Well Londoners, at Clarity we have our attention set on intention and we wanted to share a great yoga practice with you: sankalpas – a Sanskrit name meaning ‘intention, will, purpose or motivation’.
How to choose your sankalpa (intention)?
We are actually creating and enforcing sankalpas , all the time, but usually not consciously. Every day we repeat thoughts, which often result in habitual feelings and behaviours.
Yet when we come to consciously choose an intention we all know how hard it be to stick to it. How many times have you, or those you know, kept to their New Year’s resolution for any length of time?... So to get an effective sankalpa here is a step-by-step guide:
1) Be realistic
It is important to not set ourselves up to fail by imposing impossible expectations on ourselves. For instance, a parent that struggles to stay calm with their children might set the sankalpa that ‘I will never shout at my kids again’. But instead of trying to change such specific behavior or traits, it is more helpful to focus on what is more readily in our power. In this example, that might be simply becoming more aware of their behavior which would be a first step to a positive change - e.g. ‘I intend to notice when I feel irritated’.
2) Make it Action-orientated
This builds on our last point. Action-orientated intentions are best as we are in a better position to choose an intention in our control. So if, for example, we want to be fitter, an action-oriented activity might be: ‘I will walk to work everyday and eat smaller portions of meals’. However, the intention that, ‘I will have a six-pack by spring’, is outcome-orientated. The issue with this is it becomes all about the goal, so you never appreciate the present moment but instead, obsess about a future that might not even happen – which of course can lead to stress and unhappiness. Added to this, you have no immediate control over your situation, which is much more likely to lead to feeling defeated. Deepak Chopra, a master at intention setting and realisation says, once you have set your intention, ‘relinquish… attachment to a specific result and live in the wisdom of uncertainty... Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow opportunities and openings to come your way.’
This also alludes to the fact that when we stick to our intentions there often will be positive outcomes, and perhaps those we had not even imagined.
3) Be specific
As well as the more general, overarching intentions we might have, we can also get even more specific and set practical intentions which support these. For instance if my overarching intention is to place more emphasis on family, then specific, practical intentions to support this might be: ‘I will eat dinner with my family every evening’. It could be argued that these very specific and practical sankalpas are easier for our minds to grasp and therefore follow.
4) Choose your words carefully
Keep them short, clear and positive. This is the most effective way for them to be absorbed by your mind. A positive sankalpa might be ‘I will be more compassionate to myself’ or (a practical action related to this) ‘I will have a 45 minute lunch break everyday away from the office, with my phone turned off’; which works better than one focusing on what you don’t want, such as, ‘I don’t want to keep to keep working through my lunch hour with a nagging boss bothering me...’
5) When to practice your sankalpa
New year is a great time to set our purpose, but sankalpas can be made and focused on at any time or place.
That said, it can be good to do so when you are in a relaxed and focused state – perhaps at the end of a yoga class or after meditation. You might also create times in the day when you remind yourself of your sankalpa such as when you get up in the morning, or when you go to bed. It can also be helpful to bring your purpose to mind whenever you need positive support such as strength, hope or direction.
Ultimately, as long as we are clear in our overarching intention and your positive action-related sankalpa directly relates to it, then repeating the action will build a new habit and a new way of being. As the ancient Vedic texts the Upanishads advise us:
‘You are what your deepest desire is. As is your desire, so is your intention. As is your intention, so is your will. As is your will, so is your deed, so is your destiny.’
You might also want to join my intention setting yoga class this Thursday 8 January 7:15 to 8:30pm at The Vitality Centre, South West London – go here to sign up.
And if your intention is to learn to manage your stress a little better or relax more, then you might want to come along to Clarity’s Getting a Handle on Stress workshop Saturday 24 January (Waterloo, London)! It’s a chance to learn how to build into your life lots of practical ways to un-stress – it will also be a very relaxing day!