Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Third Niyama - Tapas (Discipline)

For the month of February, we contemplated the third niyama, tapas, which can be translated as discipline.  Often this concept is applied to a vigorous asana practice which can help burn through our obstacles of body and mind.  It seems no accident that is comes after saucha (purity) and santosha (contentment) in the niyamas so that we are mindful of our inner light, our connection to the divine and raising our awareness of our blessings and the ways in which we have enough in our life.  We also want the remember the yamas as a foundation for our tapas:  ahimsa (non-violence/compassion), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (balanced life), aparigraha (non-possessiveness); so that we do not get caught in shame, pride, or guilt as we work on our tapas practice.

We can begin by noticing the areas in our lives that we are disciplined in our thoughts, words, and/or actions.  Recognizing we already have the ability for steadfast attention and commitment to the path we want to travel in this life.  Building our awareness of our strengths.  And, from that place, choosing another area that we may be ready to dedicate our efforts toward refining our behaviors for the betterment of ourselves and to come more in line with our inner light.  Gold is purified by fire.  We ignite our inner fire (tapas) to keep us empowered to stay on the path.  Where does that inspiration and ignition come from? 

All the aspects of our yoga practice fuel this fire.  All the elements of nature and all the planes of consciousness fuel this fire.  We come into our bodies, we come back to our breath, we quiet and focus our mind, and delve deeper into our own witness consciousness and wisdom which helps guide us on our path.  We recognize and accept the support of our many sanghas (communities of support on the path):  in our yoga classes, our meditation groups, our churches, our families, our friends, our co-workers...all those who inspire us and shine their light so we may see ourselves reflected in that light.  We are inspired by so many teachers in our lives who share the dharma and the wisdom that keeps bringing us back to perspective and the knowledge of interbeing (we are not alone).  We cultivate awareness of our subtle body during our asana, pranayama, and meditation practice so we realize how BIG we are, vibrating with life and energy, capable of enjoying such amazing delights in this world and holding a space for our own and others pain that we may more easily transform our suffering.

We chanted the long form of the Gayatri Mantra this month to tune into the elements of nature and planes of consciousness, recognizing the reflection of those elements in us, connecting them with the seven chakras of the subtle body.  We looked at using The Fourth Mindfulness Training as a tapas practice:  focusing on loving kind speech and compassionate listening.  And, we supported each other in either continuing or beginning a daily practice of meditation or asana or chanting or inspirational reading or prayer or some combination of those.  We talked about setting up a special place in your room or your home or apartment for this practice so the energy of it may grow and feed you and keep bringing you back. 

Let us continue to support each other on the path.  Sharing our insights, our practice, our challenges, and our delights.  I look forward to hearing from you and sharing the practice.

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu

Blessings of Peace, Love, and Ease of Living to you and your beloveds and to all beings!

The Fourth Mindfulness Training
Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Plum Village

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