to start a car the spark plugs must fire first.
the sun rises and signifies the dawn of a new day.
in order to clear out darkness from the deep recesses of "the room", light is needed.
tapas means to burn or to create heat. like burning out impurities to produce gold, when we initiate a spiritual practice a certain degree of effort must take place in order to reveal our true nature…a desire, an inner spark must ignite.
asana (physical yoga practice) for example produces heat, oxygenates the blood and thins it so that it may flow more freely. when we perform ashtanga vinyasa, linking movements with a breath count, the body heats up allowing it to burn off what is no longer needed. when the body gains clarity in movement, through the joints, muscles, skin cells, bones, organs, etc, the mind will easily follow. a very simple example: take a moment, relax. soften your jaw. take a long free breath in, and a long free breath out. notice the difference in the quality of your mind already…and that's just one breath!
in order to step towards a mind that is free from delusion and complicated longstanding narratives, there must be a desire to do so in the first place. tapas is that very desire, a yearning for knowledge of the self. like a painter who shows up in front of the blank canvas in order to paint, or like buddha who sat heavy in his seat under the bodhi tree until enlightened, we as practitioners on this inner quest voluntarily place ourselves into the firing lines of austerities and observation. what is revealed may at first be found undesirable and uncomfortable. but in time and with patience as the capacity to be inclusive and discerning expands, light starts to flood the room and all that needs to be "seen" is.