Forget New Year's Resolutions... Set a Sankalpa Instead
Ah the post-holiday buzz...basking in the good times with friends & family, maybe feeling a little (or a lot) over indulged, reflecting on the year that's drawing to a close and preparing to head into 2017.
It's the season of coming back down after the holiday high, and that well-intentioned-often-ignored-tradition: the New Years Resolution.
Even if you're not into setting resolutions, it's difficult to face January 1 without some ideas for positive changes you'd like to make in your life. The feeling of a fresh start is exciting!
So I'd like to offer you a yogic spin on the usual; instead of making resolutions, set yourself a sankalpa. A sankalpa is a strong yogic intention, often used during Yoga Nidra, to create a positive shift in your behavior. It's almost the same as a resolution, except for the belief behind it. A typical New Years Resolution might sound something like this: "I will lose 10 pounds this year." "I will stop eating meat." "I will meditate daily."
And while there's nothing wrong with any of those aspirations, they all contain a sense that there is something wrong with what you're already doing or how you are right now.
Can you hear it? You have to listen to the invisible part of the sentence. Like "I will lose 10 pounds this year....because I'm too fat." Or "I will stop eating meat....because I feel guilty that I'm not more compassionate." Or "I will meditate daily....because I should be more spiritual." These statements come from a place of lack and unworthiness.
But yoga teaches us that we are already whole and complete and that we can access our infinite potential anytime we choose.
Starting from a place of feeling "not good enough" is a denial of your inherent worth. So let's flip the script and make those resolutions into genuine sankalpas. That means they'll be:
in the present tense ("I am" instead of "I will" or "I should")
positive ("I am" instead of "I'm not" or "I won't")
a statement of what is already true first, and an inspired action second.
Resolution: "I will lose 10 pounds this year."
Sankalpa: "I am fit and healthy and I love my body. Therefore I treat it with respect, eating nourishing food and getting regular exercise."
Resolution: "I will stop eating meat."
Sankalpa: "I am a compassionate person who loves all beings. I show this by declining to eat meat."
Resolution: "I will meditate daily."
Sankalpa: "I take great joy in connecting to my inner self, so I make time for it each day."
Starting with a recognition of 'what is' makes all the difference. By doing so, you are acknowledging that you are what you seek. You don't have to change yourself, you only have to call on the place in yourself where what you desire to experience already exists.
Usually we imagine that in order to feel how we want to feel, we need certain external circumstances to fall into place (or that we need to struggle to make it happen). Yoga completely reverses that assumption - Yoga teaches that we always have the power to direct our inner state.
We can feel however we want to feel in any moment - peaceful, joyful, courageous, compassionate, strong - no matter what our life looks like on the outside.
A sankalpa is simply a tool to bring us into that feeling over and over, reminding us of the inner space we want to inhabit, until doing so becomes second nature.
Ready to create your own? If you have a resolution in mind, or something more external that you want to change, see if you can identify the desire for wholeness behind it. What are you telling yourself that you're not right now that means you need to change? Can you flip the script and affirm that you already have those qualities in a positive, present, I AM statement?
The true test of a good sankalpa is that saying it should make you feel amazing.
If you say your sankalpa and you feel overwhelmed or inadequate, stop. Start over. Edit your sankalpa until saying it gives you the warm fuzzy feeling that you most want to feel right now.
Often, if you start with this feeling, the action will naturally follow. And if it's not effortless to take action (like if you're trying to shift a deeply ingrained habit), you can call on this I AM statement anytime you're confronted with temptation. In that moment of choice, close your eyes and let yourself feel the part of yourself that you're growing into. Trust that this new part of you is just as real as the parts of yourself you've chosen to express in the past.
I hope you're feeling inspired by now to go create your own kicka** sankalpas!! Here are some final ideas to jump start your creative juices:
May all your sankalpas become strongly rooted in your everyday life and may they bring you many blessings.