Last week, I discussed what a sankalpa is, and that our brains use such metacognition tools in order to focus and accomplish goals. But what makes a sankalpa stick?
My first sankalpa was comfy. It made me feel all cozy and warm when I recalled it. This was all rainbows and butterflies in the nurturing environment of the Breath and Bliss Immersion, but life had a way of showing me I needed more precision for the path I was headed on. Much like a report card, my internal assessment revealed I had not received an A for effort, but in fact it was an area in need of improvement. I had been expecting my sankalpa to do the work for me. It’s a tool, not magic or even a miracle. As soon as I committed to a sankalpa that represented my new life values, the resistance came.
Relentless resistance, in all forms—the sankalpa struggle was forcing me to face the choices before me and either use this tool or fall victim to my distraction and fear. I think Jill knew the resistance would be lurking just outside of her sphere because one of the last questions she asked us when forming our sankalpa was “Are you open to believing [inevitable] obstacles can be removed or overcome?”
Like a parent instills a sense of moral into their young ones, knowing it will be tested later in the “real world” this question was priming the mind. Ironically when I look back in my notebook, I didn’t actually answer the question, not until recently. I learned the hard way that of all the questions this is one to not overlook and probably the most crucial in my sankalpa’s success. The endurance of your sankalpa depends on its depth and the emotion it provokes. Feeling as though my mental-training wheels had been removed, picking up momentum I graduated through to the how.
How do you break through the struggle?
Learning from the example of Kelly McGonigal’s research in the book the Upside of Stress, I began to see my mindset as she puts it, a “catalyst.” McGonigal says “Changing your mindset puts into motion processes that perpetuate positive change over time.” So this time around I was ready for the resistance. My mindset was to be excited about the challenge. Each set back was actually an opportunity. Each distraction a boundary building exercise. Each day offered a chance to strengthen my mental muscle and actually use my sankalpa. You can’t just buy new paint for your mental picture, you have to actually change the medium. So I removed all limiting beliefs, learned helplessness and ego based thoughts like they were toxic to my health, because they were. I replaced them with my sankalpa. I set a new standard of thinking and thus living. Your mindset matters; start to see your sankalpa as something that is meant to be tested and then actually test it.
I’m not going to say that my life changed overnight, or even that I have accomplished all of my goals. I will tell you instead that my sankalpa has allowed me create value in situations that previously didn’t have any. Although this is one of the most uncertain, trying times of my life thus far, I feel more connected to my goals and values than ever before. You see, the sankalpa struggle was part of the process, weeding out distractions and refining my intention. Expect that it will arise, but now that you know the why, the what and the how’s of overcoming this struggle you’ll be able to actually experience the process. At the end of life it won’t necessarily be the accomplishments that bring you peace, but rather the enrichment of the experiences you have that brings about a life of content.
Thanks for keeping it real about the sankalpa struggle. Both the posts on this topic are very helpful in remembering that embodying an intention takes work, it’s not some magic fix-it-all. I’ve been working with setting an intention at every new moon for the last year or so, and I have gotten frustrated with myself when I end up landing on the same one over and over – but maybe I just wasn’t giving it the time and attention it really needed!
Thanks for this post! I have always struggled with my sankalpa, usually I tend to bog myself down with search for a “better one”, or I have trouble breaking it down in to a simple clear non-wordy sentence! And of course we can “upgrade” our sankalpas farther down the road, just funny that I hadn’t really gotten that far 😉 This helps tremendously!
at part of the YTO Level 1 cert we revisit sankalpa daily if not even multiple times a day – not something I have experienced before – this daily practice has opened my eyes to the real power of a “mindset”.
Sankalpas should ebb and flow – even though I love my original one too! I find myself in need of something else and create a customizable Sankalpa to fit. I love this idea that it’s not set in stone and doesn’t need to be warm and fuzzy at all times.
I had never really discussed incorporating sankalpa into my practice or my life before YTU. I knew what they were; I’ve had teachers tell me “set an intention” or “repeat your mantra,” but it never meant much to me. Now I realize my sankalpa(s) pinpoint my mental blind spots and let me work on what it illuminates. It’s a flashlight, but I still need to do the work – and it’s not magic or a miracle.
