Tapas, the third of the yogic niyamas is associated with heat and fire. The idea is to commit yourself to your practice with burning ardour, to work hard, despite discomfort. We all do this in our lives of course. All of us have dedicated ourselves to something and worked on it, even when times have been tough. It might have been obtaining a university or college degree, entering into and staying in a committed relationship, raising children, climbing a mountain, competing in a race or completing a particular project. While, of course, we will experience happiness in the midst of these experiences, there is no doubt that we will also experience resistance and difficulty. There will be times when we will want to quit, but we don’t because the thing we have committed ourselves to is worth it.
I now make my kids laugh by telling them stories about the difficulties they caused me as babies. Neither of them slept much, and consequently, neither did I. My oldest son would only stop crying if he were in motion. At home, I had a lovely rocking chair that I could use to rock him when he woke up at night. It was frustrating having to stay awake but at least the chair was comfortable. When we travelled to other people’s homes, I had to bring along a pilates ball so that I could bounce him on it. I have a strong memory of being at my brother-in-law’s place, bouncing my oldest son on the ball in the middle of the night, feeling like I was going to lose my mind if I couldn’t sleep. At this point, I had experienced many, many sleepless nights and the effects were beginning to compound. I was absolutely exhausted, and I had the added pressure of trying to keep him quiet so he wouldn’t wake everyone else up. While it seems like bouncing on a giant ball would be an odd place to experience a dark night of the soul, that is what happened. I began wondering why I had decided to become a parent, feeling like I couldn’t do it, crying, occasionally falling asleep a bit and almost falling off the ball, catching myself before baby and I hit the floor. It sounds like such a common, mundane experience, but at that moment, it was so hard. I felt so defeated. I had to tap into something to help keep me there, dedicated to this little one, to keep me upright on the ball, keep me bouncing. I am not sure it was the healthiest thing that I went to, but it worked. I entertained myself by singing songs to my son about the fact that he had to fall asleep or I was going to find a friendly wolf pack and leave him with them or list him on Kijiji. I know this sounds awful, but in imagining these ridiculous scenarios that were entirely out of the question, I reminded myself of my absolute dedication to this little one. I would never abandon him. I would suffer through this night and the next one and the next one. I was fully in, no matter what. A sentiment that I need to keep in my heart as he just turned 13 and we are now entering into the teenage years. I may have to call upon my songs about wolf packs and Kijiji again as he rolls his eyes, stomps his feet and slams doors.
We all have things that we have dedicated ourselves to. We have all made sacrifices and worked hard to reach goals, to support someone, to keep going even when we feel we can’t. It can be empowering to think about the hard things we have done in the past, the dedication and persistence we have shown, and to keep in mind as we meet new challenges.
I invite you to take a moment to close your eyes, tune into your breath and take a moment to reflect on the challenges you have met in the past and how you have overcome them. This can be a powerful thing to do when you are facing a challenge in your life. It is something that I have always preferred to using positive affirmations, as it is based on facts. There is no need to try to convince myself that I am brave and strong when I am not feeling brave and strong. I can just let the evidence speak for itself.