Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sankalpa - Recipe of the month

This article was first published in the Yoga Spirit Studios newsletter "On the Mat" in December 2013

At this time of year you might be feeling that you have had enough food to last awhile. So, this month I am stretching the definition of "recipe", and the Sanskrit word "Sankalpa" meaning "intent or resolution" - taking Sankalpa to be a recipe for successful living. 

 When we make a New Year's resolution, it tends to be something that identifies a perceived shortcoming in ourselves resolving to do better in the coming year.

If I say "I will lose weight", "I will exercise more", "I will give up smoking" I am really saying "I am inadequate and there is something I need to do to be more deserving".

The Sankalpa of our yoga practice is a little different to the New Year's resolution.

"You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny."
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5 tr Eknath Eswaran

The Sankalpa may take some meditation to discover, but once you bring it to the surface, and repeat it often, it will inform your will and thereby your actions. By identifying it, it becomes your reality.

That is why we always phrase the Sankalpa as if it is our present reality, affirmation style, and we identify how it feels in our body when it is our present Truth, thus affirming not just in words but with our whole body and mind.

So the Sankalpa is a deeper resolution than the typical New Year's Resolution. How to find it?

It will reveal itself to you as you practice the niyama (personal observances of the Yoga Sutras), Svadhyaya, which means "self-study or "self-inquiry". One way is to not stop at "I hate myself because I am over-weight, so my New Year's Resolution is to lose weight - again", but to inquire of yourself, what lies beneath all of this and what is the real deep, driving desire that may be manifesting in the conditions that cause your body to be at greater than optimal weight, and your aversion that makes you wish your body to be other than it is.

Let yourself become really quiet to allow this self-inquiry to unfold.

Underlying the New Year's Resolution statements there may be additional layers, such as "when I am overweight (unfit, smoking) I do not feel whole and healthy", so the real intention could be rephrased as "I will be more whole and healthy". So perhaps your Sankalpa might become "I am whole, healthy and perfect just as I am".

Strictly speaking a Sankalpa would remain unchanged until it is fully realised, when a new one might be set. But as it might take some inquiry to really discover your Sankalpa, you might take the one that immediately arises as the working model, but it may yet change as you also continue your self-inquiry.

Affirm your Sankalpa at the beginning of your day, your yoga practice, your meditation, but also invite your Sankalpa to re-emerge at the end of the day or practice. Listen carefully to the way in which your Sankalpa presents itself when you are in deep meditation or relaxation. As it bubbles up from the depths it will have Truth and power; it may present a little differently, and it is good practice to take careful note of that and adjust your Sankalpa accordingly.

So why not this new year, start working with Sankalpa as an alternative to a New Year's Resolution.

No comments:

Post a Comment