Sunday, 19 December 2010

Tarot journey into yogic philosophy 8 - tapas

Tapas, the third of the niyamas or inner observances laid down by Patanjali, literally means fire or heat.  While often translated in yogic terms as discipline, I like Donna Farhi's idea of calling this precept "burning enthusiasm".  I see this as being about directing our passion towards objects, habits, thoughts and people that help increase our awareness and connection to spirit.  It's no good, for example, bringing passionate enthusiasm to something which diverts you from your path, no matter how enjoyable.  The key here is to use your enthusiasm to help you stay on the road to spirit, or to whatever goal you've set for yourself.

The King of Wands is passionate and decisive, a leader who puts his all into everything he chooses. This fieriness of passion and wholeheartedness of belief and commitment perfectly matches my understanding of tapas.  The King of Wands knows what he wants and believes in and goes for it, dragging others along with him if necessary.  He fires people up to join in with a project, and is very focused and driven, but always with joy rather than with a sense of duty.  

I love the literal metaphor Donna Farhi gives of a fire: it may be hard to start, and when just beginning to burn it requires regular tending and encouragement, but once it's burning brightly, it's hard to put out.  To help with this sense of enthusiasm, Donna Farhi recommends being around people who already have it - someone who will light your fire!

Once we have this enthusiasm, doing something feels easy and fun.  However, achieving this in the first place isn't always so simple.  For example, having the enthusiasm to eat well and exercise regularly may go against habits we've developed over many years.  How to find the enthusiasm to change?  And the discipline to stick with it when it feels hard?  One thing that comes to mind here is finding the values that will make this feel important enough to fight for.  Another thing, following Donna Farhi's suggestion, is to find someone to inspire you. 

I turned to the tarot to ask what I need to know about enthusiasm and discipline in my life right now?  The answer I got, from the Tarot of Pagan Cats, was the 8 of Wands.

It's interesting that in this version of the card it looks like the wands are flying from somewhere distant, coming down to land around our beautiful black-and-white cat.  The cat seems entirely unperturbed by this rain of wands, after all she's sitting pretty in a sacred circle, protected.  She's enjoying the night-time landscape illuminated by the full moon. 

The first thing that springs to mind is around having the discipline to stay where I am come hell or high water, so to speak.  If I can trust that I have already positioned myself where I need to be, I just need to stay there.  It's about the discipline not to flinch or back down, to continue on the path I am already on.  This is reminiscent of what I said in a previous post, also about the 8 of Wands (Rods), though the image itself was very different. 

Another suggestion I see here is that I let my enthusiasm be ignited by ideas from the outside.  I have to be open to them, to welcome them, but they are at my fingertips - quite literally with the internet.  So in this instance, getting someone to light my fire may not be about going out to someone or something, but about letting their words and inspiration come to me.  However, that won't just happen: I have to be actively present, open and seeking, hence already being sat in the sacred circle.

The enthusiasm of tapas burns brightly, but the moon in this version of the 8 of Wands makes me think of the embers that last through the night, reigniting in the morning when they are fed.  So, my enthusiasm and discipline may not be very apparent at the moment, but they are there, ready to be brought to life again when the time is right.

So, I need to stay on the path I've chosen, be open to new inspiration from the outside, and not worry too much if currently it seems that my enthusiasm and discipline are non-existent.  They are there, dormant but not dead, ready to reignite when the time is right.

Any thoughts?  Can enthusiasm and discipline really be equated?  And if you draw a card to look at your own discipline and enthusiasm, I'd love to hear about it.

Images: King of Wands from the Legacy of the Divine Tarot and 8 of Wands from the Tarot of Pagan Cats.


  1. Can enthusiasm and discipline really be equated? That's a difficult one, because I see enthusiasm as the spark that gets you going, without enthusiasm you can't get off the ground, yet if you are a disciplined person you can stick to anything, even if you are not enthusiastic about it.

    I think enthusiasm and discipline are more like good friends, you need the enthusiasm to get going and the discipline to see the idea through.

    I chose the Deviant Moon to ask what I need to know about enthusiasm and discipline in my life right now?
    Drum Roll.... Temperance ah I need to blend the two, make them walk side by side. That's true, I get enthusiastic and then I talk myself out of things, thinking I am not good enough. Temperance is telling me that I need to co-operate more with myself and stop sabotaging myself. Listen more to that higher instinct and not be afraid to manifest in my life.

    I love the way this Temperance pours from one shape vessel into a completely different shape and she looks on in almost a loving way. She's telling me that in the mixing and blending I will also learn to love and trust myself more. She may even be indicating to me that I need to assert more self control over those doubts I often have.

  2. Great post, thank you for sharing your thoughts. That 8 of wands is lovely, I need to see some more cards from that deck!

  3. Inner Whispers, I thought this such a good post, and the question you posed on "what I need to know about enthusiasm and discipline in my life right now?" such a good question to draw a card on - that I have shared a link to this post of yours on my fb page and also posted my reading from the DM card that I drew.


  4. Hi Helen,

    I'm glad the post resonated with you. And what an interesting draw from the Deviant Moon! I found it strange what you said about getting enthusiastic about things and then talking yourself out of them, it's quite the opposite of how I am - I get enthusiastic and charge ahead, and only later realise that perhaps my energy needs to be more focused and, dare I say it, disciplined ;-) Hadn't noticed that the DM Temperance pours between different shaped vessels, perhaps also highlighting the transformation that comes when we blend different aspects of our lives? Very thought provoking reading, thanks for sharing it!


  5. Hi Sharyn,

    Thanks for your comment. The Tarot of Pagan Cats is definitely worth looking further at. Although based on traditional RWS imagery, there is a lot of variation and additional symbology, so plenty of new insights to gain :-)