So after a month of teaching, I’m going to finally offer an explanation of Sankalpa — feel free to comment below where I err.
In a quiet moment, spend some time listening to your breath. You can listen to the sound, or “listen” to it expand and contract the body — filling you up and emptying you out again. Feel your ribcage make room for the heart and lungs and then everything settle back into itself.
Out of this quiet moment, allow a desire to arise. Let it be something true, more than a surface craving — but a deep desire for something you would like in your life.
For me, some days, this is about having children. Other days, it’s about slimming down and making space for a deeper practice. And still others it’s about being a better teacher — a desire to learn enough to be useful in teaching others.
Hold this desire in your heart. Plant it as a seed and allow it to grow a little with each breath. Diving deeper into this deep yearning, ask yourself “Why do I want this?” Without judging the answers that come, allow this to be a sweet discovery — like the bud of a new flower.
Repeating this same cycle, allow the bud to grow and expand. Watch the petals unfurl — and explore the multiple facets. Get to know this deep yearning. Become familiar with it, be kind to it, and invite it to come closer. When it feels settled, ask yourself again, “Why do I want this?”
Allow this to repeat as many times as you need — peeling away each sweet layer of wanting as if you were pulling away the layers of an onion. Take your time, gently breathing into thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable, private, or sacred. Know that you don’t have to reveal them to anyone but your own inner Self.
After a time, there will come an indivisible idea – a deep desire that lives in your heart. When you can distill down this desire to a single “I want…” statement, hold it again as you have each time before.
To unleash the Sankalpa in this desire, replace “I want…” with “I am…” Know that this yearning deep in your heart is part of a your true identity, that deepest Self that is wise and generous. Allow it to breathe you.
I have had the great pleasure of guiding groups of students through this exercise in the month of January at Wild Lotus Yoga. The great joy I find in it is that every time you reach a new Sankalpa, a new intention, a different face of your own heart and joy. I am a healthy body. I am grateful and generous. I am immortal. All of these have come out of my own meditations this month.
The affirmation of discovering these deep yearnings and claiming them is powerful. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, the practice of Sankalpa reminds us that we already have everything we need.