Sankalpa: A Resolution from the Heart

I love New Year’s Eve, but not for the reasons you might think.  I love celebrating cycles – all of life’s cycles are significant, they bring rhythm and flow to life. Whether it’s the end of a project, the end of a year, or the end of a decade, the completion of any cycle is a perfect time to reflect on what’s just happened and to move forward consciously, with direction and enthusiasm.

That being said, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. To me, to the word resolve has the inherent quality of having to ‘solve’ a problem or deal with a difficulty of some kind. Many New Year’s resolutions start from a feeling of lack, or the assumption that we’re somehow not good enough. When you make a resolution with that mindset it’s not only destined to fail, it reinforces the idea that your happiness depends on something outside of yourself.

Yoga offers a different twist on the traditional New Year’s resolution: The practice of Sankalpa. Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word that’s often translated as ‘intention’, and on the surface seems to describe what we call New Year’s resolutions. But there are some key differences between Sankalpa and a resolution.  A resolution is a decision to change, often made from the notion that we’re not good enough and that we need to do something to make us better or more worthy.

Sankalpa, on the other hand, is a notion formed in the deepest part of your heart. It begins with the radical premise that you already have everything you need to fulfill your life’s purpose. The word itself implies conviction and will. Sankalpa involves tapping into your own inner wisdom to help you create the life you are meant to enjoy.  Sankalpa is a commitment you make that supports your purpose and your highest truth. Rather than focusing on the need to change, Sankalpa begins with loving yourself, and acknowledging that at your very core you have an intrinsic perfection, goodness, and beauty that is the ultimate well from which to draw the energy you need to grow and evolve. All you need to do is to connect to your most heartfelt desires (easier said than done in our culture…), focus your mind, and commit to your chosen path as you enter a new cycle.

When you become clear about what you want as you move forward into a new cycle, three wonderful things happen:

  • You focus your energy more effectively
  • You become aware of how some decisions support your intention and others work against it, and you make choices more consciously
  • You learn to honour your long-term interests rather than your short-term desires

Here are some tips for using Sankalpa:

  • Take some quiet time to reflect. Contemplate where you are and where you want to go. Let your mind wander freely and don’t discount anything. The desires of your heart will resonate with juicy clarity in your core, and align with the essence of who you are
  • Keep the language positive and simple. The way you say something makes a difference, and as soon as you say that you ‘want’ something you reinforce the belief that you don’t have it.  Rather than “I want to be more compassionate”, say “I am compassionate” or “I show compassion to the people around me”.
  • Use a prompt. Pick a few words that describe your Sankalpa and write them on post-it notes. Leave the notes in places where you’ll see them often, and change them around periodically. You can also use the words as a mantra when you’re falling asleep.

 Most importantly, be kind to yourself.  Remember Sankalpa is a journey, there’s no timeline and no deadline. You can spend a day, a year or a decade focused on a single intention and have tremendous growth along the way.

Happy New Year!  May the coming decade be one of abundance and love.

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