Some notes on developing a Sankalpa for your Yoga Nidra practice. You may find them useful to read through before going into our guided Yoga Nidra.
1) A heartfelt desire, a statement that reflects your true nature – far more encompassing than a New Year’s resolution, and requires no action or change. It is literally a statement of who you are, such as “I am already whole and already healed”, or “I am peace itself”. This doesn’t come from the intellectual mind, the resolve comes from deep within us, directly out of the mystery of who we ultimately are. It then informs our mind of a particular direction that we need to take, or are taking in our life.
2) A second form, that of a specific intention or goal. When you discover your purpose, not everything happens all at once. To live your soul’s mission, you need to reach milestones. Setting specific intentions can help align your moment to moment choices with your heartfelt desire. Suggest looking forward into the next year and ask yourself what specific things need to happen to move you forward on your path. Your specific sankalpa will describe what you need to do, and where you need to direct your energy, to make progress on your larger life goals.
Discovering your sankalpa is a process of listening. Your heartfelt desire is already present, waiting to be seen, heard and felt. It’s not something you need to make up, and the mind doesn’t have to go deeply searching for it.
There are three stages of the listening process.
The first: Sravana, is the willingness to hear the message of the heartfelt desire. It can take courage to listen to the heart, and a quiet settled mind – one can cultivate through meditation – will best be able to hear this innermost call.
The second state: Manana, is the act of turning to and welcoming the messenger in. When you hear the call, you must be willing to sit with it, feel it, and deeply reflect on it.
The final stage: Nididhysana is the willingness to do what the heartfelt desire requires of you. It will call you into action, into the world. You must be willing to respond!
“What do I really want?” Any goal can be an entry point, including a typical New Year’s resolution, even a desire that might be interpreted as simple or shallow can lead you to the heart’s desire. It might arise out of conditioning, but if you must practice and keep following the heart’s desire, it will take you to the essence of your being.
To get to that deeper yearning, work with whatever goal arises, but also ask yourself what’s underneath it. What is the feeling you are striving for? What is the longing in the heart that is pointing you in this direction?
Stating the Sankalpa: It’s natural to identify the desire as “I want” and an intention as “I will” or “I won’t”. But these phrases lack the truth of the commitment that comes from heartfelt desire and connection to one’s dharma. A sankalpa isn’t a petition or prayer, it’s a statement of deeply held fact, and a vow that is true in the present moment. For this reason, your sankalpa – both the heartfelt desire and the specific intention, should be stated in the present tense e.g. “compassion is my true nature”. Stating your sankalpa in present tense acknowledges the tremendous will, energy and truth that arrives with the discovery of your heartfelt desire. It also reminds you whatever is required of you is already within you.
Planting the seed: The core practice of sankalpa is remembering. By bringing the statement to mind, you strengthen your resolve and honour your heartfelt desire. But simply reciting the sankalpa is not enough. “As soon as you want something, a part of you recognizes that you don’t have it”. By repeating what you want, you reinforce the belief that you don’t have it. When the unconscious mind operates from a place of lack or perceived inadequacy, the energy that supports your resolve is weakened.
To fully realise your resolve, the mind must shift from dualistic thinking to nondual awareness. This is why meditation is the most fertile ground for sankalpa practice. It returns the mind to a state of present moment wholeness. “The longer we are able to effortlessly rest in that place of oneness, the more rapidly we are able to fulfill our sankalpa”. The mind becomes a more powerful agent to help us fulfill our intentions.
The most supportive state of mind for remembering your sankalpa is the direct experience that you are already open, timeless and perfect, as in the state of Yoga Nidra.
To discover your heartfelt desire, reflect on or write about the following questions:
Before you dive into self-inquiry, spend a few moments in quiet meditation. Let the mind settle and become spacious. Cultivate an attitude of listening, and welcome whatever feelings, images, and thoughts might arise in response to these questions.
What is something I really want in my life?
How do you think having it will make you feel? Looking back over the course of your life, has some form of this desire always been present?
What is the most important goal in my life right now?
What have you been working toward? What desire is behind that goal?
What should I be devoting my energy and resources to?
At this stage of your life, what direction do you find yourself being pulled forward?
What stands out as the biggest opportunity or responsibility in your life?
What is my biggest dream for myself and my life?
Is there a dream so big, a vision so bold for your life that you wonder if it is possible?
Is there a deeper longing that feels a bit risky to the conditioned mind, and makes you feel vulnerable, open and tender?
To translate this desire into a specific intention, ask yourself the following question:
What actions can I commit to that are constant with this heartfelt desire?
What needs to happen in the next 6-18 months to move me forward on my path?
What is the first step in this direction?
In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole, and complete. Each moment of my life is new and fresh and vital.