Sankalpa, Setting intentions & New Year’s Resolutions



This is a good time of year to reflect on the past while making plans for the future.  Many of us are making our New Year’s resolutions.

I recently read an article in the New York Times describing how Deepak Chopra spends his Sundays.  Doing what Deepak does sounds like the basis of a good resolution for the New Year to me.  What does Deepak do?  “There is yoga, there is walking, there is meditation. There is mindfulness, there is reflection, there is detachment – and there is also coffee, lots of coffee.”

Making a resolution is one thing but how do you keep it?  Is there a way to have a better chance on keeping our resolutions?

 Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word for setting intention or direction.  Sankalpa is informed by both the heart and the mind and to me seems much deeper than our traditional use of the word “resolution”.  Using Sankalpa – putting both our heart and mind into our resolution will give us a better chance of keeping it.

   Making resolutions are all about change – changing things in our lives that no longer serve us.  We sense that there is something needing to be changed, and make a resolution to change it.  It may be to lose weight, to exercise more, do more mediation or yoga – really anything.   Sankalpa is the informed way of choosing what you will do or change in your resolutions by making sure you really are committed to the change.


Sometimes we just know that change is needed in our lives.  We know if we make the change we will live better and be happier.  We know deep down that we must change but never seem to start on that path.  So if you are making your resolutions to change in 2019, intend to keep them.  Use your heart and mind to set your intentions.

Sometimes we really need to change something.  If we do not, someone or something may cause us to take notice – perhaps not the best way to cause change for ourselves.

A little bit of Zen wisdom:

If we need to change and we do not do it in our own, oftentimes the world steps in and does whatever it must to make the change happen. One way invites grace, the other does not.  Choose the way of graceful change.  Do what needs to be done. (Zen Live by Daniel Levin)

On the other hand, you may be having trouble coming up with a resolution or finding your sankalpa.  If you are struggling and want to make a resolution take again this wisdom from Zen:

It sounds so easy, and maybe it is:  Stop doing the things that bring pain.  Start doing the things that bring happiness.  – Good advice from the ages for our time here.  

Wishing you peace and happiness in the New Year.





Pencil Post 4: Looking Inside


whats on the inside

What really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. 

inside pencil


This journey in yoga or in meditation is really an exploration you take of yourself – an inward journey of  discovery.  In our yoga practice, it really doesn’t matter what our poses look like on the outside – it’s what they are doing to us on the inside that counts.  Pay close attention to how your practice makes you feel. Let this feeling shine back out into the world.

Pencil Post 3: Erasing


Making Mistakes

The pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes.


We hate to admit it to ourselves, but we are not perfect.  We all make mistakes along the way.  Making mistakes is ok and is one of the qualities that makes us human. It gives us an opportunity to learn and grow.  When you practice don’t focus on your mistakes.  Mistakes happen.  Perhaps mistakes are the best way we all learn.  Focus on the learning that is happening and the growth that comes from it.


Use your own internal eraser on your journey.  Rub out your mistakes, take a do over, and learn from them.


Pencil Post 2: Sharpening

Sharpening the Pencil

Now and then, we have to stop writing and use a sharpener. Sharpening makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, it’s much sharper and better for writing. 



Over time, tools become dull.   Honing or sharpening is used to restore tools to their proper working condition.   Honing creates a more suitable edge needed for proper use.  Sharpening brings a point to the pencil allowing us to more clearly express our thoughts.


The same goes for our practice.  A little suffering – those little pains or sensations that come from holding a pose perhaps a bit longer than normal and noticing our muscles complaining, helps us become sharper, and refocuses our practice.  A tough yoga practice brings up sensations.  Those sensations help us go past the limits that our mind sets for us.


Honing or sharpening improves the tool making it much easier to work with.  A sharpened pencil enhances the writing experience.  A little challenge in your yoga practice makes you an improved yogi. Use your practice to hone yourself to a sharper version of yourself!


Is your yoga like a pencil?

In the next series of blogs we will explore why your yoga practice is very much like a pencil.   Can a pencil really inspire us?  Discover five qualities of a pencil than can change your view of this simple writing instrument.  Write Read on! *



(*This series is inspired by Paulo Coelho and his story The story of the pencil)

First Quality:  

You are capable of great things.  There is a hand guiding your steps. 

A pencil can do nothing until a hand picks it up, holds it, and writes with it.  The pencil is a tool and the hand uses the tool to do great things.  Yoga also is a tool that you can use to do great things for your body, for your mind, and for your spirit.


Having a guiding hand to help you is important on your journey.   It is still the best way to start a new practice.  So in the beginning of your journey,  finding a teacher to help guide you can be very important.  Be it that hands-on adjustment, a little verbal instruction, or exploring yoga at a  deeper level, finding a teacher is useful in helping guide you on your path of greatness.


But, at the same time, always remember – you are always your own best teacher.  Make sure you honor your own limits and find your own path to your journey.   Listen to your own inner voice.



Poem: Yoga Nature — Crow On The Wire

I do yoga in the autumn woods. 
Nature is my teacher. 
The sky is my Om. 
The soil of the ground, my mat
that I lengthen in an upward dog.

The tree is my pose
that stables my imbalance. 
The black slate is my plank
when I feel weak and unsure. 
The leaves crackle under my feet
as I reverse my warrior.

I skim the stones of mindfulness 
across the shallow creek
of glistening waters. 
I breathe in the scent of pine and maple
with Ujjayi breath. 
I stretch and unwind
under an emerald-blue waterfall
to loosen the tightness
of my grip.

via Poem: Yoga Nature — Crow On The Wire