The Importance of Words
There is no truer saying then this one. Well aside from Pattabhi Jois’s words “Practice, practice, practice and all is coming”. The two phrases combined fully describe the sanskrit word sankalpa. Sankalpa comes from the root words of kalpa which means ‘a way of proceeding’ or ‘the rule to be observed above or before any other rule’ and san which means ‘a concept or idea formed in the heart’. Sankalpa therefore means determination or will, an intention or conviction, vow or resolution, one that reflects your highest aspirations. As Rod Stryker describes it in The Four Desires “It is a declarative statement in which you vow or commit yourself to fulfill a specific goal.”. This brings me to understand that thoughts - mainly spoken but also silent if done in a contemplative mode - that we express in form of desire, have immense power and hence we must pay very careful attention to what and how we express ourselves.
Achieving one’s dreams is not easy, be it the ideal work, the ideal relationship, the ideal home, the ideal life…it requires devotion, strong will power, faith, clarity and continuity. The practice of Ashtanga Yoga has taught me a few things about these five pillars of life. Sankalpa is devoting yourself to achieve a goal that has a higher purpose. It’s not a random desire or wish, it’s something that you desire because you know it will bring you closer to the ultimate truth or to your Dharma. When a goal is aligned with this the universe seems to work on your side, creating the opportunities for steps in the right direction to be made. This sounds cheesy and fairytale like but it is actually absolute truth. What fairytales don't explain is that in order for that to happen the receiver, aka you, must work really hard to be a receptive vessel. This is when having a spiritual practice becomes very important. It trains your mind to be clear, to go inwards when met with choice and struggle. It clears the webbings of the mind. Good things don’t necessarily come easy, living for the truth has the price of knowing when to say no, no matter what you end of loosing, because ultimately you have the awareness that what is on the other side will only be more fit for who you are in the grand plan.
Sharath, my teacher, is a man of very few words. When you visit in India he will sometimes speak a few sentences to you if you have known him over the years, or sometimes while assisting he will come over and say funny things if he sees you are not fully present or if he sees you work too hard, or if you make an appointment to say goodbye he will speak a word or two…so when he speaks you know the words are true, and truly worth remembering. Two years ago I went on my usual yearly 2 month trip to India to assist and practice with Sharath. I had recently separated from my husband and was living with a friend who hosted me for a few months at her place, while I figured out my life. I lived in the middle room of a her railway apartment, and most of my belongings were in storage. I was a blank canvas. This was the perfect time to go to India and be careless. No rent, no things, no husband. Perfect. Half way into the trip I started to feel the deep need to go back and build a home for myself. I had been using the time there to make a clear sankalpa of what I wanted my living situation to be when I got back, and I started to get really antsy about making it happen. I also felt I needed to begin again, and be present for the new things in my new life back home. My brain could not quiet down no matter how hard I tried. I decided to make an appointment to speak with Sharath and tell him I needed to leave and why. I didn't have much expectation of it going particularly well, but I had worked up courage to stand my ground, expose my case and stick to it no matter what. I had set my sankalpa and I was ready to embark on the journey. Usually he would say a few words, just enough, to make you forget why you were thinking of leaving in the first place. There is always a sense of duality when I don’t take my teacher’s advice, if I ask for it. But this time to my surprise he replied just the opposite . He said "ohhhh" then he was silent. During this silence I was sitting at his feet, looking up at him trying to guess - from his facial expressions - what his next statement would be, if any. I was supposed to assist another month too, so I had no idea this would be his response....he broke the silence with "divorcing huh?" I said “Yes marriage not right. There is little understanding so we are better apart" I smiled. He looked straight into my eyes maintained silence, an eternal one as I was anxious for an answer. Finally he said "Ok you go." Surprised and quite happy I had his blessing to go despite my responsibility to assist him I thanked him, touched his feet, we smiled and I began to head for the door. When I got to the door I hear "Bibi!!" I turn still smiling but like oh shit he changed his mind. “So You are free!!!!" He said this with more emphasis and excitement then I have ever seen him apply in a sentence other then when he talks about his tiger stories, his grandfather Guruji, yoga or a really good masala dosa. His tone went up and his smile showed all his white teeth. For a man that rarely speaks and especially with emotion, this was pretty special. I will never forget these words! This is sankalpa. He knew, he understood, and knowing it or not he gave me a sankalpa to take home.
Carefully choosing thoughts and words.
All this to say that thoughts and words are so important. They truly create the reality we live in. They have the power to empower us or destroy us, but we have the power over them! Having a steady practice allows you to have a discipline, and a relationship with your inner true self, the Purusha. Sitting daily with this part of you will bring clarity to your thoughts and words and slowly your sanklapa will be aligned with the true path to your ultimate freedom. This sounds so corny I know but it is true. When you commit wholeheartedly to one thing, you put all your attention to it, it begins by manifesting. Words and actions get caught in the web of the universe, they travel in space faster then you and they eventually manifest in reality if you choose to see it. It’s like if each one of us was a walking web of words and thoughts expanding out from our center, latching on to others. The quieter the mind chatter can get the less wordage and chaos on that web, the less likely your web will get caught on another web, creating new karma. Eventually with consistent, devoted practice there will be so few words/thoughts in it that only the true match for it can hook on. And so life happens when you are willing to commit to living the ultimate truth.
Yogas Chitti Vritti Nirodha
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind
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NICARAGUA 3/31-4/6 & MALLORCA 6/28-7/4