I have a friend who works for master glass sculpture artist Dale Chihuly, and we were talking about the sculptures a bit. It got me thinking about how amazing this art is. If you’ve ever been to the Bellagio, that’s his work hanging on the ceiling as you enter the main lobby. The thing about glass is that it can be incredibly brittle (I am well-known to break wine glasses all the time). Glass sculptures can be oh so delicate. However, add a little heat, and the glass becomes fluid like a syrupy liquid, you can bend shape and transform it into the most fanstastical creations. Heat can be freeing and liberating.
In my yoga classes I spend a lot of time generating heat in the physical body, so that we can move safely and deeply into back-bend and hip-opening postures. After a few sun salutations, even stiff legs can feel quite loose.
For all of us, heat can come in the form of literal/direct heat as one would find in a heated yoga practice, or generated internally through focused breathing. It can come from the intense heat of continued focus and effort. It can come in a deep way through meditation. It can come from emotional “heat” due to stress, longing or news both good and bad. Heat can be incredibly uncomfortable but it is also through this heat that we are able to bend and shape ourselves in new ways.
The Sanskrit term that best captures this notion of heat is called “tapas” which literally means “heat” but also references a practice of spiritual purification through the burning off of negative energy. In yoga it is also one of the “niyamas” or self-restraints that are mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Without heat, deep change is impossible. Welcome the purifying heat. When things get challenging and you feel the intensity build, understanding that you have a unique opportunity to grow in incredibly profound and new ways. It’s a chance for you to make your masterpiece.