubbing the floor.
I guess whether my brain wants to or not I’ll have chores to do, but if I can get it to quiet down for a minute I might have a chance at enjoying myself while I do them…