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SEPTEMBER 2020. MONTHLY INSPIRATION
This month: Self-discipline (Tapas): Making lifestyle changes.
Previous months: Monthly Inspiration.
On the ‘Monthly Inspiration’ blogs we look at the Yamas and Niyamas. Each month a new theme is being shared with you.
It’s like Deborah Adele explains in her book ‘The Yamas and Niyamas’; “The Yamas and Niyamas are teachings that can be seen as a step-by-step methodology that brings understanding to your experiences and at the same time points the way to the next one.”.
Thus; … Ready for the theme of September?
Self-Discipline is what we will look at this month.
So, let’s take a look at self-discipline closer to home.
How can you use your self-discipline in order to change what needs (wants) to be changed?
Let’s look at:
Making lifestyle changes
The third Niyama is called ‘Tapas’ and it literally means ‘heat’. It can also be translated as self-discipline, spiritual commitment, change, tolerance and transformation. It is anything that urges you to change.
‘Tapas’ changes you. It takes you for example from anger and frustration to inspiration. It’s about creating a strong character, being able to say ‘NO’ and it’s about changing unhealthy habits and behaviour into more healthy and nourishing ones. How? By learning how to deal with the heat of the process of change. In therapy it is also called: ‘sitting in the fire’. It supports you in making the necessary lifestyle changes.
It reminds me of what a psychologist once said to me: “STOP moving appointments!”. This was her response to me when I complained about my ever-changing and full agenda. I wanted more peace and quiet in my daily life and I was holding the key for the needed change. All it took was self-discipline.
All I had to do to reach my goal was this: prioritize!
- I had to stop moving appointments.
- I had to stop wanting to change things constantly.
- I had to say ‘NO’ from time to time.
- I had to realize I don’t have to do everything and I don’t have to do it all by myself.
Making the right kind of lifestyle changes comes with knowing what’s your responsibility and what’s not. All too often we’re busy trying to manage other people’s lives as well. Like Byron Katie phrases so beautifully in her method ‘The Work’: “Whose life is it?”. Great, thus mind your own business!
Some things simply aren’t my responsibility. And simply put, better task- and time management was all it took for me to have more moments of peace and quiet. I realized that I decide what my goals are and I can decide as well what steps I wish to take to reach them.
Also, it’s my process of change and I can do it at my pace. Even when I take baby-steps, I will be moving forward. This is a great example of ‘tapas’: self-discipline. Making a decision, keeping to that decision and putting in the effort to reach it.
I experienced that self-discipline has a positive impact on my self-esteem and self-trust, and it gives me the reassurance that with enough discipline, I will be able to work towards my goals and reach them. The same counts for you.
‘Can we grow our ability to stay in the fire and let ourselves be burned
until we are blessed by the very thing that is causing us the pain and suffering?’
_ Deborah Adele
I am not saying change is easy. Even though we can make it easier, I know all too well it does come with a whole lot of resistance too. Only, we need to move through it, to be able to get out at the better end. It’s a matter of self-discipline and of choice.
An example to explain what I mean. When I am at home, I feel like travelling. Then when I book a trip and arrive in a new place, I always wonder: “Why on earth did I want to come here?”. This thought comes up as soon as everything around me is new. It makes me feel ungrounded, unsettled and anxious. And it has happened that I took the first flight back. That’s not the way to deal with changes.
Like they say in therapy too:
“You have to sit in the fire (feel all your emotions) in order to change them!”.
Thus, when I go somewhere new, and I do stay and rest well before I go out exploring, my energy settles. I know that now by staying and moving through the resistance. Once I’m rested and go outside to explore my new surroundings, I very quickly feel at home by building a routine in this new place.
Tips on how to deal with resistance
For example, these are things I do to move through the resistance and make myself feel comfortable in a new place:
I unpack and put some personal belongings in the room, like my favourite blanket, some incense + Palo Santo, crystals and perhaps a photo or favourite book.
I shower, sleep and rest first.
I tell myself I am allowed to feel unsettled. It’s OK!
I meditate and do some breath work to settle the energy of all the travelling hours.
I contact a friend (if needed) who can support me and encourage me to look at what I am feeling.
I choose a particular café for my breakfast in the morning to make myself feel at home.
I go for a walk in an area that I already know or want to get to know until I feel like trying a new area in town.
I do the groceries at the same supermarket every day to give myself a feeling of ‘This is my hood!’.
- When in the past did you feel ungrounded, unsettled or anxious for example?
- What did you do?
- Did it work? What was it that worked or didn’t work?
- What could you also have done?
- If you feel these sensations again, what are you planning on doing?
