Sankalpa – Soul purpose

The Power of Intention

It is with our minds and imagination that we create our world!

The mind is our most powerful tool – for both good and ill.

"What we think we become" 

Japanese temple lake

Most of us do not realise that our thoughts create our reality. Even our experience of the events that seem to come from outside is shaped by how we think about them.

Sankalpa is sometimes translated as the soul desire or heart's wish because it comes from beyond the ego mind, which is driven by craving and aversion, but from our higher wisdom and intuition. It is a positive resolve, mentally repeated at the beginning and end of the practice of yoga nidra, which programmes the unconscious mind to bring about a change. It mobilises the deep, unconscious mental power that leads us towards a goal – often by routes we might not have been able to even imagine! It is a short, positive phrase or sentence, clearly and concisely expressed, in the present tense – as if it is already happening, and using the same wording each time, e.g. "I am doing all that is needed for my body to be healthy and strong".

The important aspect is that it is not something you think about, analyse or work out, nor is it an affirmation, chosen simply to do battle against a negative belief. It arises naturally and intuitively when you summon it, is recognisable as a joyful resonance in the heart and feels believable and achievable.

Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve” ~ Napoleon Hill

We need to find our own Sankalpa. A way to do this is to formulate a question to the part of our consciousness that intuitively knows what we truly need (as opposed to what we think we want). Such questions are best phrased in a way the brings about internal, reflective enquiry, e.g. "If there were a positive resolve I could make that would best serve me at this point in life, what would it be?" Then we wait patiently for the response to come to us. At the same time we can notice how the thinking mind tends to jump in and try to grasp for something. The response comes from beyond thought, beyond language, and will not necessarily arise as words. It may be a feeling, an image, a symbol or something that we sense, then we command the thinking mind to translate it into language.

The Sankalpa can be seen from different perspectives. Imagine life as a river that has to be crossed. We cannot step straight across from where we are now because the river is wide, nor can we swim against the strong current. So we search for stepping stones that we can take, one by one, to cross over safely. Crossing the river is our aim, our life’s goal. Very few people know what this is. It may take years to discover. Nearly everyone who is on the path of yoga will recognise that they are searching for something, but will not necessarily be clear as to exactly what that is. To begin the process we have to acknowledge and accept where we are now, where we stand on our bank of the river, and then to recognise what initial change is needed to begin our way over – to take the first step.

The Sankalpa has the power to insinuate itself through the unconscious or semi-conscious patterns of self-sabotage. It is flexible enough to adjust to changing circumstances, as it's results begin to manifest in your inner and outer world. Yet it is precise enough not to be diverted by the inner negative beliefs that seem to contradict it.

Some common core negative beliefs are: 'I am not worthy', 'I was never good enough', 'I am unlovable', 'I never get anything right', or 'I can't be financially successful and true to myself'. These can come from the beliefs, actions or omissions of authority figures in our past and are also embedded in the dominant culture. The Sankalpa may arise as a very immediate and simple need, such as to relax, be calm, at ease, confident or something more long term, such as resolving a life issue.

It is always framed as a positive i.e. something we want to move towards not something we wish to move away from (e.g. 'pain free' needs to be replaced with something like 'ease'). Using a Sankalpa gradually transforms the negative patterns as one begins to experience its benefits and that is when we naturally alter the way we feel about ourselves and how we behave with family, friends, in society and in our lifestyle. Using a mantra is a form of Sankalpa.

As changes begin to manifest, it become possible to see deeper within, and recognise the qualities lying dormant, that hold our hidden potential. From here the focus may be more towards and one’s life purpose, dharma, which is what we ultimately understand by Sankalpa. This arises spontaneously when our true nature and our goal are in harmony and the spiritual dimension of Sankalpa is realised.