Sparks light, but coals heat: Cultivating Resolve

(Originally published in 2015: Check out the app here)

The first thing I’ll admit to in this article: It’s about me, working on an app called Onward Facing Yoga. The app contains 11 sequences and 18 hours of instruction. I hope it ignites the spark of home practice and gives teachers ideas for guiding their students.

The second thing I’ll admit to: there are stretches of time where I’d rather do anything else than work on this damn app.

I created and edited 18 hours of verbal instruction. That’s 110 pages of cues, organized on 11 x 17 inch printouts with 12 point text.

After designing the sequences, I organized the themes of each sequence, incorporated cues into them and refined my language. I sent them out to some Pittsburgh yoga teachers for feedback. I incorporated their feedback into the sequences, and re-edited everything to make sure my voice was still in the instruction.

All this took about nine months. And sometimes all I wanted to do was ride my bike along Pittsburgh’s rivers, or watch a movie, or read a book. What kept me on track was the sustained heat of tapas (discipline).

Tapas, one of five internal practices in the Yoga Sutras, has less to with actual heat then it does willpower and resolve. It’s the mid-section of any mission you choose to undertake. It’s washing your dishes when you don’t want to, or working through grad school, or taking the time to meditate.


Getting a good campfire going always starts with a spark. This spark ignites the match, which ignites tinder, which starts heating up larger and larger sticks and branches. Eventually there’s enough heat to set the largest logs ablaze. Only after a longer period of time do the flames die down. What you’re left with is the sustained heat of hot coals.
A steady diet of inspiration gets us nowhere

That initial spark is important, but it’s only the beginning of a long and potentially arduous process. Plus it’s over in an instant. You’ll spend most of your time trying to keep the flames from dying out in the firepit. That spark is inspiration.

Trying to sustain any mission with a steady diet of inspiration is like trying to stay warm or cook dinner with sparks and tinder. While there are flickers and moments of light, there’s no appreciable heat to get things done.

If we only do things when inspired, we operate on whimsy, blindly following our desires. A steady diet of inspiration gets us nowhere, and hurts our ability to get meaningful things done. Life becomes a series of beginnings.

Working when you don’t want to develops your ability to sustain a practice. It fosters a mental discipline that inspiration cannot replace. It’s the coals that cook.

So when crafting your resolutions, whether for 2015 or otherwise, commit to an inspirational idea. But with that, acknowledge what a resolution needs: resolve. It’s working toward a goal when the inspiration has faded, and stirring hot coals far from the first sparks.


This is the logo for Onward Facing Yoga. It was designed by David Pohl, a Pittsburgh illustrator, who is also illustrating all the poses for the app. What you don’t see are the 14 other logo ideas he came up with before this one and the dozens upon dozens of variations he experimented with before we settled on this design.

I’m honored to be working with such people: those who can find inspiration and also sit down to work work work.

Thank you for reading, and have a safe and wonderful New Year’s. Namaste.

CC BY-SA 2.0 Photo License:
Sparklers. by Caleb
Hot Coals by Joel Bramley