The New Year is always exciting for me. I see it as an invitation for transformation and new beginnings.
There are two words in Sanskrit, “Sankalpa”—meaning “intention,” and “Shakti”—meaning “power.” Sankalpa Shakti therefore translates to the power of intention. You can utilize your Sankalpa Shakti at any given moment when you are seeking a more mindful approach to anything in life, or to life as a whole.
At the beginning of each new year, we are full of excitement of setting often more generic “new year’s resolutions,” such as eating healthier or starting a workout regime, only to quickly abandon these intentions. Most people stick with their resolutions for a couple of weeks but not long enough to turn them into a habit. I myself have set many generic resolutions just to completely cast them aside a few weeks later, not even remembering them a few months into the year.
Sankalpa is also used in yoga nidra—a specific state of internal awareness, a conscious experience of dreamless, deep sleep where a person becomes connected with the inner world and disconnects from the outer world. Usually you lay down in shavasana and you are being guided by your instructor through a detailed and specific script. At the beginning of the instructions, you are asked to set a Sankalpa or a resolve to yourself or to call upon your deepest desire. Throughout the years of my yoga practice I’ve learned that, for a Sankalpa to really have power, it must be thoughtfully contemplated first.
In my experience, a sankalpa to really work for me has to come from deep within my soul. If I set a “shallow” Sankalpa it rarely works out or changes a thing in my life, but if I connect to my Self after quieting my mind in meditation, I can hear the quiet whisper of my heart, my very essence that is leading me towards the right intention so I can build my Sankalpa around it.
I’m glad to share a few of my Sankalpas I’ve set in the past years, which have guided and continue to guide me towards a healthier and happier existence.
- Valuing process over outcome
We live in a sped-up, results-driven world in which the outcome or the end product of anything and everything is more valued than the process that has led to it. You must have heard the cliché many times that “the goal is not the destination but the journey itself.” While learning the deeper aspects of Yoga, however, I have greatly appreciated the knowledge my teachers shared with me about the practice and purpose of Karma Yoga—The “Yoga of Karma or Action,” doing your best without any involvement of ego or attachment. It is a spiritual way of working, where we put our full focus on the action we are engaged in, while completely letting go of the results of said actions, which are actually out of our control, anyways. It is only our ego that clings to believe that it can fully control everything around us.
It is important to first determine if the action we are going to engage in truly serves truth or feeds the ego. Feeding the ego can look different in each case as well. For example, you might think you do something good but fail to notice that you harm yourself with it (placing others in front of you, sacrificing yourself) or performing good deeds because it makes you feel better about yourself (doing charity work to feel like you’re doing good but not really caring about what you actually do).
- Living my truth
Growing up with relatively strict parents in a closed off environment, I went through a “rebel period” of time in my teens and early 20s when I truly craved my own freedom and independence to follow the calling of my heart, and abandon the more traditional life journey my parents had planned out and expected me to pursue. Often, that looked as lying to my parents about where I was going, who I was with or what I was doing. I ended up extending this habit to my friends and close circle as well until I found myself living a secret life. It didn’t help that my best friend of the time was leading a similar life, so I had a partner in crime with whom I could share my “secret” activities. It was working fine, until one day I got busted because I just couldn’t keep up the fake good girl image by my actual life and everyone figured what I was really doing. So I decided that I might as well just keep living the life I really want to, regardless of whom I disappoint. Being more truthful to my family resulted in being more truthful to myself. It had a tremendous affect on my life overall—my relationships got stronger with the people who are really meant to be in my life, I found actual true friends, I am living a life that makes me happy and satisfied and my health increased unmeasurably. I used to be sick all the time and dealt with many health issues—constantly catching a cold or flu, pneumonia every winter etc… Ever since, I might catch a cold once a year and quickly recover from it.
- Releasing my shame
My amazing yoga guru Dr. Sanjeev Pandey taught the importance of mindfully let go of the gossip we speak about others, but also the lies we have told ourselves, about ourselves. During our practice with him, he encouraged us to identify situations when we have been holding onto shame, and beautifully explained the difference between shame and guilt. Shame is when we have accepted and told ourselves lies, that we are ugly, broken, bad or unworthy, while guilt can actually be a constructive emotion that allows us to make changes in our behavior.
In Ayurveda, there is a concept called “Pragya Aparadha.” “Pragya” means “knowledge” or “wisdom,” and “Aparadha” means “to go against something.” Pragya Aparadha is quite literally the expression for the crimes we commit against our own wisdom/knowing, which are the root cause of diseases and imbalances in our mind and body, according to Ayurveda.
The Sankalpa to release my shame is also strongly linked with my sankalpa to live or speak my truth. The two together really lead me to a different life, which is pleasing from the outside but is mostly satisfying from the inside: it opened me up to true clarity, peace and freedom.
I wish you all a happy new year and hope you find your Sankalpa for 2023 that will lead you to a more peaceful and loving year.
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Photo: Drew Collins via Unsplash