Tapas: Touching the Yoga mat counts

A case for a gentle approach to disciple in Yoga. Tapas means discipline.

I am a writer and for years I struggled to write. Don't get me wrong. I loved writing but every time I sat down to write my mind wanted to do something else. It wanted to eat or watch television or chat with someone on the phone. Then I read about an accomplished writer, Stephen Spender. An admirer asked him how he managed to write so well and so consistently. To this the prolific writer replied, "I make it a point to be inspired everyday at 9 a.m."

This story stuck in my head and I thought, "If it works for him, it should work for me too!" So everyday at sharp 9 a.m. I sat down at my desk, tapping away at the keys of my typewriter.

The mind loves routine

Now, over two decades later, at 9 a.m. you will still find me at my desk, my fingers dancing across the keyboard, my eyes blurry from staring at the screen!

Much has been said and written about discipline. But let's face it, no one likes the word. It conjures up images of military style rigidity. Discipline is, in fact, dynamic, it is flexible and fun. It is really about creating new habits. The mind loves routine. You can use time to condition your mind. That's why at 9 a.m. I can only think of one thing - yes, that's right, writing!

But I must be honest with you, though I sat at my desk everyday at 9 a.m. I didn't always write. There were times when I didn't feel like writing. I promised my mind, "If you don't feel like writing, don't." I'd use that time to edit something I had written earlier, or do a little research for a piece I was planning to write later. Sometimes my mind didn't want to do that either. I didn't want to fight with my mind, that would be violent, wouldn't it? So I decided, just thinking of ideas for new articles is counted, just switching on the PC is counted, and "Mind, if you don't feel like doing that either, don't, because just touching the keyboard is counted!"

Why everything counts

Don't fight with your mind, lower your own expectations of yourself. In a competitive world you not only expect too much of others, but also too much of yourself. We hurt ourselves and do not even know it. Train your mind gently, not with force. If you use force you will only strengthen impressions of self-violence.

When we start to practice Yoga, we begin with a burst of enthusiasm. We take on too much - too many asanas, long periods of meditation, too often. Then the untrained mind rebels and soon we miss one day, then another and another...until we have forgotten all about our practice.

Create a new habit gently. Fix a time for practice and stick to it. Do short practices, then gradually do them more often. And if you don't feel like doing it, don't. Just touching the yoga mat counts!

The Spirit of Dicipline

You can use this gentle method to create new healthy habits as well as break unhealthy habits. Don't make resolutions you cannot live up to. Go easy on yourself, take a day at a time. If you slip, don't condemn yourself, after all you are human and the best of us make mistakes. Forgive yourself and start all over.

The spirit of discipline is a unique response to every situation. If you are flexible, you will eventually evolve your own training programme to suit your unique set of conditions. When the head and the heart agree, that perfect coordination is called discipline.

Our YouTube Channel THATfirst Satsang has many clips arranged topic-wise in the playlist. Topics include: Samaya Srividya, Pranayama, Self-Enquiry, Schools of Tantra, and many more. Subscribe to the channel!

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Frank from Cologne:
I hate discipline. And at the same time I know it is necessary to a certain extend.

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