What comes to mind when you think of “karma?” Does it inspire punitive images of divine retribution? Do you envision your ex “getting what’s coming to them” for hurting you? Maybe you’re not quite sure what to think when we talk about karma. Too often, karma is only thought of in terms of payback for a wrongdoing; far far away from the fundamental concept of karma.
The Sanskrit word Karma (or kamma in Pali) literally means action. Central to dharmic religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Wicca karma mainly refers to one’s intention or motivation while doing an action. Christianity has it’s own tenets of karma in the “The Golden Rule.” Regardless of religion, the sentiment is essentially the same, “you get what you give.” For those religions that believe in reincarnation, what you “get” can be accumulated over lifetimes.
In essence, all living creatures are responsible for their karma, their actions and the effects of their actions. While I think there is some truth to the saying, “you reap what you sow,” I try to subscribe to a more positive belief that we are all part of the same mortal coil, the same energy and act accordingly. We are, however, all human, myself included. So, until I reach bodhisattva status many lifetimes from now, I reserve the right to make mistakes without judgement.
Where does karma show up in our lives everyday? Karma can show up anywhere from the subtlest to the most obvious acts. Since I’m such a fan of lists, here are 10 things that I do, personally, to “pay it forward” if you will — and I will.
- Recycle 90% of what you think is trash
- Always pay for the car behind you at the tollbooth
- Send gratitude to the boss or coworker driving you crazy
- Always hold the door for the person behind you
- Smile at everyone with whom you make eye contact
- Clean up after yourself everywhere (yoga studio, home, public washroom, restaurants, outside…)
- Donate blood, clothing, canned goods, money, time
- Invest in your own spiritual and physical well-being
- Chant a mantra daily
- Give up your seat on the bus, subway, theater, restaurant…
The key to karma is making kindness your religion. That is, it’s great to do these things if even just once, but what if you could dedicate the time and space in your life to make these acts part of who you are? Oh The Karmic Places You’ll Go [see gratuitous Dr. Suessism].
- Your Charmed Yogi