Steppingstones on Your Path to Transformation
Aisha Khalid - All is Gray when the Black is Washed Away
Our lives rush like rivers. We get swept away when we have nothing to ground us.
Often, the coming of the New Year is saturated with hope, and we set resolutions that we almost never fulfil. Perhaps we even know this in our hearts, already entering the next twelve months irresolutely.
A notable shift towards New Year’s Intentions, as opposed to New Year’s Resolutions, has gained momentum amongst ‘mindful’ communities. Personally, I have found that conscious intentions are things we want to be doing, whereas resolutions are things that we feel we should be doing (but don’t really want to).
Intentions honour effort and process, and not just results. They also balance future rewards with immediate ones, which is much more motivating. They are steppingstones across the river to a new and improved you.
That being said: - although I am interested in honest self-evaluation to better my life, New Year’s Intentions are still based in the assumption that who we are is not enough. Self-improvement’s downfall is that it reinforces the mistaken belief that happiness lies somewhere in the future with a fantasy version of ourselves.
Yoga offers us a third path. Yoga does not ask anything of us. Yoga does not take anything from us. Yoga requires only that we show up. We can use our yoga practice to remain present rather than drown ourselves in feelings of inadequacy.
King Bhagiratha with Goddess Ganga, Jaipur, 18th century
Refreshing the Art of Intention
A sankalpa is the essence of non-duality. The psychospiritual framework affirms that you are already complete and whole, and exactly who you need to be to fulfil your life’s dharma.
Within Indian philosophy, we consist of the Jiva-Atman (the personal, breathing soul) and the Atman or Para-Atman (eternal, universal soul). Much like the droplet seeks the ocean, our practice of yoga unites these elements within us. Through this, we cultivate an awareness of our intimate cohesion with all of creation. Jolly good stuff.
The Jiva-Atman is always growing and becoming, as it exists with a purpose and destiny. Therefore, we set intentions to progress. But we also acknowledge that the Atman or Absolute Reality is inherent within us, and any intentions must align with it.
To set a sankalpa may seem like a goal or intention on the surface. However, there is a subtle difference by entering with our yogic philosophical foundations.
We understand that everything we want to be is everything we are on an unconscious level.
These steppingstones are not so goal oriented per se. Rather, we tune into the deep song of our heart and what we truly desire, rather than being consciously ego driven.
Creating your own sankalpa will often flow naturally. There will be no need to force it as your sankalpa seeks you too.
Meditate on it every day for a month. Watch how your perception and, correspondingly, the movement of your life begins to adjust.
Before crossing the river to the other side, we must balance upon the first steppingstone.
In my classes, I will often prompt the students to set their own sankalpa at the start of the practice whilst we tune into our breath. This is to infuse it and give it life. Most of the time, I will have a theme and have a collective sankalpa prepared. This helps everyone to feel connected and move as one, in breath and in body.
If you feel like falling in love with the New Year, please join me in these monthly sankalpa meditations.
Conjure a More Enlightened Year
I wake up feeling motivated for work and I go to bed feeling fulfilled every day.
I feel grateful and humbled by the changes in my life.
I experience a deep peace every day.
I feel appreciated and deeply loved for who I am.
I am strong and calm in every moment that arises.
I feel a connection with my intuition, and I am fulfilled by the decisions I make.
I feel in tune with my dharma and heed my deepest calling every day.
I am restored by my alone time.
I am balanced in mind and body every day.
I feel wholly loved and fulfilled in my relationship with my partner.
I start the day feeling empowered and finish the day feeling accomplished.
I act with intention, discernment, and wisdom every day.
Goddess Saraswati, Mewar style in the Decca, circa. 1650
Notes & Recommendations
If you are interested in the art of mantra, this one is particularly enlightening when we want to affirm our sense of wholeness and come as we are.
You can also use the power of the New Moon to help you on your journey, incorporating your sankalpa into your monthly rituals.
Try your hand at Sigil Magick, using your sankalpa instead of a desire or goal. This is an extremely potent hybrid of two magick practices.