These Once Were Seeds: The hidden power of intention
Every action we take, every choice we make is the result of an inner drive: an intention.
At the end of May, my husband and I participated in our annual tradition of putting seeds into the earth. This ritual isn't new or unique; humans have been planting gardens for years worldwide. We plant seeds, and then we wait. We plant them indoors, outdoors, in pots, and the earth. Sometimes we grow sprouts, and sometimes we grow trees. We simply plant seeds.
With the sun's help, rain, a little extra attention the seeds root into the ground below, break through the surface of the earth, and become thriving plants. Less than a month from the time we put the seeds in the dirt, we began receiving gifts. Fresh greens, energizing radishes, and aromatic basil! The promise of green beans, potatoes, spinach, kale, beets, zucchini, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and broccoli grows with increasing vitality each day.
Although we plant seeds in the earth annually, each year, I find myself gazing at the garden with awe and wonder. The tiny seeds that we planted become thriving green giants, each taking a unique form and producing a bounty of nourishment. One seed produces a squash plant with its giant umbrella-like leaves. Beneath those leaves, we'll soon find individual squash, each continuing hundreds of seeds--each seed containing the potential for a new plant, to produce more squash with hundreds of seeds each.
When we look at the lifecycle of a seed in a garden, what we witness is nothing short of astounding. The cycles of abundance are seemingly endless! Every single plant produces enough seeds to create hundreds more!
Looking outside the garden to the trees, we see evidence of this abundance spread even further. One maple tree that grew from one seed produces hundreds to thousands of new seeds each year throughout the lifespan of that tree, which is approximately 130 years! Each of those seeds carries within it the potential for all of those future seeds.
Each year I am newly mystified by the magic of this process. Ayurveda, the world's oldest health system and beautiful sister-science to hatha yoga, teaches us the simple principle that our outer and inner worlds are reflections of one another: The macrocosm is the microcosm. When I think about this, I wonder about the inherent nature of abundance in the world and the tremendous power of potentiality. The abundance of life that emerges from one single seed.
The Power of Intention:
Setting intentions is much like planting seeds. Each intention contains its potential for the future, just as each seed carries within it the potential for the plant that it will become, the produce it will generate, and the seeds and potential for future generations--future iterations of itself.
When we set an intention, we are mirroring this process. The macrocosm reflects the microcosm. In the realms of ayurveda and yoga, the word for intention is Sankalpa. A sankalpa is an intention formed by the heart and the mind--not the mind alone. A sankalpa helps us focus and harmonize the body and mind. It guides us toward living in alignment with our best Self: nurturing the future iteration of who we have the potential to become.
What is beautiful about Sankalpa, and differentiates it from typical goal-setting. The practice of Sankalpa begins with the premise that you already have everything you need within you. Like the seed, your full potential--and future possibilities already exist. You only need to focus your mind and connect with that intention to channel your energy and attention to awakening that potential.
This concept lies within the very definition of the word, Sankalpa. "San" has been translated as "to become one with," or "connection with the highest truth." "Kalpa" is translated as a "vow," "commitment," "sacred rule," "first duty," or "a manner of acting." When we look at this word and merge definitions, we can see the power in the practice.
Holding clear intention gives us something to work with: a sacred rule--a first duty connected with the highest truth. With a clear connection to a deeper truth or desire, we are provided with a guide to help keep us on a path toward the life that we want to live rather than one based on reacting to external triggers and circumstances. A sankalpa gives us something to lean on when we feel stuck or unclear.
We Are the Result of our Sankalpas
Intentions are based on desires. Intentions inspire actions. When we are acting from unconscious desires, we are generally operating from a place of survival. Our actions and reactions are focused on an immediate desired result. In the world of psychology, this called instant gratification. These are our impulses for comfort and avoidance of pain. There is nothing wrong with this--it's part of our innate human wiring. The challenge is that if we are always operating from survival, we limit our potential for growth. Our future Self has nothing to grow into. Our lives become embedded in the process of feeling safe in what is familiar.
What happens when we expand beyond the automatic thoughts, familiar feelings, and behaviors?
When we hold a vision of how we want to feel, or what we want to experience in the future--and plant the seeds of that desire in the fertile soil of our awareness, we begin to see beyond what is safe and familiar and begin to see what is possible and exciting. The squash seed becomes the squash plant, which becomes the squash, which produces new seeds for the next cycle of growth.
Our Sankalpa is the seed, which becomes our actions, which shape our identity. Conscious Awareness + Aligned Action = Transformative Results
Acting from sankalpa, or intention, we connect to something deeper within us. We connect with the realm of potential. Each pause, each thought directed toward that intention guides our actions toward the realization of our potential. This conscious awareness guides us toward aligned actions. We are transformed as new roots and habits emerge, creating the foundation for our growth.
Choosing Your Sankalpa
Just the seeds we plant in our gardens, what we plant determines what we will grow. Selecting a sankalpa is an intentional practice. We must know what we want to manifest in our lives before we can bring it to life. Returning the premise that the potential is already within us, selecting a sankalpa is more of a discovery process than a selection process.
Discovering our sankalpa is a process of listening. We don't need to make it up or worry about "getting it right." We don't need to search for it. Instead, we need to sit quietly, connect with our hearts, and listen for our deeper desires. Initially, when we sit down and ask ourselves, "What do I really want?", the mind will respond with a shopping list of desires such as a new car, a significant other, a new job, more money, or weight loss.
