Sankalpa + Stillness
Intentional Action + Service
There is an important sanskrit word that can help you navigate the realm of Intention. The word sankalpa boils down to a potent essence to mean a resolve to evolve.
The fruit will always
reflect the seed.
To set a sankalpa means to commit yourself and settle into an activity with clarity. Your sankalpa is always framed in the positive and present tense and it is always looking in the direction of soul evolution and self realisation. To set a sankalpa or intention is different to an affirmation, an affirmation is a short, sweet phrase that helps the subconscious mind move into harmony with what you want to experience, feel or create. Whereas your intention points to the energetic quality that you wish to bring to your contribution in the world. It’s about gaining clarity on the flavour your are bringing to your practice, your work, creations and relationships.
Starting your exploration on Purpose here will help you clarify your core intentions as well as understand your Why. Knowing your Why, is important for a few reasons. First of all, your motivation for any action is going to affect the result of your efforts. Your Why is like a seed and depending on what that seed has inside will determine the kind of tree will grow and the fruit it will bear.
Secondly, your Why will affect the energy that your action will exude during the process of manifestation and this is what people will be attracted or repelled by. The action itself is almost irrelevant, the intention behind the effort is what is felt. The most inspirational people work from the inside out, they are inspired. They are inspirational and magnetic because they understand their Why, their motivation. Use your Why as your inner GPS and the energy of your Why will sustain you.
Navigating the world On Purpose is just not sustainable without your Why. When you are working from the outside in, you might be doing all the things but not connecting or making the impact you truly desire. More often than not, these efforts fizzle out and it all comes down to the Why. If you have an idea of what you want to do, create or experience you need to get clear on how you want to feel, this is your Why. Working from the inside out, from why to what means that you will be fulfilled and actually feel the way you want through your efforts Doing, without the Why, feels hollow, like the action is empty.
The best bit is, through the practice of yoga, meditation and the self-enquiry in this way, you will shine the light of your attention into any dark or unconscious corners of your mind, body and heart to illuminate the shadows blocking you from living and creating from your centre.
Who you are is Why you are here
As you clarify your Why, set intention, remember Who you are is Why you are here, and it’s your job to express who you truly are in your most intimate relationships and to the world. Your sankalpa is intrinsic to you. It is not something that you need to grasp for outside of yourself. Your sankalpa is who you intrinsically are. If you currently believe your purpose is different from who you are, you are about to unblock that old pattern. Just like your Why, your Soul Purpose will naturally arise from within you when you create the space for it to do so.
Who you are
Why you are here
Trust the path Unseen
Living You means forging a brand new path for yourself. A life and a personal practice, that feels like your own. It will thrust you out of the comfort zone and into your purpose. Living You will force you out the ‘shoulds’ and into a life that is conceived from the inside out.
Taking the first step onto a path that you cannot see can be scary, especially when the world would have you believe that the path doesn’t exist at all. That fear is natural and simply your ancestral self trying to keep you safe. That relationship with fear is what kept your ancestors alive and has probably kept you out of trouble a couple of times. Yes, it does have a part to play but a fear of the unknown does not need to play the role of The Driver in your life, or The Navigator. Trusting the path unseen isn’t about being fearless, it requires acknowledging fear and the mind’s desire to be kept safe and then continuing in your chosen direction. Guided by another force, no longer driven by fear, choosing to navigate from a place of love.
Sometimes discerning between fear and your intuitive voice can be murky. Fear can dress itself up as intuition and it can be confusing and seemingly impossible to unscramble the egg. This is why having a practice of stillness is essential. Without stillness, the whisk continues to stir up the mind and body, and overcoming the fear of stillness itself is the first obstacle to clear. Clear the path, remove distractions and settle into solitude, especially if this sounds scary. Because, deep down you know there are thoughts that need to be heard and feelings that need to be felt and the continuous distractions are only causing a backlog between you and your Soul.
You have the right to work, but for the work's sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.
The Bhagavad Gita
Being OK in THE VOID
The Void is where your Soul is from, an unfamiliar space for the body and mind, but for your Soul it feels like Home. Being OK in The Void is the key is unlocking your unique purpose and here is why.
Making space in which to be still, in the Void even for a millisecond is sometimes enough to catch a glimpse of your Soul. Practice being OK in the unfamiliar realm of potent emptiness. Get to know the unique discomfort of undistracted space and remember that the unfamiliar or unknown is not something you need to fear. The mainstream media and culture would have us believe that people and places that unfamiliar or different are to be feared but the more we unite and dissolve difference we recognise the same-ness in all. We are all from the Void, we are all made of the same earth, waters, stardust and breath.
Navigating life on autopilot or unconsciously is another potential obstacle on the path of Purpose. This is where our Soul’s calling can get mixed up with the ego’s ulterior motives, the mind’s agenda or the expectations and “shoulds” imposed upon our life. Usually these ulterior motives and agenda are rooted in the desire to be safe and accepted by our tribe. When this is the case, more time in the Void is required to recognise unconscious and auto-pilot behaviour. Stretches of stillness help to see the choices being made to gain the acceptance of others and question what feels true for You, without the imposition of external expectations. Stop betraying yourself, doing that which you have outgrown and all you believe you “should” do. If you have a Life, you have a Purpose and reason for being here. Cut through judgements and dissolve expectations of your life.
