Giant Stumps & Tapas

Layne, Boo, and I moved house a couple of weeks ago, and Boo and I have been exploring the trails around our new place near the base of Mt. Coot-tha. The path we took this morning goes past the back of a house that is clearly undergoing a massive backyard renovation. In the middle of this yard stands the ‘stump’ you see in the picture above. It’s about 3 meters tall, and twice the width of the older gentleman who is always out working in the yard and often stops us to say hello. Today he was working on this stump, and I asked him if he was digging up that tree himself, and he replied that he was. My surprise must have been obvious because completely unprompted he said

“It gets me up in the morning!” 

Setting aside the environmental issues inherent in taking down an ancient tree, I started to wonder what makes an older guy like that wake up in the morning, put on his work clothes, and make the conscious choice to go out and literally peck away at this massive job that will take him months if not years? Based on the way he was moving I don’t think he was totally free of aches and pains, and I haven’t seen anyone else around cheering him on, so why do it?

Choosing to tackle challenges head-on can be as simple as having a reason to get up in the morning, as my new friend said. But it can also reflect a quest for growth, or a desire to push the edges of your comfort zone, challenge limitations (like an aching, ageing body), or explore uncharted territory. Looking at this through a yogic lens, his choice reflects the principle of “tapas.”

Tapas refers to the disciplined effort and commitment required to overcome obstacles on the path to spiritual growth and evolution. 

In choosing a challenging path, we embrace the principle of Tapas; the idea that progress arises from facing difficulties head-on and that the journey itself holds tremendous value in the way it fosters resilience, discipline, and self-awareness. The physical practice of yoga can help us to become more comfortable with discomfort; and as we work with challenges both on and off the mat, we learn that difficult times can lead to incredible revelations of spirit, and a deeper connection to ourselves and the world.

© Julie Smerdon 2023

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