- How can you allow yourself to take these steps?
And what do you do when ‘sitting in the fire’ seems too overwhelming and you’ve got the impression that you have NOT got enough self-discipline to see it through?
It can be that you have to face challenges that are so overwhelming that you simply have to wait with wanting to move forward. It could be that you need professional guidance from a therapist. Please do seek this support if you feel you need it. I am a big fan of Somatic Experiencing to allow myself to experience that sensations come and go. More about this later though!
Here are 4 responses that we are all for sure familiar with when the going gets tough:
- fawn (= kind of like saying: “It’s all fine by me!” when clearly, it’s not*)
* Pete Walker talks about it in his book ‘Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving’.
What else can we do? We can also allow ourselves to feel what’s moving through us without wanting to do something about it yet. It is about feeling it and letting it be, and all of that with compassion. The method from Peter Levine called ‘Somatic Experiencing ’ is very useful for this. Even though we feel like giving one of the 4 responses mentioned above, staying with the feelings that are present, is the only way to truly deal with it. I do recommend doing this with professional guidance if the topics you’re dealing with are challenging. No need to do this on your own.
I know from experience that sitting in the fire and letting the feelings move through me, is the only way out. If I do the opposite and decide to run, or perhaps fight it, it will not be solved. They say what needs to be seen, will keep on entering our life, until we sit down and deal with it. And yes, that does take courage.
How does this ‘sitting in the fire’ go? When something has just happened for example, this is what you can do. In short:
- Sit down.
- Feel the wave of sensations move through you.
- Don’t judge the sensations (emotions).
- Watch the feelings and thoughts that arise. Just watch them.
- Keep on breathing and observing what is moving through you.
- Keep on tracking what’s happening inside of you and keep on breathing.
- Observe how everything is constantly changing.
- Notice when things have calmed down and then bring your attention back into the room around you.
Let the sensations fade away by bringing attention to them, not by moving away from them. Now, how long does a strong emotion last?
“The neuroscientist Jill Bolte-Taylor states in her memoir ‘My Stroke of Insight’ that the physiological lifespan of an emotion in the body and brain is 90 seconds. The sensations—adrenalin, heat in the face, tightness in the throat, rapid heartbeat—arise, peak and dissipate on their own. What keeps emotions lingering are the stories we tell ourselves about them, usually that the situation should be other than what it is, or that a person (or we) should have behaved differently.” (Source)
Learn from ‘mis-takes’
In order to be able to accomplish something in the future, it means you will have to deal with whatever is troubling you now. Stop pushing it away, stop fighting it. Become aware of what needs to be understood and deal with it in a conscious way. See all the challenges as a way to train yourself. Learn from ‘mis-takes’. A mis-take is simply an attempt that didn’t give the desired results. So, try again.
I know, sometimes we simply don’t want to, but the road of repeated messages is far more painful. What do you know already? Also, what have you learned already? And what skills and talents do you hold? You have learned this by trial and error and that will continue to be so. That is how we learn. Only by allowing ourselves to make mistakes, can we build character. We learn from our attempts that have gone ‘wrong’. And during this restless period of change we can ask yourself: “What do I need today in order to move forward on my path with trust in my heart?”.
This means we need to dare to be vulnerable and that we need to ask for support when we need it. Moreover, it is also about involving others by telling them what process we are in. Tell people about that fire that you feel burning inside. Choose the person you know will be able to hold the space for you and guide you during this process of change. And use this fire to transform yourself. The Niyama ‘Tapas’ is really about inviting ourselves to apply self-discipline, choice and courage for the higher good of all.
To conclude, this reminds me of how Byron Katie explains it in her method ‘The Work’: ‘Could the opposite of what I believe to be true, also be true?’. This question has helped me from time to time to take a different look at the challenges I was facing. Believe me, we all get stuck in the fire of change an awful lot of times and there is always a way out. It is as Deborah Adele states in her book: ‘Will we trust the process or will we run and hide?’.
With love and care,
Marianne de Kuyper
P.S. I’m a Dutch girl going global. Even though I reread everything multiple times, my apologies in case I’ve made a language mistake somewhere. Just mail me about it. I’ll be happy to adjust it (if I can) and learn from it!
P.S. The blog is Inspired by ‘The Yamas and Niyamas, exploring yoga’s ethical practice’ from Deborah Adele.
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// I, Marianne (founder) am a Dutch girl going global. Even though (the team and) I reread everything multiple times, my apologies in case I’ve made a language mistake somewhere. Just e-mail me about it. I’ll be happy to adjust it if I can and learn from it! //