In my early twenties I worked for an individual who took advantage of my insecurities. Sharing my experiences with my teacher I said, “It’s his karma,” to which she replied, “No Sylvie, it’s your karma. If you allow him to keep taking advantage of you, you are in essence building karma that says it’s ok to do so.” These words shook me and changed my outlook on how I relate to my relationships and life as a whole.
Karma as Cause and Effect
The more we understand karma as cause and effect, the more we know it’s a complex phenomenon that goes beyond the idea of superficial good or bad karma. Yet, in the same manner reflecting on cause and effect brings introspection that leads to better choices. In simple terms, if I feed my body junk food and junk information I can’t be disappointed when I lack in energy or if I fuel complaints and worries, I can’t feel bad that all I see is what’s wrong with my life.
Another Side of Karma
In the context of yoga and Ayurveda choosing to see ALL of our actions and interactions as a form of offering to a higher good is the highest form of yoga and healing. Knowing that everything matters and remaining curious and open to possibilities while choosing to see the beauty in the ordinariness of the moment is a powerful approach to everyday living.
Perspective in the Context of Obstacles and Karma
Yoga offers an approach to psychology that when combined with an understanding of Ayurveda helps develop a perspective that is rooted in curiosity, possibilities and purpose. This perspective applies even when we are faced with challenges. There are nine, not 10, not eight but nine possible obstacles on our path and they manifest in varied ways according to our choices. One of the main antidotes to any of these nine obstacles is meditation which leads to our natural ability to be receptive rather than resistant to our good and the not so good experiences. Creating the mental habit to do this develops a karmic reaction where we focus on solutions which naturally brings the ability to see the gifts in our obstacles.
Examples of the Gifts in our Obstacles
1. Sickness can easily be seen as a negative obstacle/karma, but if it leads to curious introspection it becomes a positive karma. I was diagnosed with arthritis when I was a teenager. For some reason my mother chose to take me to acupuncture and yoga and she introduced me to journaling and eventually plant-based eating all of which gradually enhanced self-observation and healing.
2. Getting a promotion can be interpreted as good karma, but if it leads to ego, negative competition, over working and over consumerism it becomes detrimental to our well-being. Therefore, builds negative karma.
3. I had a client who was going through financial challenges while her mother, brother and sister who were doing well were not providing any assistance. She spent many months using her thoughts and words towards the resentment she felt. When she saw me for the first time she asked three times in 20 minutes, “What kind of karma are they creating?" I had to explain that the only question we need to ask is, “What kind of karma am I creating?” If all of my energy is going towards things I can’t control then I am creating negative patterns regardless of what is happening. The moment she took responsibility for her experiences is the moment she started to see solutions that led to more positive experiences and an ability to rise above the challenges.
The only karma we need to be concerned with is our own.
I know this gets complicated when it comes to war, famine, slavery, abuse, addictions and so forth. This is why I say karma is a complex phenomenon and why it’s important to begin exploring this with the small things in our life. This way our perception changes gradually and we can integrate our experiences in a manner that enhances personal growth and introspection. This allows us to share our gifts without keeping tab and it helps us undertsand the depths of this cause and effect pattern.
Rituals to the Rescue
All yoga and Ayurveda practices are forms of rituals, which in this context means a mindful and sacred action; a form of meditation. The more we begin to integrate mindfulness and sacredness into the ordinariness of our everyday the more we understand and integrate the power of yoga.Therefore, the more we ritualize our day-to-day the more we fuel the positive side of our karmic accumulation, which enhances our perception and allows us to understand the deeper dimensions of karma. Ultimately this leads us to eventually see the gifts in our obstacles.
Simple Ways to Ritualize our Everyday
Bring the feeling of gratitude before eating
Upon rising, look at the sky, no beginning, no end, continuously expanding
Before bed count your blessings
During the work commute commit to seeing the beauty of nature
Listen when the people you love speak
Create a shrine and use it as a reminder of the sacred and unknown
Stand like a tree: rooted legs and flowing and light upper body
Smile in your interactions with others
Welcome the prana when breathing consciously
To further develop your ability to let obstacles become opportunities for introspection and receive the gifts in your obstacles reflect on challenges you have experienced that have brought gifts in your life. How did you feel when they first happened? How did you use them as an opportunity for growth? What is different from the challenges that brought gifts from those who continue to linger?