Ahhh… Spring is in the air! The days are getting longer, the sun is starting to shine, colourful new plant life is bursting forth as the trees and flowers begin their new cycles of growth. As with the seeds reawakening after a long sleep, finding their way out of the dark, still, cold soil of Winter, we too have the opportunity for new growth. To feel alive with new ideas, new plans and inspirations. To start afresh and be reborn.
Spring is a transformative time - a time of hope; this season bursts forward with optimism, offering change after the quiet, still reflective time of Winter. This is the season to plant our intentions for the months to come. Springtime intentions work like magic seeds, planted in the fertile soil of your mind. Now is the time to get really clear on how you want to grow and what you want to harvest in your life. In yoga, we call this intention setting Sankalpa. Sankalpa means an intention or resolve formed by the heart and mind. In practical terms, a sankalpa means a single-pointed vow to focus both psychologically and spiritually on a specific goal. The word is made up of the Sanskrit ‘San’ – meaning connection to the highest truth, and ‘kalpa’ – meaning vow. A sankalpa can take two forms – a desire and a specific intention. A desire is driven by the heart and the specific intention is driven by the mind. The heartfelt sankalpa, is a statement that reflects your true nature. This type of sankalpa is far more all-encompassing than, say, making a resolve such as a New Year’s resolution. It requires no action or change, it is literally and simply a statement of what is, such as “I am already whole and already healed,” or “I am peace itself.” This type of sankalpa comes from deep within us, directly out of the mystery of who we ultimately are. It then informs our intellectual mind of a particular direction that we need to take, or are taking in our life. The sankalpa that comes from the mind is that of a specific intention or goal. Setting specific intentions can help you align your moment-to-moment choices with your heartfelt desire. Your specific sankalpa will describe what you need to do and where you need to direct your energy to enable you to make progress on your larger life goals or to move you forward on your path. It’s human nature for us to identify a desire as “I want” and an intention as “I will” or “I won’t.” But these phrases lack the truth of the commitment that comes from heartfelt desire and connection to one’s dharma or life purpose. A sankalpa is statement of deeply held fact and a vow that is true in the present moment. For this reason, your sankalpa - both the heartfelt desire and the specific intention - should be stated in the present tense. For example, rather than saying, “I want to be more compassionate,” your sankalpa might be, “Compassion is my true nature” or “I am compassion itself.” Rather than setting the intention, “I will not eat meat,” your specific sankalpa might be, “With compassion for my body and for other living beings, I eat a vegetarian diet.” Stating your sankalpa in the present tense acknowledges the energy and truth of your heartfelt desire and reminds you that whatever is required of you is already within you. Just like planting a seed within the deep, quiet stillness of the earth, the seed of our intention or sankalpa should be planted within the deep, quiet stillness of the mind. Which is why planting a sankalpa during a yoga nidra or meditation practice offers the most fertile and nourishing opportunity for the resolve to take root and manifest in its own time. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to these practices only… You can remind yourself of your sankalpa at anytime, anywhere. Setting an intention for yourself at the start of each day has the power to transform how your day will unfold. Where the intention goes, the energy flows! How do you set an intention or find your sankalpa? It doesn't matter where or when, but you should stop, be quiet and take a deep breath. As you inhale say to yourself, "I am" or "I need," and exhale with your one-word positive intention. For example, in the middle of my busy day I might say "I am" as I inhale and then "calm" as I exhale - and I repeat it as many times as I need to. Once you’ve set an intention, your subconscious will direct you to fulfil it. Your only job is to listen. Eventually things will happen - sometimes not what you expect, but they will happen once your intention is set. Tune out those other little voices in your head that say you can't, or it's too hard, or that it will never happen, and listen only to your inner wisdom. It only takes a few moments, in the many moments of your day, to let yoga in and allow it to transform your life. So, this Spring, take time to spring clean your intentions – reflect on what values are you hoping to align with? What heartfelt desires are you following? What dreams and new ideas do you feel alive with? What intentions will you plant for the growing months ahead that will inspire you to manifest your best life?