Sankalpa: an Intention to Follow Inner Truth Without Regard to Results

(originally published on yogaguide.wordpress.com)

Intent. It changes everything.

But what is it? It’s not a thing, not something added on at the beginning or end. It’s an underpinning, a condition of the act being at all. Intent, or lack thereof, is constitutive.

Intention and Attention are related, but not identical. Attention is the conscious presence that maintains the space for things & relationships to reveal themselves. In my view, this makes it sacred: it is an ontological, or constitutive, condition for other things, relations and conditions.

Intention is specific attention. Focused Attention. Focused attention, or the lack thereof, is how we create meaning and the lack thereof. There are many different levels on which to focus your attention, and it is characteristically Western to focus it on a thing or an event: a goal.

Often, I think, we think “goal” when a teacher asks us to “set an intention”. Open hamstrings, clear heart chakra, world peace, love in my life.

When we create intention at the beginning of yoga class, we are invoking sankalpa. The usual translation is merely “intention” or “resolve”, but we are really invoking a second order of intent: conscious intention, or intention about intention. What do we want to want?

I suggest we think of intention as a clear, quiet, neutral place to stand. Imagine a platform in the deep, deep forest. Like that from which a biologist might watch. But we are scientists of ourselves. We need a clear, quiet place from which to watch the thoughts frollick. Our sankalpa is an expression of why we practice, a touchstone to which we can return when we get lost among our thoughts and desires.

But how to find our Sankalpa? How to set an appropriate intention? Well, think of what you’d like to have. Even an old fashioned goal or egocentric desire. Be really honest. Good. Now, what conditions have to be present for this gift to manifest? And what quality would you ascribe to these conditions? It’ll take a few moments to let the mist settle and see what emerges like an island from the surf. But that quality, the quality of the conditions which enable the manifestation of your deepest desire, that’s a good candidate for your Sankalpa. Set an intention to allow your inner truth to emerge, without regard to results.

Now that’s an intention worth your attention.

How to create a sankalpa:

  • Postitive statement,
  • Present tense,
  • Attributing those feelings, values or qualities to you…
  • In a clear, concise sentence.

Examples:

I am good, lovable and whole.

I am present, clear and generative.

I am abundant, powerful and generous.

Yoga Nidra: Origin and Breath of the Sankalpa

Yoga Nidra is a liminal state of mind, on the border of sleep and conscious presence. You may be familiar with this state from Savasanah. In a really good final relaxation pose at the end of yoga class, you sometimes know you weren’t completely awake, but you also weren’t asleep.You’re aware of things going on around you, but not participating in them. You are more attuned to your inner landscape. This is the state of Yoga Nidra, also called Yogic Sleep.

Often in the deeply relaxed state of Yoga Nidra, our truest desires, wishes, intents, beliefs and identifications can arise. You may have experienced a deep knowing, a spontaneous revelation or simply a deep sense of well being in this state.

During this workshop or this retreat we will intentionally invoke a state of Yoga Nidra using specifically designed techniques of focus, awareness and deep relaxation, beginning withsome form of the “61 points” relaxation technique. In this set of instructions, you follow the instructors voice as you rotate your awareness fairly rapidly around the body.

This technique has many parallels to a process used in mitigation of trauma and post-traumatic stress syndromes, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which is thought to bring “stuck” memories and the beliefs founded upon them to awareness for reprocessing - fully, this time - without re-traumatizing the subject. Yoga Nidra demands you rapidly move your attention from right to left sided sensory awareness and combines this with a desired belief, both hallmarks of EMDR.

Both sets of techniques seek to affirm our original wholeness, goodness and creativity.

Try your Sankalpa during Yoga Nidra and trust your intuition to adjust it. Once you’ve settled on a clear, present tense, statement about your embodying a quality or action supportive of your being in the world, stay with it for at least 5 sessions of Yoga Nidra. You may stay with one for life, or change to reflect your organic transformation.