I have been introduced to this kind of work by my teachers as a mantra, but it has never felt as personal as it did 4 days ago on my first day of YTU training. Reading this article makes me want to keep fine tuning my Sankalpa and grow through the process. Thank you for sharing your own experiences.
I came into my Level 1 with my Sankalpa already firmly in place. I knew it as a personal mantra. My Sankalpa has set my intentions on a firm foundation and allows me to bounce life off it to see what sticks. It keeps me close to what is sacred to me. It also weeds out what isn’t working in my life. And is preventative in protecting my life from some struggles. However, life has a way of being full on even with a strong Sankalpa!
Great post! This has pushed me to refine my own sankalpa – while it is an area I need to work on I have been wondering if it needs to be more specific and “actionable”. I hope that this will make my sankalpa easier to use in order to make small but effective and lasting changes in my day to day reality.
Hello, good to know that I am not alone with the Sankalpa struggle. Thank you for your blog!!!
I am also struggling to find my Sankalpa it’s not easy. I know there’s one for me I will just have to be patient.
Thank you for sharing your experience. It is nice to know I am not the only one who has struggled.I have been struggling with my Sankalpa – although I admit until my today I didn’t know that it was called that. Many times I have created intentions for my practice, my life and my work; and felt as though I was ready to deal with the limitations and obstacles to change my mindset, to approach life in a more healthy way. But instead I turned and ran (figuratively) in fear of failing. I now know that my previous internal resolution was too broad for me at this time. It caused anxiety and stress. Using three thought provoking questions provided in YTU training, I have discovered my Sankalpa and I do not feel like “running”. It is what I need right now at this time in my life. I am sure it will change as I grow and learn and I am so excited for this process.
Thank you again for your post.
Thanks for the post Baylea. I’ve been on an intense personal growth journey for the last 5 years. As I approached my potential mid life point the urgency to live the life I really wanted really awakend in me.
My Sankalpa is a reminder of what my priorities are. Connecting with it on a regular basis allows me to verify that what I am doing is in my highest and best interest. It’s often an uncomfortable check in, and thus I know I am on the right path and I have more work to do.
Your honesty is inspiring.
I just really love this post!
I just connect in a deep way with my Sankalpa and it’s a new feeling to me!
I will remind myself those 2 masterpieces:
1. “It’s a tool, not magic or even a miracle.
2. ” Your mindset matters; start to see your sankalpa as something that is meant to be tested and then actually test it.”
A deep and profound and sincere tank you!
Sankalpa, how I struggle on finding one during both my YTU training, actually found one that was listed as an example in the book which suits me well and helped throughout my teaching but i’m realizing that I need to modify it, to enforce it and challenge myself with it. Guess I will have to go through the questions in finding one and start with he one I currently have as a base and simply personalize it to me. Thanks for the article, brings a nice reflection upon myself.
This post made me realise that I´m not done with my sankalpa or the sankalpa isn´t done with me. Its muscle needs more strengthening and life offers plenty of opportunities for strengthening. The sankalpa is not a magic pill but pretty magical, if I let it be tried and tested. Letting the struggle actually be a part of the sankalpa journey.
This way of seeing sankalpa excites me completely. The process of learning and change, both in the mental and behavioral world, is for me an integral part of this positive visualization. I will particularly remember and apply that each challenge is an opportunity, a new boundary building exercise that strengthen my mental muscle ! Thank you so much Baylea for this very great view of the world ?
I agree mind set is everything. It directly effects our experience. Energy goes where attention goes 🙂
Refining my intention and getting in touch with what is really real for me in the moment is not always easy but this practice of creating Sankalpa through YTU is a wonderful practice that I am learning to embrace.
Like your prior post, this one also resonated with me. I like your realistic and pragmatic approach to using your sankalpa as a tool, not as a passive panacea.
Snakalpa’s I find change over time and experience. Sometimes what we start with changes with what we end with. I believe in sankalpa’s for ourselves b/c it helps to redirect us when we veer off path. Mine is forever I feel growing, not necessarily changing but just learning through experience and being redefined. It doesn’t mean that my past sankalpa wasn’t appropriate as it was for the time/need of when it was created. If anything it teaches me to grow and be accepting of the change.
