Sankalpa – Intention

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 can take the form of a positive resolve, often incorporated into the practice of yoga nidra. Thus, it programmes the unconscious mind to bring about a positive change by mobilising the deep, unconscious mental power that leads us towards a goal – often by routes we might not have been able to even imagine! It can be formulated as a short, positive phrase, expressed, in the present tense – as if it is already happening. It is most commonly something simple, e.g. “I am peaceful and content”, “I’m doing all I need for my body to be healthy and strong”, “I follow the wisdom of my heart”, “I fully accept myself as I am”.

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 resolve I could make that would best serve me right now, 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 just sense. We could use the thinking mind to translate it into a phrase as above, or bring the image, symbol or sense of it into our awareness as a reminder from time to time.

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 have a clear sense of the goal, but nearly everyone who is on the path of yoga will recognise that they are searching for something. 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 resonates internally, we sense its truth in the heart. It thus has the power to insinuate itself through the unconscious or semi-conscious patterns of self-sabotage that tend to contradict affirmations. The Sankalpa can adjust to changing circumstances and, as its results begin to manifest, it gains momentum enough not to be diverted by conditioned negative beliefs.

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 examples, words, 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 or achieving an aim.

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 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.