Alignment: Whom Do You Want to Be?

So I practice a kind of yoga that values mental and spiritual connectedness, as well as physical. The firm foundation you seek to create on your mat–so you can soar into elegant poses–parallels the steadfast anchor you seek to create in your everyday life, in your relationships with others, and with something greater than yourself, whatever form that might take. It’s uncanny how often the day’s thematic content speaks to something I’ve been in the midst of working through. It’s not so much about getting the answers (not how it works), but about knowing that fellow human beings are engaged in a similar process. Connection with personal space (an introvert’s ideal!)

So the other day, the class was about alignment. Yoga is all about free will–your actions determine your fate. You choose to be in alignment or not to be in alignment. I’ve been carrying that idea around with me even more deliberately since that class.

Spiritual alignment–Whether you believe in God, the Goddess, gods and goddesses, nature, or your participation in this moment in human form along with fellow human beings struggling to get along, you benefit from giving some thought to whether you are aligned with something greater than yourself and/or your highest self. Aristotle asked, “whom do you want to be?”. Because, after all, you are the sum total of your actions, not your statements. The state of your soul, he believed, depends on your acts, not proclamations.

Human alignment–So how you treat others imprints on your soul. No amount of denial will change that. If you lie, steal, malign and libel, you are out of alignment with others, yourself, and the divine. In my experience, it is the people who genuinely consider themselves more moral than others and who are busy pointing out the perceived faults of others who proclaim most loudly, “I am a good person, but you are not. You have that potential, but you are falling short, so do what I tell you to do and I’ll deem you good.”

When bad things happen, the ugliness of this kind of person is striking. Any one who has been on this planet for any length of time has experienced fear, heartache, or maybe even tragedy. When awful things happen, I am always incredulous that there are people in this world who take the time to strike out at others who are busy just moving through life. How are we not here for each other first and foremost? Why can’t we just be kind? For god’s sake, where does the energy come from to be so damn mean and self-centered? No matter what your beliefs, we are all here now. How do you live with deliberately making someone else’s life more difficult instead of better?

Physical alignment–So I took a yoga class with a different teacher, because it’s good to experience new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking about things. Unfortunately and much to my surprise, this teacher treats yoga like the newest fitness craze. While I am too old to get caught up in the competitive, the sequencing wasn’t well thought out, and three weeks later I am still in some real discomfort. That shouldn’t happen; I’m neither a beginner nor in poor shape, and anyway, yoga should heal not hurt. As I look to becoming a yoga instructor myself, I have vowed to not only learn well, but also not to teach people in their 40s like they are in their 30s. Without physical alignment, it’s hard to concentrate on much else.

The end of summer is always a time of reflection for me. I actually had a summer this year, the first time in many years. I worked and recouped. I stood on my hands, tried recipes we liked or will never make again, went home, enjoyed the kids, and found space for family. In the last class I attended, my regular teacher (no more experimenting for me for a while) asked us to choose an intention for our practice, to think about what we benefit from that we want to keep. Yoga instructors have a way of giving you a series of instructions–firm up your thighs, lift your knees, scoop your tailbone, put your chin up, squeeze your shoulder blades toward your ears, don’t let your thighs droop, lift your hips. . . now keep that. . . and move your pinky toe toward the back wall. While you are pre-occupied with all of these instructions, determined on the one hand but sometimes just wanting to laugh on the other, you spread that pinky toe and feel space open up in some unexpected place, like your lower back, and you think, wow, that’s amazing. I do want to keep that! So I want to keep that feeling of space heading into the new semester. I am so tired of feeling like an exhausted pinball, a product of the expectations of modern parenting and a work environment that only accelerates and demands more.

Inversions are the perfect metaphor. I want the ability to see what matters from a different angle. I want to make the rushing stop and see what matters–even if just for that second when you are perfectly balanced mid-room on your hands.

It’s so easy to get so busy that being aware of alignment or lack thereof goes right out the window, when really, it’s the starting point of everything good, good relationships, good work, good being. It’s also easy to vow you will keep that space that is so right, when you are not in the midst of juggling so much. It only takes one attack from the outside and you are lurching about, trying not to drop the balls, rather than sitting in lotus. It’s not too much to ask for; that moment of balance and connectedness is the place from which I appreciate all the good in my life. It’s worth fighting for.


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1 Comment

  1. PhilPsycho says:

    It sounds like you have had an enlightening summer, exploring the connection between mind (or spirit) and body :) I, too, had a revelation by trying something I wouldn’t have dared in my wildest dreams, and hope to further facing a fear by taking it to another (more social) level to connect with people and nature in a very primitive and -dare I say it?- existential way.
    I loved the paragraphs about spiritual and human alignment! One of the communities I wish to meet other people in has adopted this motto: “All are welcome, but remember that your behavior is your passport.” I am trying harder to practice moral code this with others and to also expect it of them.

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