A Sankalpa practice starts from the fundamental basis that you already are who you need to be to fulfill your life’s purpose. It cultivates a connection to your deepest desires, a focused mind, and an ability to direct your inner power in a current that flows towards your highest purpose.
This New Years, I didn’t set any traditional resolutions, and instead began the year after finding my own inner compass and setting a Sankalpa, or resolve for the year ahead. Most resolutions start out with the idea the idea that we are essentially not “good” enough as we are and we must do something to change. In Yoga, setting a Sankalpa practice is instead based on the idea that you are already have within you everything needed to fulfill your life purpose or dharma.
Rather than setting a resolution that relies on consistent willpower, which typically fails, a Sankalpa acts as an underlying current of intention that flows continuously in a direction of ones dharma. “San” refers to a connection to the highest truth and “kalpa” signifies a vow, or rule to be adhered to above everything else. While traditional resolutions require will power and tend to focus on shallow aspects of our self and actions, a Sankalpa is a deeper, more encompassing, unwavering, reminder of our true nature, our highest-self, and our true purpose. It flows beneath all of our choices and actions.
A Sankalpa practice asks us to get in touch with our deepest, most heartfelt desires. These deepest desires can tell us about who we are and the life that we were born to live. Often for a resolution, people pick one small or shallow aspect of their life. A common choice is to get in shape. The Sankalpa practice takes it to a deeper meaning. Sankalpa asks why and seeks to know and reveal what the true desire is underneath that simple longing. Is there a deeper need that is asking to be nourished? If we want to get in shape, is the deeper desire that we want to be loving to ourselves and others, we want to fully value our life, we want freedom from pain, or do we desire the feeling of acceptance? The initial intention, such as wanting to get in shape, can lead us to the deeper truth and desire we are seeking to fulfill.
Knowing the true intention of our goals, allows us to act on them on a way that is more in alignment with one’s purpose. When our actions become tied to the arrow of our dharma, rather than to the rules that could conflict with it, there is less resistance and our arrow projects forward faster and farther.
The downfall of a resolution is that it can create more resistance, guilt, and a sense of failure that knocks us off course. If we have simply resolved to get into shape, and months later we find ourselves indulging in chocolate, we tend to say I have failed, I don’t know why I tried, and now I give up. However if our true desire behind getting in shape was to love our-self, we can say I love myself, I am indulging today because this is what I need, this is enjoyable, I feel amazing and I am still going to yoga tonight and I am not bringing any guilt to my mat.
It does not excuse actions that are not in alignment, instead it allows us to continue moving forward despite our challenges and set-backs. It is important to review our challenges, the moments that felt off course from our true path. When we look back on these instances objectively, we can ask if our Sankalpa was being honored or not. If we see that our choice took us of path, we can re-imagine the experience, visualizing what it would have looked like if we had been honoring our resolve. Doing this ritually is intended to naturally direct our future choices. When a similar moment arises, we will know which arrow to choose from our holster, and where to aim it. It is a practice that must be on going, and over time we become better and better, more refined, more skilled in directing our arrow of life.
A Sankalpa also allows no experience to go to waste. If an experience we co-created pulled us away from our purpose, we may look to our resolve to return it to a productive part of our path. It isn’t just what happens to us, or what we did to ourselves, it is how we return to our true nature after it. If we have taken an action that ventured away from our true desire, we must seek how to transmute the setback into an opportunity to become closer to our purpose. It allows us to define what was essentially the food that nourished our purpose, vs the scarp to be discarded, and what purpose could the scarp serve. Often times we may find that the discarded scraps are nourishment to grow something new.
For example, if we want to love our self, and we see getting in shape is one aspect, but we were distracted and didn’t go to the gym for a week because we discovered a show we loved. The show doesn’t have to be a down fall. Instead we could transform our desire to watch the show into motivation. Could you reward yourself by only allowing yourself to watch it after your work out, could you find a gym buddy to talk to who watches the same show, could you make your home work-out more enjoyable by watching it while you do it? Live as fully alive as possible in between your goal and realizing it. Your nature and purpose go unchanged in the space between the two.
2016 Fully Alive 101
By: Kimberly Babin