Poised at the edge of 2017, December feels like a kind of twilight…the dusk to the dawn of the year ahead, and an auspicious time to access where we have been and where we are heading. Yoga helps us to cultivate greater clarity so that we have the ability to sort through and access the things in our lives that support our health, happiness, and well-being, and those that simply don’t. Ideally, we can then choose more of what lifts us up, what brings us joy. The fact that we are making choices all day, every day is a powerful and influential thing. While there are certainly many unscripted, unavoidable, unexpected twists and turns for all of us, as we traverse the ups and downs, we choose our reactions or our non-reactions, our inner landscape, our glass is half full or half empty view. Our mindset, our beliefs are driving our train -- either heading us in the right direction, de-railing us, or even moving us backward. We become what we focus on, and what we practice. In the early yogic text of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads –
As is your deepest driving desire, so are your thoughts.
As are your thoughts so are your words.
As are your words, so are your deeds.
As are your deeds, so is your destiny.
The New Year is often a time of resolutions to be better, to do better, to change -- hopefully for the better. In yoga, we have sankalpas which can be a heartfelt desire for healing, happiness, wisdom, enlightenment, or a specific intention or goal. On his website, Parayoga.com, Rod Stryker describes a sankalpa:
“A Sankalpa should be a short and positive statement, which addresses a deep and significant urge. Ask yourself what is the one thing that if I were to have or be, it would improve my whole life– what one thing or quality will have the greatest possible positive impact on your life and on the life of others.”
In an in depth article on sankalpas from Yoga International, Rod Stryker clarifies more:
kalpa means vow, or “the rule to be followed above all other rules.” San, he says, refers to a connection with the highest truth. Sankalpa, then, is a vow and commitment we make to support our highest truth. “By definition, a sankalpa should honor the deeper meaning of our life. A sankalpa speaks to the larger arc of our lives, our dharma—our overriding purpose for being here.” The sankalpa becomes a statement you can call upon to remind you of your true nature and guide your choices.
Interestingly we want to phrase these intentions in the present tense as if they are already true. ‘I am... joyful, calm, healthy, strong,’ or ‘I have…peace within me,’ or one word like brave, confident, connected, or intuitive. The sankalpa becomes the seed that we plant. To water, nurture, and help it grow, we repeat it regularly and often to ourselves for reinforcement. It could be repeated in the morning when waking up, when going to sleep, in the shower, at the beginning or end of a yoga practice as a mantra, or when meditating. Write it and post it where it will be a reminder to download it, to live it. If we begin to falter, returning to it strengthens our intention. Synergistically look for quotes, articles, books etc. that support your sankalpa. “Coincidently” these sources will start to flow more and more your way.
As we step into 2018, our heartfelt intentions, our sankalpas, are our destiny. We can all explore what, where, and how we are choosing to live our lives. When we understand that these choices are linked to our beliefs, our histories, our defaults and that making a shift to choose more from our deepest self (which can be accessed through our yoga practices) we can become more rooted, grounded, and resolved to follow our hearts. My friend and fellow yoga teacher Susan read the following quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel in class one day earlier this year and it resonated deeply with me—“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” A beautiful, wonder-filled way to see and choose to experience life.
Wishing all a healthy, happy, intention filled New Year.