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Sankalpa is a vow formed by the heart and mind that helps us to bring our highest ideals into being.
It’s a Sanskrit term that joins two concepts:
san – connection with our highest truth or ideals, the core desires of our heart; and
kalpa – resolve, committed intention, one-pointed determination or volition…. “the rule to be followed above all other rules” in Yogarupa Rod Stryker’s words.
A sankalpa speaks to the oceanic depths of meaning, the wide starry spaces within a larger arc of our lives. It ignites and illuminates our purpose for being here. – Susanna Barkataki
Essentially it’s an idea originated in the heart that is meant, through the support of the mind, to come into existence and be lived . And it’s a personal, organizing principle for daily life and practice that helps us to stay in connection with the deeper meaning of life and its spiritual dimensions.
I love listening. It is one of the only places where you can be still and moved at the same time. – Nayirrah Waheed
Such declarations are not generated from enthusiasm nor will. They aren’t something for the thinking brain to determine and solve. Rather they are born from listening to the heart and deep within – beneath stories and filters and fears and conditioning – and allowing an aligned response to come into being. They are an opportunity for our cognitive and mental capacities to rally around and be in service to the heart.
I often understand the process of coming into one’s sankalpa as a form of call and response. They invite as to make space to be quiet and still in order to really hear our highest desires, and to let ourselves be so moved by what we touch into that we become compelled to live these ideals.
I embrace emerging experience. I participate in discovery. I am a butterfly. I am not a butterfly collector. – William Stafford
Engaging our sense gates can be a wonderful way to support our capacity to participate in such a call and response. Attuning to inner and outer sensory experience helps us to arrive in present moment and to access the steady intelligence of the body. This helps us to both refine our sankalpa and to energize its coming into being.
- Eyes – visually taking in our environment can lend to a feeling of safety, making it easier to look within.
- Ears – listening to ambient sounds (allowing them to meet awareness and naturally dissipate) engages our ability to be receptive without clinging or pushing away. In turn, it becomes easier to listen to ourselves with an open heart and mind.
- Nose and Mouth – noticing the temperature, fragrance, texture and taste of a moment supports discernment and more nuanced understandings.
- Skin – engaging the perimeter of our body to perceive the presence of space, within inner and outer landscapes, can help us to sense where there is room to move and grow.
Some of us may come to know our sankalpas relatively quickly. For many of us though, this process of discovering and living our core heart desires may take time. If the latter is true for you, I offer these words from Rilke.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Throughout January, 2022 in Yoga Nidra we explored this yogic tool. Each week we worked with a different facet as a way to sense into our own personal heart-mind vow. This journal post includes some of the reflections that we touched upon during our sankalpa exploration.