“One Ring to Rule them All. One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” Wait. No. I’m not talking about The Fellowship of the Rings here. 🙂 I am talking about a word. Your word.
If you’ve been around the yoga world for sometime now you’ve likely come across the idea of sankalpa. If not, here goes. A sankalpa is an intention cultivated over a long period of time. The practice of selecting one’s sankalpa involves a good deal of inner listening for what is wanting to be born through you. Sankalpa’s can be discovered or renewed at any time. But here, in our western culture, in the Northern Hemisphere, as the days are shorter, the nights longer and the celebration of the New Year and Epiphany approaches it’s an especially potent time to revisit or seek out a new sankalpa to guide you in the days and months ahead.
The difference between a sankalpa and a New Year’s resolution is that a sankalpa carries with it the power of depth, of what you are really longing for in your life. Getting in shape, eating right, managing your schedule better, taking up a meditation practice are all excellent but they are merely action steps, the means to achieving a deeper desire for greater wellbeing on every level.
Maintaining the discipline and energy to continue the action steps you know you need and want to take is difficult without a broader, more rooted sense of meaning. This year, I invite you to spend some time over the next few days reviewing the year past and your goals for the year ahead. What actions are you wanting to take? What is your heart calling you to study or create?
Take a look at your answers and see if you can sense a common theme or a thread. If that thread were boiled down into one or two words, what would it be?
Here’s an example of how I arrived at my 2013 Sankalpa. (2014 still in process).
Actions I knew I wanted to take:
During the first weeks of January I spent a good deal of time in quiet meditation and in taking long walks out of doors. On these walks I would ask for “my word.” Several candidates appeared but that one I eventually settled on, the one that felt right was “Artistry.” (I started with Create, but then realized I’d already “created” a lot of these things, it was now a matter of refining, finishing, polishing. This is very different from the raw process of creation.)
Throughout the year I would return to my word as a means to check in and guide my actions. Am I carving time to work on the novel? What am I doing to build my teaching and strengthen my authentic voice? Have I let busyness overwhelm my ability to enjoy the changes of the year? What steps can I take to support the health of my body and its ability to get and stay pregnant?
Once you’ve found your word, consider posting it somewhere meaningful. You could make a pretty picture or paint it on a clear candle holder. You might even write a little poem with the first letter of each sentence coming from the letters of your word. Whatever you do, I encourage you to write it down along with the action steps you want to take and keep close at hand. Check in regularly throughout the year. (Perhaps schedule a check in at the change of each season.)
Allow yourself to be fluid. If you discover it’s time to change or revise your word or action steps give yourself permission and space to do so.
Your word is not there to “rule” you, but it is there to find you, to guide you and in the light, bind you… to the deepest longings and manifestations of your heart.
Words in Community
Another powerful way to work with sankalpas is to do so in community. I got this idea from Alyson, a colleague and teacher at Studio Vibe in Cary. For the past decade or so she and her husband have been creating words or themes for the year that they cultivate together. Examples include The Year of Partnership and Passsion, The Year of Friendship, The Year of Adventure etc.
Perhaps this year, in addition to (or instead of) finding your own word, consider entering into conversation with your partner, spouse, family or community and discerning a word or theme for the year together. Write down the action steps, schedule check-ins, and open to the Grace revealed through working to grow together.
Happy Word Searching. May you find the word to guide you and your community into a deeper, living expression of your authentic heart.