You might recognise the cultural addiction to Doing and distractions. Having constant and consistent stimulation is effecting our nervous system, ability to think clearly, sleep, digest, let alone listen too ur intuition and align with our Soul. The cult of busy and relentless productivity is a result of consumerism and capitalism and to clarify, being OK in the Void isn’t about not doing, in fact it’s all about Intentional Action.
Perform every action with you heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even-tempered in success and failure: for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita
Being all about Doing
You have a unique purpose and we have a universal purpose, they are not separate and it’s not something you need to find, create or discover. Your job is to create the space to feel. The path of Purpose is for the yogi that lives in the world, not in a cave. When you strip away the expectations, shoulds and distractions what remains is pure intention and everything you do in the world is in service to your Soul. Once you have stripped back those layers, you no longer Do for the sake of Doing and your sense of self becomes crystal clear. The path of purpose is revealed and your actions take on more meaning as they are done for the sake of something bigger than yourself. Intentional Action is where you find fulfilment and are literally filled, inspired and receive through the act of Doing.
This is where we get to the teaching about non-attachment. Remember how I said, the seeds of your intention will be reflected in the fruit of your efforts? This is where we let go of the attachment to that fruit. This vedic teaching is so far from how our results-driven, outcome-based culture is run that it can be difficult to reconcile how this is actually possible in our era. I believe that it is not only possible but it is the disconnection from this very teaching that is causing the rise in anxiety that we see across the western world.
Surrender the fruits of your labour
Don’t hold anything too tightly. Let go of the result of your actions and how your efforts will be received by the world. It is not your business to know how your efforts will be received and gripping tightly onto control of this only results in misery. As taught thousands of years ago in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna instructs Anjuna on driving the chariot, not to hold the reins too tightly, or too loosely. Let your intention come from a place of truth for You, be dedicated to the work, and surrender to divine will.
To be granted Choice in this lifetime, means we actually have no choice, but to do the work. If you are reading this, you (like me) have won the ovarian lottery. To be born into relative privilege, to have options, education and a degree of freedom, means it is our responsibility as humans, our collective duty, our dharma to step up. It is time now to be undistracted on your path and fulfill and be filled by your Soul Purpose.
The Vedas show us three clear pathways to self-realization and the path of Karma is one of them. It’s understood that through intentional action and soul-full service you can realize the truth of who you are and be liberated from the cycle of Karma.
Karma’s a Bitch
There’s a common contemporary use of the word Karma that is far from the original and contextual meaning. Karma is not a cosmic court of law making judgements over you or a nasty character out to get you or anybody else. Karma, in the yogic context is simply cause and effect. The law of Karma is about maintaining cosmic balance, there is the understanding that every action has an equal energetic effect and the energy of your actions have a ripple effect.
As we walk further along the path we learn that Karma Yoga is actually being unattached to the fruits of your labor, every action becomes an offering of intention, free of personal agenda. Karma Yoga is often explained as selfless service, meaning that we renounce personal gain from our actions. I think of it as Soul-full Service. When you are in alignment with your Soul and taking action from this place, it is always for the greater good. When you are in alignment with your Soul, your personal will and the divine will are one and the same. Intentional action or being in Soul-full service is infinitely fulfilling, and hardly feels self-less. Everybody wins, everybody gains, although this may not be the motivation, it is the fruit.
Writing Reflections + Inner Exploration
Below you will find writing prompts for each day, be sure to dedicate time to write one A4 page for each reflection, keep your pen moving until you fill the page and don’t settle for less. You can also refer back to the philosophy shared above and use it to spark your own inner explorations.
+ week one
- day 1. Investigate your Why. What motivates you? What drives you?
- day 2. Reflect on the last time you did something with clear intention - what was it? how did you feel?
- day 3. Write freely for 1 A4 page about Intention…
- day 4. Boil down you current intentions and create a personal Sankalpa. One sentence, in positive and present tense.
- day 5. Look at your schedule for the next 3 days and dedicate time to Stillness
- day 6. What does The Void feel like to you?
- day 7. Identify 3 things you do because you "should" and how can you eliminate them?
+ week two
- day 1. What does Sacred Activism mean to you?
- day 2. Investigate what are you currently doing that feels like an Obligation?
- day 3. What does a Fully Lived life look and feel like to you?
- day 4. Write for 1 A4 page on the words: Soulful Service
- day 5. What does the word Karma mean to you?
- day 6. Where in your life does the balance need restoring?
- day 7. The world would be a better place if...
All the pathways have points of overlap and intersection and what bolsters each path is your personal daily practice of yoga, which is your direct participation with the various energies of bhakti, jhana and karma.
As we near the intersection of Passion and Purpose, we see another exchange that elevates both paths equally. Love sustains purpose and purpose sustains Love. This means that being connected to passion and compassion is what sustains our offering of daily action. It’s Love that makes being of service selfless, regenerative and ensures that even through giving we are receiving to an equal degree. Walk down the path of PASSION next to continue in this direction.
As we near the intersection of Power and Purpose, we see another exchange that elevates both paths equally. Truth sustains purpose and purpose sustains truth. This means that being connected to truth and trust is what sustains our offering of daily action. It’s Power that makes being of service intentionally motivated and ensures that even through giving we are receiving to an equal degree. Walk down the path of POWER next to continue in this direction.