On my way to work this morning, having left the house 20-25 minutes later than I would have preferred, I came upon a demonstration led by organized labor seeking a Secretary of Labor who honored good jobs. My timing, thanks no doubt to the mysteries of the goddess of sequencing, was perfect; just as I arrived Senator Sanders was speaking. The puzbot was posing for lots of photos.
On my way home from work, I heard the sounds of a crowd at the Capitol. I joined in to listen (Elizabeth Warren spoke shortly after I arrived) and chanted with my fellow citizens–the chant not “om mani pedme hung” nor “om mane padme hum,” but on this particular night, with this particular crowd, addressing this particular issue, “one more vote.”
Being out here over and over again regardless of hope of the immediate outcome being effectively influenced is a variation on tapas, on sadhana, on seva, on faith put into practice.
It seems that this monk and I are being drawn to the same places this week, though I am guessing our days are pretty different.
What does it mean to excel, to do well? I think there is no excelling in yoga, at least not the way we conventionally think of excelling in school or career or sports. But to practice in a way that is more than casual, there must be ardor–tapas.
Tapas is often translated as fire, and the texts are full of stories of outrageous physical exertions done to prove the tapas of the practitioners looking for boons from the gods.
There is a fiery aspect to tapas, but I question whether it must necessarily be burning from physical exertion, though that is a path that calls out to many.
The fire of tapas could be thought of as doing what it takes to manifest the will to know something deeply enough to be able to experience the fluency and grace and delight of expertise. It could be the ardor to show up in a disciplined and committed way for hours and days and years of practice, always still wanting deeper, fuller knowing.