The Drawback of Resolutions
Every new year millions of people set goals. They are excited by a new number, a new month and new possibilities. It is as if one has wiped the slate clean and can now begin anew. There is innocence, joy and wonder in this feeling.
But sometimes we get so excited about the new year that we create nearly impossible goals. Instead we are lucky if we are still practicing any of our resolutions by March.
Yet the New Year brings with it a contagious momentum. It brings a wave of energy that invites us to introspection and change. So how do we capitalize on the childlike excitement of the new year and at the same time face our own inconsistencies of carrying out our new dreams?
What is Sankalpa
Sankalpa is a Sanskrit term meaning "deep intention." It comes from the practice of Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation that literally means “yogic sleep.” In the process of yoga nidra, the practitioner first relaxes her body, then she creates a sankalpa.
This is a soul desire that one seeks to manifest into her own life. By definition, this desire is not a trifling thing which can change over the course of a few weeks. Nor can it be fulfilled through material means. A sankalpa is a part of ourselves already there. We simply awaken to it and then let it rise to the surface of our personality. We long to bring it forward because through its fulfillment, we step into a fuller expression of who we are.
Setting a Sankalpa is different than setting a goal which can be measured and marked off a list. A sankalpa is a commitment to bring forward a state of being. It is a gradual unfurling of the soul. It is an ideal that awakens inside of us and sheds light on the soul’s path. When you set a sankalpa, you work on it for the rest of your life, continually coming back to it to help inform your next steps.
Yoga Nidra, or Yogic Sleep, is a form of guided meditation that is meant to take the practitioner to the border of the conscious and subconscious mind. There the sankalpa is planted so that even without our awareness, consciousness itself is working for us. It works when we sleep, when we play, when we love.
As a planet, we have spent 2020 turning inward. Many of us have come to know ourselves in joyous and fulfilling ways we could not have anticipated. As we move forward in 2021, we gradually turn our attention back outward to share who we are with more people.
Through setting a sankalpa, you choose to bring forward latent aspects of your soul. You bring this soulfulness into the everyday activities of eating, walking, cleaning, cooking, working. You also bring it into your relationships and your community. Setting a sankalpa means you are updating your relationship with your own self. And we can never underestimate how one tiny mental adjustment can and will drastically impact the quality of every single relationship in our lives.
How to Set a Sankalpa
How do you set a sankalpa? It isn’t something you think about. Because thinking includes too much noise. Our thoughts are a composite of culture, parents, teachers, bosses, friends. Thinking comes from the outside. It is full of shoulds and shouldn’ts. It often fails to acknowledge simply what is.
Our sankalpa is what is- what is hidden underneath the layers of what should be. It comes forward when you quiet your mind and place your attention within the heart.
When the mind is quiet and the heart is open, we can ask the heart: what longs to come forward? What aspect of myself is yearning to make itself known? What soul quality would allow me to experience myself as a whole person?
It took me a few times of pausing and listening to realize what my sankalpa is. When I first quieted my mind and put my attention in my chest, I received the feeling of stillness. Initially I interpreted stillness to be my sankalpa.
However, as I continued to sit, the feeling of stillness evolved into a more robust image. I experienced my heart’s longing as a subtle, physical, spiritual and cellular health. It is a vibrancy that emits from all my layers (physical, energetic, mental/emotional, intellectual and spiritual) because my thoughts align with my actions align with my words align with my heart. This full body health comes forward as the result of deep listening.
As you read this, does a sankalpa come forward for you?
When your sankalpa does come forward, you can ceremonialize it through writing it down, journaling about it and sharing it in a safe space where you feel seen and heard.
Setting your sankalpa and creating sacred space for it can be done anywhere, any time. You can spend time right now to stop and see what it is. Then if you like, you can imbue power into this intention with a community of like-minded people.
I invite you to share space with me and others at the Elemental Yoga community on January 25th for the New Year Yoga class. In this space, we will practice Yoga Nidra and plant our sankalpas into the fertile ground of the subconscious mind. Class will open with relaxing the body, doing a few grounding breath practices and then setting our sankalpas. After we set our sankalpas, we will do a mindful movement practice. Class will culminate with a Yoga Nidra guided meditation.
You can join us either online or in person.
Class is by donation.
Monday January 25th, 5:30-6:45pm.