2011 is almost here, and it is time to reflect on what I want to do to focus on the New Year. Many people set New Year’s Resolutions, e.g., “I resolve to lose 10 pounds,” or “I resolve to finally organize the photos.” I read a blog, which I cannot find right now, that talked about Intentions rather than Resolutions. I like that notion, and I also think it is what best connects lawyers and yogis.
Yoga is about intention, called a sankalpa in sanskrit. Although we do not often think about it in that way, being a lawyer is also about intention. I remember more than one oral argument where the first question the judges asked was, “so, what exactly do you want us to do if we agree with you?” Lawyers often forget to provide the intention of their argument, their underlying goal. One of the first lessons I learned in law school was to know what I want and to make sure I ask for it. That’s intention; that’s sankalpa.
But what is the difference between a sankalpa and a New Year’s Resolution? The resolution is one thing you want changed. An intention goes deeper. It can permeate your entire life, as opposed to being just one “thing” you want to change. (I had an English teacher once who berated us for using the word thing; I almost never use it, but here it appears appropriate because, but I have to point out how difficult it is for me to write, especially the irony of my writing it in a post about intention and resolutions.)
When I was writing about the yamas and niyamas, I talked about santosha, or contentment, and concluded that contentment is a state of being, not a state of mind. An intention vs. a resolution is similar - an intention is a state of being, while a resolution is one piece of that, a state of mind or one action to take.
I have written a lot about my upcoming trip to New Zealand to study family law. So much about this adventure is scary to me - living with people, being uprooted, not finding the right food, not having a yoga community, etc. So, my intention for the year is to be open to these new adventures and possibilities. From the law to yoga, life requires flexibility. I remember the very first time I traveled alone. I was in Munich, and I was staying at a hostel alone. I was scared to death. Two years later, I traveled to the south of Belgium to find the city where my grandfather was during WWII. Now I only like to travel alone. We grow and change along this adventure we call life, but in order to do that, we must be willing to meet our fears and be open to the possibilities that the universe provides.
Law school brought new life to my Type A personality. Yoga Teacher Training was just part of a new “routine.” But another word for routine is rut, which is definitely where I do not want to get stuck. Many judges love hiring law clerks fresh from law school because they like the new perspective. We may trip over our metaphorical feet from time to time, but we also bring a new perspective to their view of the law. Although routine is safe, it can limit our full potential, in any area of our lives. This year, therefore, as my entire routine is uprooted and sent to the other side of the world, I intend to grow from the experience and stay open to all the possibilities it brings.
I have no idea how any of this will turn out. I bought a Lonely Planet Guide for New Zealand today, but short of that, I do not even know where I am living five days after arriving in the country. It is incredibly scary, but also incredibly exciting. Thank you all for sharing this journey with me and with each other.
Many blessings this New Year. What is your sankalpa? What do you want to bring to your life in 2011?
© 2010 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved