First edition originally published July 14, 2014
At the beginning of yoga class, an instructor might suggest that we set a positive intention for our practice — perhaps to release something, or to create further calm and focus during our time on the mat. By dedicating the practice to someone, an intention is also a way to send our best thoughts to a friend who needs a boost.
While attending a yoga workshop in 2014, I learned a more focused, determined way to utilize the intention — in Sanskrit, the sankalpa. The instructor suggested that we repeat the same intention twice daily with sincerity and feeling until the desired effect is attained. She recommended that we be concise and simplify our sankalpa to as few words as possible — in a sense, to create a self-crafted mantra.
I thought for a moment about a few various topics, but in the end, I chose two words that together could serve as an umbrella to shade each of the more specific issues —
Freedom and joy.
I have since found that if I am feeling uncertain or concern over a issue in my life, I can ask myself: “Does this help me to feel free? Do I feel joy?” The sankalpa has become a ruler by which I measure certain aspects of my life.
If something does not fit the criteria of my sankalpa, I may wish to reconsider the issue or shift priorities. Asking those questions really brings a certain simplicity to my day, and creates a fertile environment to nurture a positive, self-fulfilling prophecy. If I keep seeking joy, I will find joy.
The sankalpa has become my personal equivalent of a business model in my art practice. When I start to feel frustrated during a painting session (yes, it occasionally happens to all of us), I stop to ask myself those questions. When I paint, I certainly want to feel free and joyous. If I am not happy with what I am doing, it is a good indication for me to switch to a different piece or media, or perhaps to write a new blog post or work on my website, until I can come back to the easel with a fresh perspective.
When I was teaching oil painting regularly, I would always tell my students to move to a different area of the canvas if things were not going well where they were working. Keeping my ideals of freedom and joy in mind helps me to practice what I had preached!
You do not have to practice the physical asanas to apply the benefits of a sankalpa meditation to your life. An online search will yield you much more information about the practice. Whether you consider it an intention, a prayer, or a resolution, if you try the technique, I hope it will prove as beneficial for you as it has been for me.
In the time since I first started using the sankalpa, I have added to it, including:
What is your intention? If you would like to share your sankalpa, I welcome you to do so via the Comments box.
All the best, and Namaste.