How to Know If You're In Alignment?
Indian cultures often talk about people living their dharma. It goes well with the idea that prior to this life we may have chosen certain life experiences and interactions with people. Sometimes these may appear good, bad, or ugly to us at this point in time. However, we may have hand picked many significant experiences because we knew that these would help lead us onto the path that we hoped to travel down. To live in alignnment with one's dharma means that we are on that path and that we are accomplishing certain things in this life that are part of our own personal purpose.
The question that often arises when discussing the philosophy of dharma is how to know whether or not oneself is actually on their dharmic path. Another way to ask this question is how to know if one is living in alignment. Much like in a car, when one is in alignment, the car moves forward when the steering wheel is directing forward. When a car is out of alignment, if the driver were to let go of the steering wheel, the car would begin to veer naturally to the right or to the left. Because of that, the driver must continually exert muscular effort to continue driving the car forward. Depending on the degree to which the wheels are out of alignment, the said muscular effort may be inconsequential or quite significant. The idea here is that when we are in perfect alignment with our dharma, traveling forward should be quite easy and effortless. It doesn't mean that there will never be a heated and stressful day. It doesn't mean that you will never have to fill up on gas metaphorically or that other maintenance becomes unnecessary. It means that the act of going forward on your destination feels like the natural next step to take and you can relax into it without fighting the wheel all day
So how can we know if we are on our dharmic path or nowhere near it? We can ask ourselves one simple question. At any given moment in time when you take a break to tune inward and pause, does your current line of thinking make you feel like you are contracting or expanding in energy? Not quite sure what this feels like? Take a moment to think through some of these questions. Really pause and maybe even close the eyes so that you can listen to what your body, itself, is trying to tell you:
When I think of being truly afraid (maybe imagine hiking and seeing a rattlesnake on the path ahead), do I feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Does the feeling of guilt make me feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Does the feeling of powerlessness make me feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Does a vacation make me feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Does watching a new movie I've been anticipating make me feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Does deeply connecting with someone make me feel like I am contracting or expanding?
When I think of enjoying my favorite meal, do I feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Does eating in general make me feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Does thinking of money make me feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Does looking around me in the space where I currently find myself make me feel like I am contracting or expanding?
Notice how sometimes preferences are difficult to decide on, but asking this question (contracting or expanding) is usually much easier to come up with a clear answer. Asking this way connects deeper than our logical brain and goes all the way down into our gut answer. Our gut knows when we are living in alignment with our dharma much more easily than our brain does. Living in alignment causes expansion always and living out of alignment causes contraction always. It is as simple as that.
So while we are getting close to wrapping up this National Meditation Month, this is a meditation I strongly encourage. Think of your current path and your dreams. As you pick out the little details, tune inward and ask yourself if you are noticing expansion or contraction going on at any given moment in time. In this way, your meditation is used as a tool to help you take the next step forward.