I am… We often start sentences with I am.
We define ourselves, put ourselves in boxes, when we say things like: I am a mom. I am a liberal. I am so lazy. I am overweight. I am neurotic. I am exhausted. (These are just examples off the top of my head, I’m not talking about myself.)
We label ourselves, and what we say we are, becomes us. We believe that we actually are those things, when in fact, they are just temporary states.
When I first began practicing yoga, I was asked to set intentions at the beginning of classes. The teacher would say “Set an intention, think about something you want in your life”. I had intentions like I want to stop smoking. I want to lose weight. I planted these seeds in my mind while practicing and tried to take them with me off the mat. It began to work, simply because I had become more mindful of the things I wanted.
When I began practicing yoga nidra and meditation I learned about sankalpas. A sankalpa is like a bigger intention. Sort of like a mantra. So when it was time to set my intention, I looked at all of the things I had said that I wanted along the way, and tried to figure out what exactly it was that I needed to do or be, in order to get all of those things. My sankalpa became: I make good choices.
Everything I did in my life was to connect back to my sankalpa. Each time I sat down to eat, I said I make good choices. Every time I craved a cigarette I said I make good choices. Sometimes it worked. I skipped the second bowl of pasta, said no to the third beer. But sometimes it didn’t work. And when it didn’t work, I simply said All right, that’s that. Now, next time I will make a good choice. It was the mindfulness that made the change in my life.
During teacher training my sankalpa was I am focused and committed. And I was. It really worked. When I graduated it was I am sharing my passion. And I did. Everywhere I went I found another opportunity to teach.
For a while now, my sankalpa has been I am ease and contentment. This one has led me into a place of slowing down, being happier, but also losing focus, getting a little bit lazy, and falling back into old habits. This one might not be for me.
So now, I find myself searching for a new sankalpa, the one that will bring me where I need to be right now.
This morning at 6am I asked the yogis in my class to think about some of the things that they want in their lives. Perhaps there was some common thread, a specific quality they could embody in order to get those things. That quality could be their sankalpa.
I am open,
I am focused,
I am organized,
I am relaxed,
I am gratitude,
I am ready,
I am love…
Then everything in their life should somehow tie in to this idea. Always questioning each action. How is this an expression of gratitude? How is this loving? Is this focused? Am I being open?
As I talked to them about sankalpas, I kept going back to the idea that I don’t have one right now. (I am a hypocrite? Maybe, but not for long…)
I was driving to my 9:30 class making a plan in my mind for the dharma talk and flow. I began to revisit the idea of intention. At the red light I looked at the car in front of me and the license plate read: UR JOY
So, there it was. Even though I don’t really believe in signs, I made a completely rational decision to take this as a gift from the universe.
My new sankalpa. I am Joy.
I’ll try it for a while. Whatever I am doing, I will stop and ask myself, where is the joy in this? Can I find it? If I can’t find the joy, can I not do it anymore? If it is something I must do, then I will try and try to find the joy in it.
There are times in our lives when we are different things. I’m sure we can all say I used to be something or other. I used to be organized. I used to be an executive. I used to be so Type A. I used to be skinny. I used to be more fun. (Again, just random examples.) You get the point.
So, in the past I have been good choices. I have been content. I have been committed (should be committed?). And now, I am joy. Let’s see where that takes me.
What are you going to be?
If you are interested in trying Yoga Nidra, a guided meditation practice also known as yogic sleep, you can join me on Tuesday, November 26, from 7:15-8:30pm at YogaCentric.