Earlier in the Spring, I was inspired by teacher Antonio Sausys to consider life after the virus in the terms of what do I want to keep from the old way of doing things, what do I want to let go of, and what do I want to take from the new way of doing things, what do I want to let go. It was an interesting and helpful exercise for me, although, at the time, life after the virus felt like a long-off concept. Living through this pandemic month after month has offered me an opportunity to re-evaluate so many aspects of my life and work. Much has changed for me, and how I felt early in the pandemic is different from how I feel now.
Here we are months later, the virus is raging, sadly thousands are dying and yet the vaccine seems to offer hope. Maybe sometime next year I may be able to travel again, visit my parents again, send my kids to school again, and resume many of things that I considered “normal” prior to March 13, 2020. Here we are on the verge of Winter Solstice, an energetically powerful and potent time as we look toward the turning of a new cycle, some say made even more potent this year by astrological conjunctions and a new age emerging. On any given year I would be considering my sankalpa for the year ahead. This year it seems even more important to connect with the truth of who I am.
The word Sankalpa is often translated as affirmation or resolve, comprised of the root words kalpa, meaning vow, and san meaning connection with the highest truth. According to yoga teacher Rod Stryker in a Yoga International article, 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.”
Whoa, that’s powerful. There’s more.
According to Richard Miller, PhD, a clinical psychologist and founder of iRest Yoga Nidra, a sankalpa arrives with everything needed to fully realize it. This includes iccha (tremendous will and energy), kriya (action), and jnana (the wisdom of how to deliver that action). “These are all aspects of the Divine, and they live within us. When the true sankalpa comes in, we awaken these three qualities of the Divine,” Miller says. “You don’t have to ask where you’ll find the will to do it. The energy and will is already there. The sankalpa informs us of the action we’re willing to take into the world.”
That sounds even more powerful.
There are a couple of different types of sankalpas – one that Richard Miller describes as a “heartfelt desire” that reflects your true nature, something like “I am resting in the arms of love.” The other type is one that is aligned with your goals. Goals that align with your dharma, for example “I lead Inner Peace Yoga Therapy toward to continuous growth.” Remember that both types of sankalpas should be stated in the present tense, as if they are already the truth.
To set your sankalpa requires tuning in, reflecting, inner listening. It’s a process of remembering your essence. Once established, Rod Stryker says that meditation is the most fertile ground for sankalpa practice because it brings us to a non-dual state where we are neither seeking nor lacking, a state of present moment wholeness. “The longer we are able to effortlessly rest in that place of oneness, the more rapidly we are able to fulfill our sankalpa,” explains Stryker. “The mind becomes a more powerful agent to help us fulfill our intentions.”
There is also the process of strengthening your sankalpa or setting it ablaze through your action and embodiment of it. This is known as “sankalpa shakti.” Can you find moments in your day where you can make conscious choices that support your sankalpa? If you forget or make wrong choices, no problem. Go back, review and reflect upon how you could have made a different choice to support your sankalpa. Give it strength to support the next time you have a choice.
Each year around the Winter Solstice, where one cycle is ending and a new one is beginning, I feel inspired to connect with my sankalpa. This past year has been the most transformational of my lifetime, filled with challenges and new opportunities, love and loss. I’ve done much seeking, weighing, re-evaluating what’s important and evolving. I’m ready to take what I’ve learned from this year and catalyze it toward what lies in the year ahead. I’m excited to share my purpose for being here and I encourage you to do so too.
Yours in yoga,
Michele Lawrence, Inner Peace Yoga Therapy Founder/Director
P.S. If you haven’t already, consider joining us for a live Winter Solstice Practice and Ceremony on Monday, Dec 21 at 5:30pm MT. Details and registration here.