Do you ever feel just sort of generally off? As if you are out of alignment in some fundamental way? As if you are somehow out of step with the people around you, or with your career, or in your Relationship?
I use the word "alignment" a lot in my counseling practice. It's something I started thinking about specifically in my yoga practice, but which has analogously expanded to account for much of the unhappiness I see in the people around me.
In yoga, there is great emphasis placed on proper alignment of the body in the postures. In my early years of practicing, I tried to follow the instruction to the letter, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I thought that was how to "do it right". I thought my body was wrong, and yoga was right, and that I needed to re-shape my natural physical tendencies in order to "be good at" yoga. Consequently, I practiced for years without consideration to the needs of *my particular body,* and as a result actually created new dis-ease and discomfort and even injury.
What I learned over time (and after several minor injuries that required me to modify my movements) was that the alignment instruction is a guideline. It's a prescriptive set of instructions that is generically designed for the human body *in general*. Not every body is going to be able to do every posture the same way. I had to learn through mindfulness which instructions worked for me and which caused me discomfort, and do it the way it works for me. The teacher is there as a guide and a support, but ultimately I am completely responsible for how I move my body, and for keeping it safe, and I honor it much more by listening to it. Just because (for example) most people keep their leg straight during a pose doesn't mean I don't need a microbend in my knee to achieve the pose safely.
Get what I'm saying? Once I figured out that *my* correct alignment was specific to me and my body, and I stopped trying to force myself into every pose the way you're "supposed" to, I found a great deal more freedom and movement and relief of the pain I was feeling.
It has been my experience that much human discontent is born of similar misalignment, but of the spirit rather than the body. When people report feeling unhappy, or restless, or even just vaguely dissatisfied with their job or relationship or Life, and we dig into what's going on, we often find that the problem is that they are not quite on the right path *for them*. They may have done all the "right" things, and be making a lot of money, or have an attractive spouse, or live in a large home, or whatever, but that does not equate to "happiness" for many people.
With prescriptive ideas in our culture about the "right" way to go about thing or the "traditional" trajectory of life, many of us just agree to do it the way it's done because we don't even know there's another way. But at some point, if we are out of alignment with our true nature, we will begin to feel it. It will begin to show up just beneath the surface. We may feel edgy, or impatient, or irritable, or depressed, but not really know why. We may act out. We may cheat on our spouses or use harsh words with our children. We may over-eat or drink too much or become addicted to sex or pornography. In my experience, most behavior like that (especially around mid-life) is probably symptomatic of misalignment.
Oftentimes, people who are very sensitive and emotional get messages early on that they shouldn't be that way. So they push aside their feelings and they "toughen up". They stop responding in the ways that have been called "sensitive" or "emotional." But that doesn't actually make them less sensitive. Instead, it just stunts their growth. In denying a fundamental part of themselves, the way they develop then naturally fails to equip them with coping strategies for their sensitivity, because it's become buried and is not welcome as an outward display. These people will likely have a reduced tolerance for emotional discomfort and be either very emotionally cut off or extremely volatile. They literally may not recognize themselves in descriptions like "sensitive" or "emotional" because they have spent their lives fighting their basic nature and building a new, more acceptable version of themselves. That is an example of misalignment.
Or, oftentimes people who are very creative get messages early on that being creative is not very "practical" or that they will "never make any money that way". The thing that they are very good at or love dearly may be (consciously or unconsciously) devalued by the people around them who believe in the traditional trajectory of life, and so these creative people may begin to see how they will not receive the approval they may seek by pursuing those "less practical" fields. So they may abandon their creative endeavors and go into business or banking or become lawyers, despite the fact that they are actually not that interested in those fields. They may be very successful at lawyering or banking, but lingering beneath the surface is a vague dissatisfaction, because what they were *made* to be was a writer, or an artist, or a musician. So their whole life is sort of vaguely infused with a sense of being in the wrong place. And these people may make a lot of money, and have a lifestyle that requires them to continue along this path, but they can't shake that feeling that this isn't where they really want to be. This is another example of misalignment.
So. Think of the ways in which you may be living out of alignment. Are there places in your life that you keep forcing yourself to "fit" that you just don't? Are there relationships that you feel out of synch in? Is your career a good fit for your temperament? Do you feel satisfied when you look at your achievements? Did you forge your own path or are you following one you felt pressured to follow? Are you in the right place *for you*? Do you tune in to yourself when those vague inklings of dissatisfaction pop up? Take an inventory: are there places you can make adjustments that might move you into closer alignment with your true nature? You will feel great relief if you are able to do this. It's like when you get used to a chronic pain or discomfort to the point that you don't even notice until it suddenly goes away and you are like "OH MY GOD I FORGOT HOW GOOD I COULD FEEL."
You can tell you're in perfect alignment when what you're doing or who you're doing it with feels natural, comfortable, safe, and does not require extreme energy expenditure to maintain. When you feel as if you can breathe and move freely and authentically. If that's not how you feel, aspire to it. It's possible.