Happy Monday friends & welcome to the inaugural Mindfulness Monday!!
On Mondays, I want to share and explore my love of yoga and the yogic tradition. Often in healthcare we dive into the physical aspect of an ailment and either forget about or diminish the needs of the mind/spirit. In my experience true wellness comes from a devotion to mind and body. Yoga has many meanings to different people, however, in Sanskrit the word “YOGA” literally means UNION.”
January begins with a bang! Full of hope, expectations, and for many: RESOLUTIONS. “I will lose weight, I will be more organized, I will stop doing xyz, I won’t….” At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve many summon their utmost willpower and pledge to change what we do and in many cases, who we are.
Today, January is about to come to a close. Did you know, according to a poll performed by the Statistics Brain Research Institute:
42% of Americans reported never succeeding or failing on their resolutions when they set them each year?
Talk about disappointment…and why do we fail? Kelly McGonigal from Yoga International suggests this is because:
“The traditional New Year’s Resolution starts from the assumption that who you are is not good enough, somehow not whole and they reinforce the mistaken belief that happiness depends on acquiring what you want.”
The yogic tradition offers an alternative to the traditional “resolution:”
It is the practice of sankalpa.
The sankalpa practice begins from the premise that you already are who you need to be to fulfill your life’s truth and deepest intentions (called dharma). Instead of changing who we are, sankalpa teaches us to focus our minds, to connect to our most heartfelt desires, and to channel the divine energy within ourselves.
If we break the sanskrit word down:
Kalpa – is a vow or rule to be followed above all others
San – is a connection to the highest truth, the highest truth within ourselves.
When viewed this way, finding your sankalpa is just about listening to yourself. Our heartfelt desires and highest truths are already present waiting for us to notice. It is a practice of acute self awareness which requires patience and understanding. We must put aside our Egos here and when we listen we strive to examine what is at the root of desires.
For example: If your New year’s resolution was to “get fit” or “to lose weight” you may try to imagine how you will feel as a result of this resolution. Is it a sense of self-love, physical well-being, or freedom? It is that connection to deeper purpose that is your sankalpa.
We naturally phrase desires as “I will or I want” but in doing this we lack that underlying truth and commitment to your highest self. Richard Miller, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and teacher in yogic traditions says:
“A sankalpa isn’t a petition or a prayer, it is a statement of deeply held fact, and a vow that is true in the present moment.” –> “As soon as you say you WANT something, a part of you recognized that you don’t have it.”
When we state our sankalpa in the present tense, we are acknowledging that everything required of us is already within us.
I AM … love, wisdom, compassion, bravery…
Plant the seed in your mind, recall it often, and recognize the wholeness that already exists inside of you.
Every choice we make is an opportunity to strengthen our sankalpa, to allow that seed of love and wholeness to grow and thrive. Miller describes that unlike with “resolutions” missteps are NOT failures, but simply movement away from yourself.
“The Sankalpa describes who we are and how we move in the world when we are in harmony with ourselves.”
I suppose life is the exploration of finding that harmony, we will occasionally lose our way but the path is waiting for us when we return.
If you set a New Year’s resolution this year and are frustrated or feel like a failure take a step back, take a step deeper. Perhaps return to the root of that desire and frame it as a Sankalpa. Recognize yourself as beautiful, talented, and whole….keep walking your path and shining bright!
If you are interested in reading and learning more, take a peek at this amazing article from which I drew much of my inspiration for this blog. I first explored it during my yoga teacher training in Baltimore:
And/or check out one of my favorite books: The Bhagavad Gita.