Karma is a messy and confusing business, even for yogis.
Friends caution each other against creating “bad karma” when stirring up trouble, but karma isn’t just an exotic version of tit-for-tat. It goes beyond today’s choices – karma shapes your life.
If you made grand plans for this year, you’re up against a lifetime of conditioning that may contradict your new goals.
To stick to your resolutions, you’ve got to succeed in spite of yourself and your karma, not because of it.
Let me explain.
There’s a concept in yoga called samskāras. Samskāras are like the drawings you make on a foggy window. They may not be visible all the time – they may even seem to disappear for a while – but the outline is there and, given the right circumstances, they will reappear and affect your view.
Every time to do something hoping for a specific result, you either reinforce an existing samskāra or create a new one in your mind. It’s like an imprint of what worked and what didn’t: which causes (actions or beliefs of yours) led to which effects (feeling good, bad, or a bit of both).
As your impressions accumulate and combine over time, they color your world and how you interact with it.
It’s like looking through a really dirty pane of glass – you have to assume a lot about what’s going on on the other side because you can’t see clearly. Your assumptions and beliefs distort reality and, most of the time, you don’t even realize the glass is there.
It gets worse – when you act on your version of reality (the one you perceive through dirty glass), your subsequent actions and reactions are also off. In other words, your impressions trap you in a distorted cycle of action and reaction, aka, your karma.
So how can you keep your New Year’s resolutions if you’re damned to live according to your previous conditioning?
Take control, move beyond your samskāras, and escape the cycle of your karma.
Ok, it’s not easy. It may be the hardest work of your life, but it is possible and the rewards (hello, nirvana) sound pretty great.
Here are some ideas to start:
Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life.
Take responsibility for every cause and every effect. The circumstances of your life are a reflection of the reactions you’ve had to the outcomes of actions you’ve taken while hoping for a specific result.
You anticipated a result, you choose an action to achieve that result, you reacted to the actual outcome, and you filed the experience away as an example for future reference. Own it. It’s the first and most important step.
Not sure if you’re taking responsibility for yourself? Read this.
Samskāras will fade like memories if they are not reinforced in the present. Try meditation or yoga to help you stay in the present moment during daily interactions. Meditation helps you identify the desire to react as well as your attachment to specific results and then choose different, new ways of being.
Want tips to build presence and meditation into your life? Check out this and this.
Keep a Journal.
Make a list of all the assumptions and beliefs you have about how the world works. These can be as significant as “I’ll get hurt if I tell someone I love them” to “I’m the only one who understands how to pack grocery bags properly”.
It may be hard to identify your beliefs at first, but it gets easier with practice.
The more you name your beliefs, the more clearly you’ll be able to see them at work in your actions and reactions. Eventually, with presence and practice, you’ll be able to make different choices.
Give Yourself a Break.
Dream your dreams, craft your goals, and set your sights on a great future. Then give yourself permission to take the long road. It may take a lifetime to make the changes you envision for yourself, but with steady, committed focus and practice, you’ll succeed.
Finally, Act Without Desire.
If you can act without any expectation or attachment to the outcome, there are no continuing impressions to feed your samskāras and you break the cycle of cause and effect, i.e. karma.
You are also well on your way to enlightenment and I’d love to ask you a few questions. 🙂
Be free. Be brave. Be YOU!
What hidden beliefs and assumptions threaten to derail your resolutions?
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