In one of my previous posts, I talked about how an awareness of and the subsequent despair about our common human suffering (saṃvega) can cause the awakening of a desire (pasada) to pursue Dharma, the path to Truth.
I believe that many of us teach yoga because this pasada has been awakened within us.
It becomes part of our personal dharma (that’s the small ‘d,’ dharma) to teach yoga, and most of us would do so regardless if we got paid or hardly anyone showed up.
Of course, it’s always more fun to have a nice full class to teach, but that’s a topic for another time.
My point is, teaching yoga has become an expression of our sankalpa, or the overarching vow of our lives.
A sankalpa is a commitment we make to support our highest truth. It’s the guiding northstar of our lives, something we line up with, even when we’re not consciously thinking about it—like when we look back over the events and decisions of our lives and notice that they’ve all headed us in a particular direction.
sankalpa = a vow that supports our highest truth; an inspired intention that honors the best of who we are in the fulfillment of our dharma
kalpa = vow, the rule to be followed above all other rules
san = highest truth
A sankalpa starts with the premise that you already are who you need to be to fulfill your life’s dharma.
That’s a radical thought because most of us think of ourselves as a never-ending self-improvement project.
“When I’ve lost my way or when I am confused about a path to take, I remember that most answers I need I already possess – deep inside. I am naturally creative, resourceful and whole. If I consult my invisible compass, I’ll know what to do.”
― Steve Goodier
According to Richard Miller, PhD, a clinical psychologist and teacher in the Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir nondual traditions, a sankalpa arrives with everything needed to fully realize it. This includes iccha (tremendous will and energy), kriya (action) and jnana (the wisdom of how to deliver that action).
“These are all aspects of the Divine, and they live within us,” Miller says. “You don’t have to ask where you’ll find the will to do it. The energy and will are already there. The sankalpa informs us of the action we’re willing to take into the world.”
Do you know what your sankalpa is?
It might be super-obvious by looking back over your life…
Maybe you’ve always been the kind of person who likes to help others. Or has always been in leadership positions. Or you’re the one all your friends call for advice and guidance. Or perhaps, you are a creator of the kind of art that inspires and uplifts others. Or you’ve always been deeply committed to the welfare of animals or children.
However, if you don’t see a theme to your life, maybe your sankalpa is yet to be discovered.
As you look forward into your life, you might feel drawn to deep studies or traveling to sacred sites or becoming the best yoga teacher you can be. All these are clues to the expression of who you intended to be coming into this life.
To me, this idea of having a sankalpa helps me realize that all my actions are and have always been in service to a higher ideal that may not always be apparent. But it’s there nonetheless.
And in this world where we all seek for connection and a sense of purpose, it’s nice to know that we can’t help but be exactly where we need to be.
It reminds me that, as the yogis say, we are ALL on an evolutionary path…sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. But regardless, life is always, always, always calling us back home to ourselves.
This blog is a labor of love for us and is offered in service of the yoga community and its amazing teachers. Comments are appreciated…let us know your thoughts and share your experience with our readers!
New to teaching? Check out Rupali’s Transform Your Yoga Teaching: The 5 Essential Elements of Teaching an Awesome Yoga Class for an easy-to-follow system of constructing your classes that will deliver a rich experience for both you and your students every single time.
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