esther m palmer

guide to sankalpa

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. I've noticed over the years that when I want something to shift or grow in my life, it happens with greatest fruition before I'm compelled to write it down or dwell on it, but instead just believe it and do it. If there's even a smidgen of doubt, I almost always fail to follow through.

For example, even though I assume it would be "better" for me to give up watching movies with dinner, I love watching movies with dinner and gain some real space in my day from it. Until that changes, I don't think much else is gonna shift, no matter how often I resolve to eat dinner in silence.

So, no "resolutions". But I do have a sankalpa.

A sankalpa is an intention that comes from "deep within". It's basically something you need in your life, whether you've realized it with your conscious mind or not (learn more about sankalpa on my blog). If you haven't realized it, though, how do you know it's your sankalpa? There's a rather involved meditation that helps identify it, so I created the below guide that lets you uncover your sankalpa using tools already at your disposal.

Fair warning: it might take some patience and strategic timing, but I think that's a small trade off to see what your innermost self has in store for you.


Guide to Sankalpa

Exploring your way to your sankalpa is really all about intuition and listening.

You have an intuition. Do you listen to it much? At all? Try not to second guess what you came up with when you started to recall what "intuition" means for you, and just own it. That's your intuition. Got it? Let's keep going.

You've got an idea of what your intuition is...

Now dig into your memory banks and notice in what situations you find your intuition talking loudest. It's probably not moments when your brain is crowded with to do lists and decision making (but it might be). It's more likely to be when you have landed in your most calm and spacious "place". Ya know, where everything just feels right. It might be on some far away sunny beach or winter retreat. It might be in the moments of peace you have with your morning coffee. It doesn't matter much when or where it is, as long as you feel whole and at ease. Know the moment I mean? Good.

You'll need to take some time out (minimum 10min) in one of those moments to sit with your sankalpa.

You don't need to force yourself into one of these moments, but if they're reliable enough in your day (like with a morning run or coffee), plan for extra time there for a few days or weeks in a row. If you need to just wait until the stars align for your moment of space and the extra ten minutes to coincide, totally cool too. However you get there, get there. Arrived? Awesome.


Listen. Focus your attention on your breath and then wait.

It's possible "nothing" will happen. That's ok. Try again next time.

It's possible a feeling or thought or image that resonates with you may come into your awareness.

The stronger the resonance, the more likely you are to go "oh! that's it! that's the thing!" whether there are exclamation marks in your thoughts or not. When something like that comes up (again, don't fret if it doesn't... but maybe do come to yoga class this year), spend some time with it. Let it get solid and sturdy and real. Then, turn it around in your mind until it's got a positive, affirmative spin (think "I want to be healthy" instead of "I wish I could stop smoking").

Now, take this positive story and pack it into a single word or image that captures the intention within it.

That's your trigger word or image, so it only needs to make sense to you. Let's call this your sankalpa.

Sit with your sankalpa for as long as you can this first time.

If your mind drifts to complex thoughts, gently nudge those aside and keep zoomed in on your sankalpa (you can repeat it over and over, like counting sheep, but try not to fall asleep). Come back to it again and again as best you can. When you need to stop and return to your day, give the time with your sankalpa some closure. A deep sigh might do it. You'll know what's right for you.

Over the course of the next month, revisit your sankalpa.

Sit with it in a similar manner as above for about five minutes every day-ish (i.e. maybe it's once a week cause that's all you got space for, super cool, just return to it regularly! Set calendar alerts!). You can do that, I promise. You can stop "doing" long enough to check in with your sankalpa - think of it like pausing to say hi to a dear friend. 

After a month of regular check-ins, let the sankalpa be and just carry on living like usual. 

I'll meet you back here in a year to see how it went. 

hari om tat sat! (in a nutshell: live your sankalpa!)

Thoughts or questions? I'd love to hear them.

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