Elisabeth Kübler Ross, author of On Death and Dying, said, “Beautiful people do not just happen.” They are made, she argues, by adversity. It is, in fact, struggle, pain, defeat, suffering, loss — and finding a way through and to the other side of them — that allows people to discover the best parts of themselves: “These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.”
There’s no denying that the whole planet seems to be in distress at the moment. What if rather than being shattered by these current crises, we could view these tumultuous times as an opportunity to become our best and most beautiful selves? As a crucible of sorts?
If we choose to, these difficult days can become a kind of tapas. Tapas is a Sanskrit word meaning heat or fire. It’s often used to describe a committed practice that one takes on in order to cultivate more discipline or self-control — such as waking up every day to practice yoga, or giving up sweets or alcohol. We do this because we become better versions of ourselves — our character is improved — through the “heat” that is generated as a result of such a self-imposed challenge.
Right now, we can let our tapas practice be a commitment to showing up every day with courage and compassion. We can commit to using the heat and fire of this moment to burn away that which doesn’t serve us — fear, anger, hard-heartedness. If we choose, we can use these difficult days to draw out the very best and most beautiful parts of us.
How we view each moment and how we respond to it is up to us. “Compassion, gentleness, deep loving concern.” Beauty such as this can flourish within each of us, even — and especially — in the most difficult of days. May we each choose to rise to this moment’s challenge — and opportunity.