It can be helpful to reflect on these answers and then go a bit deeper. These initial answers are generated by our active minds, which are coming from that place of lack, not having, or scarcity. When we sit with these answers and start exploring the deeper desire beneath the thing, we begin to connect to the heart's wisdom.
We can return to the initial question: What do I really want? Then self-reflect:
What will be different in my life when I have _______?
How will I feel in my body?
What emotions will I experience?
What will I be doing when I have _________?
How will I show up in the world when I have ______?
For example, a common desire is to "lose weight." We might discover that the deeper desire is to feel more confident or have more energy to enjoy activities with friends and family when we explore that using the questions above. We might discover a deeper desire to live a long life to watch our grandchildren grow up and start families of their own. Beneath a desire to lose weight may be a desire to experience self-love and well-being.
Another way to connect with the deeper desire is to play the "Nine Why's" game. Identify a thing that you desire, then ask yourself, "why do I want that?". Set a timer and write your response for no more--and no less than one full minute. Then repeat this process nine times, or until you reach a "why" that resonates strongly. It's a process similar to opening a nesting doll, each doll revealing another element of itself until to reach the core—this final why is solid and real. We can feel it deep in our bones.
Now that we have a general sense of the seed we want to plant, we can craft the language. Words have power: our body believes everything that the mind thinks, so it's in our best interest to be clear and intentional.
When stating your sankalpa, phrase it in the present tense--as if it already exists. Remember, with sankalpa practice, we are awakening something that already lives dormant within us. We don't need to seek it out. Our Sankalpa statement can help us connect with this truth.
For example, rather than saying, "I want to love myself," the sankalpa might be, "I treat myself with love and kindness," or "I am love." Rather than, "I will not eat sugar," the sankalpa might be, "I honor my body by providing it with nourishing foods." Stating our Sankalpas in this way keeps us connected to the deeper desire, reminds us that it is already alive inside us, and helps keep scarcity thinking at bay.
When I work with my clients, we spend a lot of time getting clear on intentions--crafting Sankalpa statements, visualizing them awakening into being, and feeling the emotions that the realization of the Sankalpa will generate. This clarity keeps the sankalpa alive and shapes the trajectory of our path to achieving our desired outcomes.
Planting The Seeds of Intention
When we engage in a Sankalpa practice, we are nurturing a specific seed of intention. Our Sankalpa might be a squash plant with giant umbrella leaves, or it could be a giant maple tree that takes more time to form fully. We can think of a Sankalpa as an intention that we would like to see embodied and fully experienced within the next 6 to 18 months. When we tend to it daily--as a living practice--we are cultivating the garden of our lives.
The central element of a Sankalpa practice is remembering. Not just remembering to practice, but rather using the Sankalpa as a means of remembering our deeper desire, strengthening our resolve and commitment to present and future Self. By bringing the statement to mind, we honor the awakening of our heartfelt desire.
How do we do this? Meditation.
Meditation is like nutrient-dense soil for the seeds of our Sankalpa. It provides the most fertile ground to plant our seeds of desire.
Yoga Nidra is one of the most powerful meditation practices to support your Sankalpa practice. Yoga Nidra translates as "yogic sleep." It's a practice of deep and restorative rest for the body, mind, and spirit. Your body is fully relaxed, receptive, and ready to embody the full potential of your intention.
When our sankalpa seeds are planted in this state of receptive awareness, our consciousness shifts to embrace this new potential. Our intention begins to guide our actions, choice, and even our emotions as we move through our days.
Nourishing Our Intentions
Now that we've identified our intentions and planted the seeds of our Sankalpa in the fertile soil of receptive awareness, it is time to nurture our potential. Just as seeds in the garden require sunlight and water to grow, our intentions need support to grow. Every choice we make either supports or weakens our intention. Every choice is an investment in our future Self.
Pausing and noticing are the sunlight and water for our sankalpa.
There is a tiny yet powerful space between our impulses and our actions. It is as subtle as the space between our inhale and exhale. In that space between impulse and action, we can pause and repeat our Sankalpa in our minds. This simple act of reconnecting with our intention strengthens our resolve and supports us in choosing actions aligned with our desired growth path. We begin to see the magic of our lives and naturally enter a state of gratitude for the life we have been given.
Practice pausing. Practice bringing your attention to the space between your breaths and connecting with your intention throughout the day. Allow yourself to feel the emotions associated with the realization of your Sankalpa. Feel the emotion of your heartfelt desire coming alive within you, strengthening that feeling and fueling the intention with each breath.
Scheduling a consistent time throughout the week to enjoy a Yoga Nidra practice is one of the most powerful ways to your seeds, inviting your heartfelt desires to come to life. Practicing pausing throughout the day to reconnect is the equivalent of watering your garden. I often encourage my clients and group members to use reminders, alarms, and imagery to connect with their Sankalpas. Setting a reminder on your phone with your Sankalpa to cue you to check in with your heartfelt desire a couple of times daily can be very powerful. Writing out your Sankalpa on sticky notes and placing them in strategic places (e.g., bathroom mirror, car, workspace, lunchbox, etc.) can be a useful reminder system.
Get creative. Have fun! See what you can grow and manifest in your life with the power of intentions. Remember, everything that exists was once just an idea.
When we bring intention, awareness, and aligned action together, we can break free from conditioned patterns and old habits. We can stand before the garden that is our lives with awe and wonder, as we embody the potential that once was only seeds.
If you're looking for more support and are ready to deepen your self-care skills using the gifts of Ayurveda and transformational psychology, let's chat! Schedule a conversation today.