The New Year…. That bewildering time when we find ourselves staring down the barrel of our impossible resolutions, convinced we’re horrible creatures who must change into someone else as soon as the ball drops.
Crawling out from under Christmas cookies, third helpings that “don’t count because it’s the holidays,” and good times we’re now supposed to regret, we stare at our unused gym membership keycard, desperate for another way.
But the perennial urge isn’t the same as actual execution is it? A daily routine can be seductive. Even though we say we want to change, we get caught in the cogs of spiritlessness, tightly wound around how-it’s-always-been or the-way-we-always-do-it. We’re unable to stretch from the same-old to something more expansive. So, how do we move from tedious repetition to vibrant ritual? I believe it is something called Sankalpa.
From the ancient yogic texts, Sankalpa is setting an intention with the understanding that we are perfect and whole already—even as we work toward something better.
San (connection with Source, highest Self, truth) and Kalpa (resolve, vow): provides an encouraging declarative platform to stand on as we surrender to a deeper understanding of who we really are.
Don’t get me wrong: this is not a gossamer excuse not to try. It’s the understanding that we will get nowhere beating ourselves up and convincing ourselves we’re broken and need to be fixed. No one is a louder, more disruptive critic to our progress than we are ... until we aren’t anymore.
In yoga philosophy, Samskaras are the impressions left on the subconscious mind by experience. We might think of them as habits or learned behaviors. My favorite visual description of Samskaras are like the grooves that form in a sandy riverbed from the water flowing over it in the same pattern year after year. Though some Samskaras can be positive, a lot of them are negative. They can sound something like this:
I’m not good enough; strong enough; thin enough; patient enough to learn that … I can’t ...
We carry this detrimental conditioning around like a heavy backpack, often unaware of what or how weighed down we are by it, and too stubborn to take it off. Not to mention, we’re so attached to our spot in the yoga room, favorite venti triple-shot caramel latte, same spin bike or table at the restaurant, that we become unwilling to bend—even just a little. I’ve had students leave my classroom because they didn’t get “their spot.” When we limit the ingredients, everything starts to seem the same and eventually we get burned out, unimaginative and even more inflexible.
The power of a new vantage point is not to be underestimated. American philosopher and author Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Travel is an extraordinary way to change the way we look at things. Using our yoga mats as magic carpets to look into our lives and to see the world is an amazing opportunity for Sankalpa. Yoga retreats are a way to use our practice as inspiration to widen our lens on our lives and ourselves so that we can focus on things larger than us. This new aperture allows us to enjoy the things we’ve been missing and enjoy new tastes and adventures.
Here on the cusp of 2020, where will this new decade take you?
Are you ready to meet yourself where you are as you head somewhere brand new?
There are so many ways to change the tide of our Samskaras (habits) and to uncover our Sankalpa (highest self/vow). International Yoga is an incredible resource and I personally invite you to join me out in the world anytime, anywhere.