Each New Year we find ourselves looking towards the future, eager to make new goals and promises of who we want to become and how we will shape our lives with big changes. Then halfway through the year, perhaps we start to feel discouraged about the lack of progress towards our set goals and maybe in guilt we abandon them altogether. But perhaps it’s not our lack of effort that’s the issue, but rather a flaw in the traditional practice of goal setting
When we set general goals, we tend to only focus on a vague outcome (ie. I want to be healthier, I want more abundance in my life), and forget to define the process of getting there – the structure that brings our goals to fruition. By fixating on the outcome rather than the journey, we set ourselves up for discontentment in the present. The goal-oriented mentality of “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal,” teaches us to continually put happiness and gratitude off until the next milestone. By committing to a process rather than a goal, it takes the stress off our shoulders and creates a structure we can operate within to enjoy progress and accomplishment each day.
The yogic practice of Sankalpa Shakti gives us a tool to shape meaningful intentions and guides our journey towards inner transformation. In its simplest term, a sankalpa is an intention or inner resolve. In its deeper, more profound meaning, it’s a connection to your highest truth and life purpose, your dharma. What’s beautiful about the sankalpa practice on any level is that it starts from the belief that you already embody these qualities and by drawing your attention to them in practice, you’re refining and sharpening your connection to this deeper purpose and desires, and direct that energy in a positive way. The next layer to this is working with Sankalpa Shakti in the more subtle layers of the minds programming. Often, a sankalpa is stated before beginning and ending your Yoga Nidra Meditation to serve as a guide for planting seeds in this deep practice of relaxed states. You can download an audio of this practice here.
Crafting your sankalpa can be approached from two angles: finding your deeper purpose and creating the steps to get there. As you sit down to reflect on your vision for the coming year, try this practice define your intentions and set your sankalpa:
Find a quiet place to reflect on your desires. With pen and paper, write out all that your heart deeply desires. Nothing is too trivial, too vain, or too audacious! Fill as many pages as you need to fully describe your feelings and vision.
Uncovering your sankalpa is a process of listening. Now that you have written down all that you desire, let this quiet time of stillness and reflection hold space for your higher truth to naturally arise. Ask yourself, “What is the essence of what I deeply desire? “
If losing weight is your desire, ask yourself what is the deeper feeling beyond the goal – is it feeling vibrant and healthy, is it self-love? Can you distill it down to one or two powerful words?
Once you’ve found those powerful words, turn them into a positive affirmation, an “I AM” statement.
I am love.
I am filled with joy and abundance.
I am open to receive.
By stating your intention in present tense, you are acknowledging that what you seek is already within you. By coming back to the language of “wants” or “needs”, you reinforce the belief that you don’t already have it. Instead, embody that you inherently are what you desire.
The power of this practice is repetition. Let your sankalpa guide your actions, allowing your intention to be your expression of strength and resolve as you move through your asana practice on the mat, as you climb that 5.11b route you’ve been projecting, as you prepare your food and nourish yourself. Every conscious choice you make is an opportunity to strengthen your resolve and shape your life. Remember, where your attention goes, prana will flow!
*This article was written for the prAna + Banyan Botanicals “Ayurveda Life” series. Big thank you to these wonderful companies for hosting our cleanse ecourse giveaway this week!
**Yoga Photos by CHOATE HOUSE