If you’ve ever heard someone talking about living life “in alignment” and nodded along blankly, you’re not alone.
I spoke with Alma Omeralovic, meditation teacher and founder of Logan Square’s new meditation studio, tinyspacetobreathe for a 101 on what exactly alignment is and how you can pursue it to live your best life.
What is alignment?
According to Alma, in its simplest terms, alignment means “living with intention.”
While it sounds simple, alignment takes work and dedication. “Alignment is living with serious intention- not [living life] on autopilot,” Alma says. “It’s paying attention and moving in a systematic way because we are listening to ourselves….listening to what our true purpose is.”
Alma knows a thing or two about listening to her true purpose. After years of teaching meditation, she felt something was missing. When an opportunity presented itself in the form of a storefront space, she felt called to open a meditation studio and did just that.
Knowing your life’s purpose is a big thing however, and it can’t always be clearly defined. The good thing is, it doesn’t have to be. It just means that everyday you are moving in the direction of your purpose. When you’re on that path, “life is lived with ease and less effort….in alignment, everything feels likes its moving a little bit smoother,” Alma says. “The wheels are oiled, everything is turning.”
It’s important to note that living in alignment doesn’t mean everything is easy. For Alma, there are certainly days where being an entrepreneur is stressful and challenging. What counts, at the end of the day, is the bigger picture of what those challenging days are building to. If they are in service of your larger purpose, they will feel very different than challenges that are not.
If you don’t know your life’s purpose is, it doesn’t mean you can’t live in alignment. For someone who’s unsure, alignment means you’re searching for your purpose and listening to what the universe throws at you by being present and paying attention. Alma believes the world is “constantly showing up for us” to teach us what our purpose is, but we don’t always know how to listen.
Below are three ways to listen for your purpose, or move in the direction or your purpose to live in alignment.
Pay attention to your body
Alma believes physical sensation is the best way to ease into alignment. “This thing, my body, is my vessel that is here to support me and help me maneuver around this life by giving me information,” Alma says. If we can embrace that concept and get more we can get familiar with our bodies, we’ll ultimately be much better off.
An easy way to get in touch with our bodies is doing a simple body scan. It is a common practice at the beginning of meditation, which Alma highly recommends. “Meditation, no matter how much, is medicine.” To do a body scan, find a place to sit quietly and comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Place one hand on your belly and one on your heart, and scan from the top of your head to your toes. Notice how each part of your body feels, as if you are simply there as an observer of sensation. You may find that your chest is tight, or your stomach is knotted- signals that something isn’t right.
Another option Alma recommends is meditative walking. “Most of us are too into our head, so we need to get into our feet,” she says. She recommends getting your body moving, and taking a walk without technology. Pick one sense and focus on that- what you can see around you, what you can smell, what you can hear. Practicing focus and awareness while walking will teach you how to get in tune with your body’s senses and messages.
Pay attention to your feelings
Another way someone can pursue alignment is to pay attention to their feelings- noticing what they are and recognizing how often they feel unease.
To do so, think about how you feel before or after a given situation. Are you resentful or cranky on your way to work, or afterwards when you get home? Do you get anxious before hanging out with a certain person, or sad after seeing them?
Often times, we’re so busy getting through the specific experience that we won’t notice how we feel while we’re in the thick of it. Focus on the before and after to spot unease. It could be a sign that certain experiences or people are not in alignment for you, or are moving you away from your true purpose or self.
Be gentle with yourself
Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t able to read your body or feelings right away. “If you’ve quieted that inner voice for a while, it might take some practice to feel it,” Alma says.
When you’re tempted to get frustrated or discouraged in the pursuit of alignment, speak to yourself kindly and shut down negative self talk. “Be gentle with yourself and have true compassion with yourself. Hear the voice in your head as your best friend.”
Trust that you will get better at reading yourself with time, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself in one moment. You don’t always need to have answers. “Sometimes, [trying to have answers], we poke way too hard,” Alma says.
Instead of feeling pressure, mix things up to learn about yourself. “When we’re constantly around the same people and same situations we can get in a rut and not recognize if we’re in misalignment or not. If you’re in a very routined life, it’s nice to throw a wedge in there. Do things that are fun for you, that you enjoy- that will bring you more alignment than just focusing on alignment will.”