This post really resonates with me since I am currently struggling finding my sankalpa. Your post reminded me to dig a little deeper and that by finding one that truly means something to me will help me along my life long road ahead.
“At the end of life it won’t necessarily be the accomplishments that bring you peace, but rather the enrichment of the experiences you have that brings about a life of content.” Love this! Such true and wise words. Thank you for sharing.
Yes! I love how you talk about it as an ongoing, life-long practice. I especially loved this, “Each set back was actually an opportunity. Each distraction a boundary building exercise. Each day offered a chance to strengthen my mental muscle and actually use my sankalpa.” It’s so true. I’ve attended many teacher trainings, and even workshops, where the senior teachers encourage us to think of a sankalpa — then come back to it over and over again. But what if it didn’t stick? Your post suggests it to be an ongoing, evolving practice, and I love that. It really helps me to further understand, and truly get my sankalpa to stick. Thank you!
This article has really served as encouragement for me. I completed by first day of the Level 1 Teacher Training. The teacher trainers, assistants, and fellow classmates are wonderful, but I couldn’t help but feel intimidated throughout the practice. I’m glad that I was introduced to sankalpa in the morning. The questions asked to develop my sankalpa were succinct and potent. I believe I had developed an inner directive that centered me throughout day 1 and hope that it will continue to serve me through the inevitable challenges that may come my way.
I had trouble with this question (“Are you open to believing [inevitable] obstacles can be removed or overcome?”) during the training as well because it implies that removing/overcoming obstacles is simply a matter of individual effort. Looking back on my notes now I see that my training leader specified “self-imposed personal or physical limitations or obstacles,” which makes it easier to see how a sankalpa can help with overcoming said obstacles, but the emphasis on the individual still makes me uneasy about this line of inquiry.
Baylea, thank you for sharing your experience learning how to unmask the power of sankalpa through contemplation and intention rather than through expectation or entitlement. I appreciate this balanced approach when so many asana practitioners either reject the 8-limbed approach entirely or go to an opposite extreme of inviting magic without a willingness to cultivate positive change. I was just introduced today to the YTU method of extracting a resonant sankalpa, but would like to share another way to distill a psychic resolve. This method was (as far as I know) dubbed “peeling back the layers” by my yoga nidra teacher, Shakti Assouline. You begin by simply thinking of an area of your life you’d like to improve and writing that down. Then you ask yourself, “if I could have ANYTHING at all in that area, what would it be?” and you answer that question without censoring or trying to be realistic. Once you have that, you ask yourself “why?” and then rewrite the phrase with the answer. You continue to ask the question why? until there is nothing underneath, until you have reached the true essence of your desire. The example she gave was “I want a a new house.” After prodding, “why?” she came back with the answer, “because I want more space.” Again, why? the answer arose, “because I want to feel free.” This time, when she asked “why,” there was no deeper layer. So her sankalpa became “I want to be free,” which was then further honed into the present tense, as if it were already true, making the final product, “I am free.” I love this method because it’s so interesting how the things we think we want on the surface are typically products of something much deeper. This is paralleled even by the body itself and the common phrase among body workers that “the problem is never actually where the pain is.” Perhaps this is part of the key to overcoming the “sankalpa struggle” as you name it: unpeeling the layers and learning to look past the pain.
Baylea, this is a great post. As I wrap up the first day of my YTUL1 training, it resonates. During our sankalpa reflection this morning, I was reminded of my first day of the summer intensive program with American Ballet Theatre when I was 15. I remember one of the instructors telling us that we needed to dig deep within us to cultivate our passion (and even our need) to dance. Remember this passion when you are faced with challenges, she said. Without it, you will not survive in this industry. I thought it was a bit intense as a 15 year old! However, she was right. The need to dance to communicate my unspoken words helped me throughout my career.
“I had been expecting my sankalpa to do the work for me. It’s a tool, not magic or even a miracle.” Lightbulb Moment! Loved this post – it’s one that I’ll surely be revisiting many more times!