Lent started on Tuesday- this Christian festival that I grew up with has not appeared on my radar for many years as much more than time when people give up chocolate so they can have an extra egg at Easter. This year however I am paying more attention.
The Yoga sutras start the description of the activity of Yoga with ‘Tapas’. Tapas is the practice of turning up and committing to do something with the specific intention of doing it until something changes. It’s the first word of the chapter on practice and this signifies its importance.
[One of my favourite signs I saw on the beach in India was outside a café- it said “Tapas (the Spanish kind)” they had obviously had enough Yogi’s in explaining the dual meaning to feel it required a sign to make sure everyone was clear they are selling snacks not discipline!]
The time of Lent is in essence a specific Tapas and commitment to undertake a practice to reflect on the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross. A symbolic gesture of giving something up to encourage deeper reflection.
Regular readers of the newsletter may remember that every year over the last 5 years it gets to mid summer and I disappear off to Holland House in Cropthorne to study Yoga with Dave and Ranju. Holland House is a Christian retreat centre and is blessed to have a most wonderful Reverend in charge. Ian welcomes all. This what he had to say about Lent this year…
“The season of Lent is on my mind, as it starts tomorrow. I wonder if we might consider it 40 days of healing? Perhaps we might begin tomorrow by sitting quietly and still for 5 minutes, and whatever thoughts and feelings arise, just look at them through the eyes of Christ, that is with deep compassion. No blame, no guilt, no ideas of “improving”, no beating the self adult up. Just looking at the thoughts and feelings with Christ-compassion.
I wonder how we might feel after 40 days of that short practice ? Lent as a practice of compassion and healing. A blessed Lent to all.”
I really like Ian’s idea- can you spend 5 minutes everyday for the next 10, 20 or even 30+ days until Easter sitting quietly cultivating a calm place where we can notice judgemental thoughts and gently encourage them to be replaced by acceptance.
Far too often the idea of giving something up is accompanied by a large serving of “because I’m not good enough and I need to put myself through this slightly uncomfortable sacrifice to improve myself” And far too often the idea of taking something up is side stepped – “if I take something up and fail to keep it up then it won’t have made any difference so there is no point trying”
I would like to suggest a rephrasing of those narratives; “Lets make this a priority to encourage necessary/positive change”
Putting a frame around a goal gives it an end point. This is a tactic used in cognitive therapy SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based. A recipe for success!
5 minutes a day of quiet contemplation for 30 days could be a SMART tapas that creates greater kindness in the world for ourselves and others.
Where do I sign up?