Inner Listening: A Self-Inquiry Exercise

What is your heartfelt desire? Try this practice to find out (and set an intention).

June 12, 2013    BY Kelly McGonigal

The yoga tradition offers a profound formula for realizing your heartfelt desires: it’s called the practice of sankalpa, or resolve. (For more information on this willpower-building practice, check out my companion article, How to Create a Sankalpa.) The following self-inquiry exercise can help you discover your heartfelt desire—an important step in the practice of sankalpa.

The practice is simple; you’ll reflect on or write about the following four questions. But before you dive into self-inquiry, spend a few minutes in quiet meditation. Let the mind settle and become spacious. Cultivate an attitude of listening, and welcome whatever feelings, images, and thoughts might arise in response to the questions.

  • What is something I really want in my life?
    How do you think having it will make you feel? Looking back over the course of your life, has some form of this desire always been present?
  • What is the most important goal in my life right now?
    What have you been working toward? What desire is behind that goal?
  • What should I be devoting my energy and resources to?
    At this stage of your life, what direction do you find yourself being pulled toward? What stands out as the biggest opportunity or responsibility in your life?
  • What is my biggest dream for myself and my life?
    Is there a dream so big, a vision so bold for your life that you wonder if it is possible? Is there a deeper longing that feels a bit risky to the conditioned mind, and makes you feel vulnerable, open, and tender?

To translate this desire into a specific intention, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What actions can I commit to that are consistent with this heartfelt desire?
  • What needs to happen in the next 6 to 18 months to move me forward on my path?
  • What is the first step in this direction?

Kelly McGonigal
Kelly McGonigal, PhD, teaches yoga, meditation and psychology at Stanford University. She is the editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, as well as the author of Yoga for Pain Relief and The Willpower Instinct.