‘As a man’s will, so is his action, as is his action, so he becomes.’ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
At midnight on New Year many people intoxicate themselves, let off fireworks and shout hurray. Then sometimes a New Year Resolution is made. Our desire for a good year is not made certain by this process because, although we may be sincere about wanting to make changes and begin with enthusiasm, our own habits and the pressures of everyday life present formidable obstacles.
The Vedic knowledge that underpins yoga and ayurveda is based on the law of Karma, that actions bring fruits of a nature in conformity with the intention and the action. By repeated action we reinforce behaviour. It is a daily practice; whatever we do regularly makes us who we are.
Intention comes first. In the Yoga Sutra Patanjali recommends the five yama to orient our life activities in a way that supports the goal of Yoga. Patanjali then invites us to reflect on the fact that any violation of a yama is based on the volition (YS 2:34); the action opposite to yama is actuated by lobha (greed), krodha (anger/enmity) and moha (infatuation/delusion). The underlying mental volition guides the action.
So the first step in changing the flow of action and outcome is to be aware of our intentions and to consciously set a direction.
‘We must first have the right will and the true resolve to live in harmony. This is called kratu in Sanskrit, meaning intelligence in action. Through it we take control of our own karma and cease to be victims of our unconscious actions.’
David Frawley, Ayurvedic Healing
To set an intention is often termed sankalpa in Yoga and Ayurveda. We set a sankalpa by making a verbal statement of intent. “I intend to take the following action, in this manner, for the time it takes to achieve the result (state the intended outcome). “
We can repeat this sankalpa morning and evening to set our intent and to reflect on our progress.
We can also invoke support from forces that we have faith in; our teacher, deities or the Divine.
For example if we wish to heal we could say; “ Through natural and spiritual methods I intend to heal myself, creating health and vitality in my life. May the Divine and natural healing forces support my efforts. “
An example of a sankalpa to begin our yoga practice is; “With the grace of Lord Paramesvara, I now start the practice of yoga with asanas, and other angas such as pranayama for attaining Samadhi and other yoga benefits thereof.”
This would be a general intent that we could follow up by specific statements. We then need to follow this for a period of time, with patience and a positive attitude.
“Practice done for a long time without interruption, with the right mental attitude, will become well-established (rest on firm ground).” YS 1:14
If difficulties arise or obstacles present themselves we can strengthen our resolve through practice rather than give up. We can reflect again on why we wanted to make the change in the first place (YS 2:33).
I think it is also important to focus on realistic changes that we can make, to avoid being discouraged and to work on ourselves first.
‘Yesterday I was clever.
That is why I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise.
That is why
I am changing myself.’
May you turn your New Year enthusiasm into inspiration, and your inspiration, through setting intent, into a fulfilling reality.
Blessings for 2013.