When we speak of sankalpa (monthly intention) there are too many facets to mention. We could sit with one intention for a 12-month cycle and still never run out of observations. These intentions are meant to be lived, experienced, processed and absorbed, so you colour them as you feel. They morph and transform, for nothing is static, all is in motion, growing and transforming through the cyclical nature of life.
Our May intention is spanda. A Sanskrit word (which are never easy to squeeze into one box or any single meaning as each word has multiple meaning) for the divine pulsation, or universal vibration and rhythm.
This could be interpreted as many things; the underlying interconnectedness of life, cycles of birth, growth, decay and death, the pulsation of life and interconnection. The innermost rhythms reaching to the periphery and vice versa.
Spanda is the divine pulse, the matter that connects everything, an invisible thread weaving all that exists. You, us, the animals, plants, planets, stars, our galaxy and the universe at large. All play to the rhythm of spanda.
For us, it’s easier to grasp the notion by recognising the expansion and contraction elements of everything. The universe was formed in expansion (Big Bang), and some believe its edges are now contracting. The cycle continues in an eternal dance.
Like a silent song beneath all substance, the vibration of spanda pulses, the universal heartbeat and breath.
Spanda lies in each rise and fall of emotion, highs (expansions) and lows (contractions). There’s never a finite piece of high or low; an edge or distinct point where we feel the emotion has passed. Emotions simply transit softly into the next, like a piece of music strung together or a wave in the ocean. There’s no place where we catch the droplets of ebbing water, for no sooner we try to harness them, than they’ve fallen away into the depths. Emotions are like this too, repeatedly expanding and contracting. We’re high on love, only to begin wondering if/how it will end. We grieve over loss, feeling we’ll never be able to smile again, yet eventually time heals and we find happiness again.
Moments pour into one another and the edges are unclear. Spanda dictates the rise is always followed by fall and so on. The shifts from expansion to contraction are non-linear, like the swirl of our bones and the milky way, in a constant dance of flow.
Spanda allows form, evolution, pulsation, pause and death. It’s the source and current of every texture that exists.
The overall preference for most, is to feel expansive. We’re encouraged to open up, feel it all, throw ourselves into unknown adventure. But what if you’re already wide open? What if you feel overcome with how everyone and everything affects you? Empaths already feel well beyond their own boundaries and for some, further opening can overwhelm. We may feel so much, too fast, only to be left to venture overburdened with emotion and no knowledge of how to process it.
Conversely, the state of contraction is when we become small and stuck, maybe even numb. We’ve curled up so tight and protected, we no longer know how to interact with life. We desire to be invisible, alone, unseen or unheard. Right now, many of us are in this state as we’ve spent months with worldly interactions limited to faces half covered by masks, embraces and touch forbidden, social distancing in place. Like stranded islands with great distances between us, trying desperately to adapt quickly to this new normal and appear fine on the surface. You only need feel into these moments to understand the state of contraction.
For us, spanda is relevant now as we are all in a difficult transition. We move from closed, intimate spaces and virtual connections, to the wider world. We’re all trying to figure it out, especially as some of the rules are still in play.
It’s well-known that the majority of convicts feel out of their depth when released from prison (contraction). They feel unable to operate and communicate with the wider world (expansion). Often, they’ll repeat crimes just to return to the safety of their known contracted states.
Yoga teaches we need balance. To observe every experience, without clinging to any moment. Just as trees expand with full crowns during spring and summer, they return to sleep for autumn and winter. The fullness shifts to the emptiness, and so the cycle continues. Until death.
Spanda means we need both fullness and retreat, abundance and emptiness, joy and grief. Whilst we may prefer one sensation and seek more or less of any moment, we need to acknowledge all moments and honour the universal rhythms and flow.
This means that when you go out into the world after this period of isolation, you may need to go slower than you desire. Whilst we need expansion after the contraction, we’re looking for the two states to mix like watercolours, rather than be defined by two boundaries. So, subtle shifts may be of more service. Try to steer clear of preferences. Acknowledge that both rhythms are intrinsically vital to wellbeing.
It is more than okay to reach out, then retreat a little and so on. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, or too much of one thing.
And we also need to hold space for a recognition that the highs will be followed by lows and so on. Life may not feel as we would desire. And that is more than okay. In fact, it’s the rhythm and the pulsation of life.
We’ll be exploring the theme this month with rise & fall, opening & closing, flying & falling and so on. And spanda weaves beautifully with our other intentions this year: play (an open mind and curiosity to the pulsation of life and movement), unlearning (accepting that neither state is good or bad, it’s all the same, just individual brushstrokes creating a picture, or separate branches of the same tree) space (literal space and the idea of Big Bang to contraction. Plus allowing mental space to understand there’s a universal rhythm or pattern to life; there are universal patterns or breaths to every part of existence).
We hope to have inspired a new sense of whole-ness, to encourage you to play into the dance of spanda and to recognise more magic in all your moments.