So after a month of teaching, I’m going to finally offer an explanation of Sankalpa — feel free to comment below where I err.
My teacher wears an array of clever yoga t-shirts. One says Spiritual Gangster. I’ve often wondered what that actually means. Does he intimidate with his vast spirituality? Takes karma as payment for not yoga-ing you to death? Or that being spiritual doesn’t automatically mean being well-behaved?
In the frame of Sankalpa, I have been meditating today on Rev. King and the work he did. Sankalpa is a deep intention – if your dharma could talk, it would be a sankalpa. If you’re a yoga nerd, that may make sense to you; but how many yoga nerds are really out there?
Each of us has a deep seated belief about who we are and what we are here to do. It’s specific and unique to each of us, although on the surface it may seem similar. Sometimes it’s possible to ferret out that purpose (or dharma), and to explain it in words. Sometimes it’s so deep that we cannot find a way to express it verbally, and it only comes out in our actions and our values and the decisions we make.
One of the things that made MLK so very special was his ability to simply yet eloquently express his Sankalpa: “I have a dream.” His dream, his belief, of black children and white children playing together with no knowledge of race was so important and so central to his own existence that he pursued it mercilessly.
Marianne Williamson says, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Dr. King was liberated. He was liberated from any fear by this deep desire, this deep intention, his Sankalpa. And by simply living, he liberated each of us — he inspires us to follow the deep knowledge we have about what is right and what is just.
So today, in his honor, ask yourself: What do I believe so deeply? What is this deep desire that is so central to my existence? And how can I use it to liberate myself from the fear of pursuing it?
In the beginning of things – a new year, a new job, a new relationship – we find ourselves anticipating the middle and the end. We crave an outcome, and develop expectations, hopes and desires for those results. We begin to live in next week, next month, next year.
So often we are told by “self-help” media: stay in the moment. Release expectation. That’s easier said than done – I often experience the exact opposite of this when I try to “let go.” My mind instead focuses on “what am I holding onto?”
So perhaps, in the beginning of this new year — with all its hopes, expectations and desires — you can begin to cherish that hope and desire. Nurture this deep craving, not for outside things to come to you, but for what happens when you bring your inside out to meet them.
Instead of holding on so tightly to this desired outcome, cling to the desire itself — swim in it. Bathe yourself in this deep longing. In the anusara tradition, it is believed the universe created itself out deep desire for its own delight and wonder. If pure creation is the result of deep desire, how can we tell ourselves that desire is bad?
The attachment to the object of desire is where the downward spiral begins — we focus then on what we are missing. Instead, dive deep into this feeling of wanting, and let it enliven you, empassion you, and empower you.
“Just as a desire leaps up,
And you perceive the flash, the sparkle,
Quit from its play,
And maintain awareness
In that clear and shining place
From which all desire springs.”
– 73. The Radiance Sutras
A new translation of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra by Lorin Roche.