sankalpa: setting yogic intent
by Jeffry Farrell
Setting yogic intent is a creative process of personal adjustment. Kumar used to say, "Learn how to adjust yourself, man!" He was referring not only to my body in asanas, he was referring to my attitude and outlook. He was referring to how I guided my awareness. To set one's intention is a conscious adjustment of oneself which, in yoga, begins in stillness.
We have been practicing Santosha, qualities of Contentment in January. In that practice we observed areas in life for which we are grateful. We counted our blessings. We made a long list. We observed areas in our lives where we sense expansion and abundance. And we express gratitude and recognition for those blessings and gifts. Naturally, not everything in our lives is expansive and joyous and abundant, yet we aim to practice Santosha anyway. Contentment despite difficulty is not denial. We remain conscious and not complacent. We claim a radical responsibility for our own experience. We blame no one. We make no complaint. We act as necessary with the conditions present, content and receptive to the clarity of pure experience. To practice Santosha this way is a fast track toward recognizing Sattwa, or Clarity. I say, "Suchness." Sattwa means a clarity to the truth lf the conditions as they are, as I experience them without judgment. This indeed is a radical reponsibility for my own mind and emotions and the stories I tell myself and the excuses I make and the very life I am leading. Where the experience does not fit our view of Contentment, Santosha, expanded joy in ease, there is where Sankalpa begins.
Sankalpa is yogic intent. It is purpose. It is a goal or objective. So the first question is what is your purpose? What goals or makers to your purpose do you envision? What are your dreams? The yogic intent is not merely a goal-setting and achievement process. It is a set of tools grounded in the existence of our consciousness (the world of the formless) and in the existence of Nature, the world of form.
When we set yogic intent, we draw back into ourselves and finding deepest connections and surrender to the stillness there, we then release our efforts in that direction with steady aim and persistence. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles' yogi said, "The art of Archery is to draw the arrow back on the bow as far as possible, and then to release the arrow, sending it forth with great force. Likewise, the mind should be drawn back to the source of thinking and, from there, released to bring forth the thought in a forceful manner supplemented by the power of the Being. [This] will bring out a powerful thought that will succeed in the relative world, bring the infusion of the Being into outside activity, and make possible the state of cosmic consciousness." Yogic intent is a one-pointed thought. Sankalpa is a concentration.
So, in this month, we observe our intentions and the process of setting intentions.