December 30, 2014

Sankalpa: a Powerful Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions.


I relish the energy of renewal that lingers in the air this time of year and the sense of opportunity between one year ending and another beginning.

I embrace the New Year with optimism and usually have in mind some things I would like to improve in my life.

But I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. They’re just not my thing and never have been. After qualifying as a life coach, I tried to rally myself around the idea and set “audacious goals”. But I struggled to stick with them.

For me, New Year’s resolutions rapidly morph from desires into “shoulds”, which I subconsciously resist and sabotage.

Once “I’d like to get up early tomorrow and get a good run at the day” turns into “I should get up early tomorrow…” I’m hitting the snooze button when my alarm goes off.

Avoiding that subtle transition has always been tricky for me. So when I started teaching meditation from the Vedic tradition, I was delighted to discover a concept I could get behind: Sankalpa.

The word itself means determination, conviction and resolve. So the essence of Sankalpa is similar to what underlies the concept of New Year’s resolutions.

But a key difference is that most New Year’s resolutions don’t actually seem to harness the energy of determination, conviction or resolve at all. New Year’s resolutions are fraught with should-itis, which stems from wanting to make changes in our lives without properly assessing why we are where we are in the first place. Without an understanding of what is keeping us stuck, it’s hard to move past it no matter our goal.

For example, if I have a bit of a belly—I wish that were a hypothetical ‘if’!—I might set a resolution to lose weight, get fit and tone up. But if I don’t examine why I’m eating badly and why I’m not exercising, then the energy around my goal quickly turns into a should—and subsequently a won’t, don’t or can’t— instead of remaining in the realm of desire.

Changing our habits is hard, even when we recognise that our current habits are sabotaging our wellbeing. We may resolve to develop new habits that will serve us better, but if there isn’t a strong inner commitment that comes from understanding how we’re sabotaging ourselves and why we need to stop, the probability of follow-through is low.

And this is where Sankalpa works its magic.

A Sankalpa is a seed we sow in our conscious mind. Once it is sown, we nurture it daily until it takes root in our subconscious. When our subconscious is onboard, our Sankalpa will start to manifest outside us in abundant ways.

We find ourselves more effortlessly choosing actions in support of what we want. The energy of choice, rather than the energy of “should”, is what makes all the difference.

Finding our core Sankalpa will help us to live out our life’s purpose. But it takes time and patience to find it.

In the interim, we can experiment with Sankalpas around particular goals, but it’s best to pick just one and work with it until it becomes physically true.

For example, I’m currently working with a Sankalpa around my Right Livelihood. I will stick with this until I feel that I’m living my Right Livelihood unless my core Sankalpa makes itself known in the meantime.

Here are some tips for creating your own Sankalpa:

1. The wording should be simple and present tense.

Although the future tense of “I will” can be infused with powerful conviction, I prefer to programme my subconscious with the belief “I am.” Jeff Foster said, “Be careful what you say after ‘I am’. Those two tiny words contain powerful magic.”

2. Tune into yourself and ask, “What do I really need to focus on?”

Here are some examples, but I suggest you ultimately let your Sankalpa come from you: I am open to change;I nurture my wellbeing on every level; I do work that makes my heart sing.

3. Plant your Sankalpa firmly by bringing it to mind frequently and silently repeating it as much as possible.

Especially helpful times to repeat your Sankalpa are just before going to sleep, upon waking, preceding meditation or yoga and anytime you feel relaxed. When the conscious mind relaxes, our subconscious becomes more open to whatever we want to impress on it.

4. Use a trigger.

I find it helpful to use a trigger to bring my Sankalpa to mind at random points throughout the day. Apart from meditation, waking and sleeping, whenever I see double-digits such as 11:11 I take a breath and repeat my Sankalpa three times. In addition to focussing my subconscious mind, this act is a moment when I’m fully present.

Fundamentally, what we are trying to do is replace some existing (limiting) belief that doesn’t serve us (such as, “I’m not worthy of success”) with one that does. By focusing our attention on a key affirmation, we create lasting positive change in our lives.

If you’re also allergic to New Year’s resolutions, I invite you to join me. There’s no rush to have it all figured out by January 1st. Take your time over the coming days and weeks to explore what Sankalpa feels right for you right now.

And when you find it, use it.

Here’s to mindful transformations in the coming New Year.


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Author: Hilda Caroll 

Apprentice Editor: Caroline Beaton / Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: Christian Schnettelker via Flickr 

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