From sutra 2.1 remember that tapas can mean heat, fire, meditation, and deep concentration. From the perspective of seeing the niyamas as wise ways for releasing struggle, tapas is an invitation to show up to each moment with passion and motivation instead of avoiding being present. Tapas ignites the fire of your presence so that whatever you apply yourself to, you do in a wholehearted and meaningful way. If you only have a single opportunity to participate in every moment and every interaction, doesn’t it seem obvious that you would want to do what you are doing fully? Even when your intention is to participate wholeheartedly, however, the natural human inclination to develop habits can become an obstacle to being fully present. Just as it happens when you visit a place for the very first time, your heart and mind open to see clearly the quality of the light, the natural beauty of the place, its colors, sounds, and scents. You explore the place with curiosity and become interested in learning more about it. Quite likely, with every visit to the same place, your experiences and impressions get blended into your perception of the place, making it into part of your own personal history. As time goes by, the place that once used to be new becomes familiar. When that happens, you automatically shift from an attitude of wonder to thinking that you already know everything about the place. Assuming you already know something causes you to take for granted what seemed fascinating before. It happens frequently that we take people, relationships, and work for granted. Tapas is the fire to overcome the inclination to predict and to assume that you already know what will happen.
It does require passion, fire and enthusiasm to keep showing up to your life for every single moment of every day. In other words, tapas is the heat resulting from the friction of going against the grain of your habits. This friction happens as a result of the tension between the comfort of your existing habit patterns and having to pay attention to the uniqueness of each experience. It does not take long to realize that you develop habits in posture, ways of moving, ways of breathing, ways of thinking, ways of feeling, and ways of interacting. Some of these habits are conscious while others are unconscious. Similarly, some habits are useful in one context and hindrances in another. It takes concentration, another meaning of tapas, to notice these ways of being and to determine if they are useful right at the moment you are in. Noticing an unhelpful pattern and choosing to change it will require some energy (tapas). Part of that energy is what is needed to persist.
How are you showing up to your life?
How do you recruit your interest for participating in your life?
How do you turn a chore into something interesting or even inspiring?
What are your sources of inspiration?
Are you more likely to respond to your own internal motivation or to external motivation?
Are you able to regulate your enthusiasm?
Would it help to remember that each moment is unique and that nothing is guaranteed?
How can you keep bringing yourself back to this precious moment with gentle persistence?
You may use the sentence I LIVE WITH ENTHUSIASM as a mantra to remind you of your commitment to your life.
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
2.32 śauca saṃtoṣa tapaḥ svādhyāyeśvarapraṇidhānāni niyamāḥ
शौच संतोष तपः स्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि नियमाः ॥३२॥
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually:
If you prefer, you may listen to the podcast: