As we enter into a new calendar year, many of us are feeling motivated. The days are getting longer again, and after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, January holds the promise of a bit of down time and some space for self-care. For many, the new calendar year marks a time for New Year’s resolutions. The support of the group energy of our community can be inspiring and help to strengthen our resolve! Oftentimes, however, our resolve is fleeting, and despite our best intentions, we can quickly settle back into the old patterns we were trying to break. The feeling of having let ourselves down, along with the winter looming on, can put us at risk for a bit of a mid-winter slump if we are not careful. How can we strengthen our resolve and sustain our highest intentions?
There is a yogic practice of intention-setting called “sankalpa”, or spiritual resolve. A sankalpa is a deep and heartfelt desire that resonates in the very cells of the body. It can represent the seed of our highest good, planted in the fertile soil of a receptive body and a meditative mind. Interestingly, investigation of our more superficial desires can actually lead us to find our deeper and more universally beneficial longings, and being in tune with our deepest and most benevolent longings can result in effortless satisfaction of our more superficial desires. Many New Year’s resolutions are based on our seemingly superficial hopes for ourselves. For example, the common resolution to diet or work out more often may stem from an immediate desire to look better. When we ask ourselves what the deeper motivation is for wanting to look better, it may be the desire to appear more attractive to the opposite sex. When we dig deeper still, underlying that desire to attract attention may be the longing for feelings of connection and validation of self-worth. So, the sankalpa may take the form of a simple phrase such as “I am healthy and whole.” Rather than a wish or an idea of some future self, a sankalpa is a powerful expression of a present-moment truth that we are seeking to embody more fully. It is not so much gaining what we think we lack, as it is becoming more honest with ourselves about who we truly are.
Part of the art of sankalpa is present moment mindfulness. Being mindful involves acceptance of the moment as it is. Sometimes if we try too hard to “take a deep breath”, we feel resistance, the breath getting “stuck” at a certain point. However, if we commit to offering our full awareness to the breath as it naturally flows, we may find that the breath deepens of its own accord and our task becomes less of a “doing” and more of an “allowing”. This is the basis of how true transformation occurs. When we tune in to our deepest desires, while simultaneously acknowledging and accepting ourselves as we are here and now, we become actively engaged in the creation of reality instead of engaged in a fantasy that never comes to pass. It becomes more difficult to slip into the forgetful fog of temptation, and easier to engage in activities that support our best selves.
When a sankalpa is found that resonates and feels true, tend to it, breathe it, hold it in body and mind at every possible moment. Write it in a journal; post it on the bathroom mirror, et cetera. Like a well-tended seed, it will take root in our beings and flourish in the actions and deeds of our daily lives.
Best wishes to all of you in this fresh new year, and may every breath remind you of your highest good!