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Sankalpa; the Art of Wholesome Spellcasting

Create Your Own Sankalpa with Patience and Authenticity

Arrival of the Sun, Kenojuak Ashevak, 1962, stonecut on paper


For far too long, at various yoga studios from a horde of different yoga teachers, I would hear the words “take this moment to set your intention.”


Firstly, they give you about ten seconds to whip something out of the void before they initiate a vigorous asana practice (unless, of course, you’re rocking Yin or Nidra classes).


And secondly, how do I properly create one within the yogic tradition?


Then there was Flo. She has been my favourite yoga teacher and I owe her bigtime for my growth on the yogic path. She first introduced me to the art of sankalpa during a Restorative session, taking her time and using pranayama to channel it.


I never looked back.


What is a Sankalpa?


If you visit Yogapedia or Alo Yoga, you will probably read that a sankalpa is an intention or a goal.


Then you will stumble across other blogs and websites, maybe not too dissimilar from my own, who will tell you that a sankalpa reaches beyond a heartfelt wish or desire.


A sankalpa acknowledges both the Jiva-Atman (the personal, breathing soul) and the Atman or Para-Atman (eternal, universal soul) when it speaks.


We state our deepest desires as if we have already attained them, because we already are that which we seek.


For example, the difference between an intention and a sankalpa may sound like this:





There is a profound shift in self-belief when we communicate with our unconscious mind this way.


When we set mere intentions, we are packing everything into the conscious mind, and nothing good ever came of that. When we hang out in that area, we are basically creating a distance between our heartfelt desires and our external reality, rather than a dialogue.


The unconscious is that liminal space that opens up and swims forward into the dark, wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey mysteries of the unknown.


Let Your Sankalpa Speak to You


A sankalpa is not any old target that you set yourself. There is a depth and a quiet wisdom that whispers through the racket of the mind.

Perhaps it speaks to you in images, or there is an ineffable feeling with which you are overcome. These happenings are not always delivered in words.


However, for the purpose of this article, we will venture into developing a sankalpa with words. This format is what is most referred to when we consider sankalpa.


I have found that the process unravels as a poem would. My mind is relaxed and electric.

As with many intuitive practices, there is no one way that works for everyone. Your mind is unique to you, and your interior landscape probably looks nothing like mine.


But here are a couple of cornerstone tips you can use as a guide to unfurl your sankalpa within yourself.


1. Meditate / Get Quiet and Clutter Free


Meditation is not for live, laugh, love and light types.


It can be painful and direct. It forces us be aware of what we are feeling and thinking.


Clear your space for this transformative state of mind to occur. This can be physically tidying or smudging the room clean. Literally prep yourself and make room for your sankalpa to arrive. Give it time and treat it with respect. Maybe have a specific altar or meditation space for this.


Sift through the monkey mind chatter, note what thoughts you drop into. The valuable thoughts will likely be the simplistic conclusions, the obvious clichés and will only have to speak once.


How you arrive at these words is what will make the sankalpa startling or perceptive.



2. Develop Your Visual Language / Translate the Symbols


School yourself on some symbols. Our unconscious talks to us in symbols. It’s paramount we learn how to understand what we are trying to say to ourselves.


My degree trained me in how to read visual language, so it is second nature to me. However, if you’re a novice and need a starting point for this task, never fear. It’s not that complex, it’s about paying attention to detail.


Perhaps you simply write down or crudely sketch out the images that appear to you from the collective soup. Google it.


Scenarios and backdrops to our dreams or visions are also of great relevance. Animals and the people we meet in these specific spaces may indicate a certain state of mind or a characteristic we need to embody or let go of.


There are books like Animal Speak by Ted Andrews or Taschen’s Book of Symbols that you can use as your encyclopaedia to understanding your unconscious mind.


Combine the symbology. What is your sankalpa trying to say to you?



3. Keep a Journal / Write Everything Down


Being proactive about journalling can help break down your innermost whisperings.


You will see patterns that reoccur in your daily thoughts. Namely, these could be targets you want to hit or skills you want to achieve. Most importantly, these are thoughts your unconscious mind already knows you are capable of and is seeking to manifest in external reality.


Also, studies have shown that if you write things down, you are 42% more likely to achieve them.


The bottom line is your sankalpa exists within you already. We just need to realise it to create that conversation with it.



4. Be Present / Check Your Grammar


Remember Indian Philosophy 101. As human beings, we consist of the Jiva-Atman and the Para-Atman. We are already whole and complete. There is nothing left to do.


Setting a goal in the future keeps us from achieving it. If you think of the future as radically different from your present, it is always a time and place separate from us. Your language’s future time reference and your grammar is holding you back – not you.


There is only one you. Not future you, past you, ten minutes from now you, you who will die you. All those yous are you.


Your sankalpa already knows you. Once we can reconcile this fragmentation of Self, we can live more powerfully and make wiser choices now.



5. Be your own Bindu / Your Sankalpa is You


In Tantric traditions, bindu is semen. It is the central point of all creation, where all is unified and manifested. Typically, its translated as point, drop or dot. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a practitioner can prolong their life by mastering control over the fluid.


The point I’m trying to make is that you are the master of you, your life and your sankalpa, which is also you.


A sankalpa is not a dull recitation at the beginning of your day or a tired, old post-it on your mirror. It is often described as a seed. Or in my case, a bindu. It exists and is buried in the heart of you.


Practice your sankalpa consistently, every minute of every day. Follow the thread of that same sankalpa over time. Aim for at least thirty days.


They can be great moonly happenings. Take time to tune into yourself with each New Moon. Over the course of a month, notice what transpires. Let your sankalpa reside within you. What quality reveals itself?


Although meditating and infusing it with prana each morning will help nourish it, we must still put in the magical hard yards of enacting it, not just passively visualising it.


Kia Kaha and Namaste x