What is Karma?

We hear about Karma quite a bit – usually that it is “a bitch” – or a “mother f**ker” – or someone will “get karma back” – yet we rarely understand that “Karma”.  It is severely underrated and vastly misunderstood.   Sometimes we think of Karma as the invisible hand of God (the God from the Old Testament) looking to strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers (well, unless she’s PMSing, I suppose…).  Rather, karma is more like an invisible mirror that reflects our own thoughts back to us of the areas that may be causing us harm and desperately need attention.

Whenever I think about practicing yoga these days, it brings forth waves of nausea with visions of me vomiting gasoline onto a pile of garbage, and then setting it on fire (much like the demonstrators did in Athens not too long ago…..okay, maybe not so much the vomiting part).  Yet, for ten+ years prior, I loved yoga.  Outside of work, I spent most of my free time practicing yoga, teaching yoga, going to workshops about yoga, or meditating on yoga.  For vacation fun, I would attend yoga retreats and escape to yoga sanctuaries.  Then, one day, my groupie-esque behavior, mixed with co-dependent cult-like thinking, all came to a screeching halt as I hurled myself into a head-on collision with Karma.

Karma doesn’t necessarily mean if you were to, hypothetically speaking, shoot an arrow through your ex-boyfriend’s whore of a mistress’ heart, you would instantaneously receive an arrow in the middle of your chest in reciprocation, but the karmic retribution would equate to something most likely as landing yourself in prison for a few years.  A simpler interpretation of Karma is similar to Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction”, meaning all forces in the Universe are interactions between different bodies.  Karma is also as complicated as the Law of Opposites: “that everything contains two mutually incompatible and exclusive but nevertheless equally essential and indispensable parts or aspects”, like humbleness and pride. Most rational adults will first evaluate the laws of cause and effect and then conclude that such a dramatic reaction is probably not be the best way to resolve the issues of anger and resentment that naturally arise when someone we love mishandles our trust and exposes our vulnerabilities.  Having recently ended a relationship with a hopeless narcissist who lied, cheated and eroded any semblance of respect I had for him as a human being, I imagined this whole shooting-of-an-arrow scenario thousands of times (usually with a fiery tip for added effect).

Along with being just the teeniest bitter, I am also a wee bit of a pyromaniac with an added ounce of drama queen.  When I was 11-years-old, for example, I built a small fire in my parent’s garage, using a book of matches and random trash.  I did this for no other reason than out of sheer boredom.  Upon smelling the sulfur, when they arrived home that evening, my parents confronted me about the fire, to which I denied any wrongdoing.  Note: this may quite possibly also make me a complete liar whose word is total shit…..the jury is still out on that.  After several hours of interrogation, I revealed the truth and then proceeded to wail with regret over the misstep.  To further this dramatic display of grief, I sobbed uncontrollably for the next hour until I had worked myself into a full blown panic attack, complete with hyperventilation and all.  My poor mother consoled me while I breathed into a paper bag, as I tried to calm down.  My parents felt so guilty for the effect their inquisition had on my demeanor that they forgot that I was the one who was in trouble in the first place. (Suckers.)

It’s really no wonder that most actors’ and actress’ personal lives are complete train wrecks, or that many of them are strung out on vodka, cocaine and/or Xanex.  The effort that goes into coercing others into believing the bullshit you are selling so that they will give you what you want is utterly exhausting.  Most of us are capable of some factor of empathy, so that when we cause harm to others, feelings of guilt, despair, or grief often arise – hence the need for a heavy dose of narcotics to drown out those little voices of conscience and reason.  THAT, my friends, is Karma.

While I may not have gotten into much trouble with my parents for my actions, I had given myself a nice little dose of psychological shock resulting from manipulating them.  In the end, it was I who suffered, then in turn caused my parents to suffer, all in an effort to avoid dealing with the ramifications of telling the truth.  And while I did not actually shoot a flaming arrow into the center of that whore’s heart, the visualization of doing so sent my shredded psyche into a tailspin that resulted in deep depression (but, we’ve covered that already).  I had too much pride to confront my ex and brave the hurt that comes from knowing “the truth”.  Thus, I put myself through greater suffering in my efforts to avoid it because I was too humble to admit I had the right to be enraged by his bad behavior.

Within the depression spread the seeds of karma.  The more I toiled over what was right and wrong and, of course more importantly, WHO was right and wrong, the deeper the paranoid thoughts weeded themselves until I reached a state of restless anxiety, fertilized by full blown insomnia.  That anxiety grew into unresolved anger that created fertile ground for me to lash out and the most unsuspecting victims.  I had wired my brain to believe that any time I felt even remotely anxious in the present moment, my thoughts would revert back to the same story I told myself the nights that my ex was unaccounted for.  Instead of worrying about studying for a test, or finishing an article, I would find myself wallowing in the angst of the past.  This was a gross misuse of my time and energy.  Why keep retelling the same old story – when the outcome would always remain the same?

Simple and equally complicated answer – karma.  By repeating the same action within my thoughts, I had carved a groove of suffering into my soul and that the repeated thoughts to continually flow through.  A friend of mine summarized the brain chemistry of karma as “the neurons that wire together, fire together.”  The idea of “changing your karma” really starts with changing your habits and oh, aren’t habits so hard to break?  We love our habits – even when we hate them.  Habits are familiar, comforting, routine, and intimate.  It takes a lot of f**king effort to break our habits once they are there regardless of how much we are aware of the pain they cause.  Yet, we made the effort to create the habit in the first place, thus we can make the effort to change the habit.  Asking to eliminate it all together is sometimes an exercise in futility, so if you are going to continually repeat a pattern, why not make it less harmful?

Instead of eliminating my repetitive thinking that created anxiety, I opted to give the mental exercise a positive spin.  Each time I started to notice that I was anxious about making a connecting flight, or locating a landmark when I was lost in Madrid, I would focus my thoughts on a person in my life that brings me joy.  Right there on the Grand Via I stopped and wondered how my mom was doing, or my best friend’s day was, or if my Goddaughter was learning to read yet.  Soon the anxiety would subside and I could reconnect with the present moment and resumed my walk.  Over time, with diligent practice and awareness, my anxiety decreased and the groove was sanded out of my soul.  It was then I truly understood karma and appreciated the painstaking process one goes through using meditation to uncolor our thinking.  With the slate wiped clean, the depression lifted and the karma was set free.

Maybe, someday, I will feel like practicing Yoga again, too……


  1. Laura

    Well my friend – the chili and goodies were not served in Madrid, but I am reverently grateful for the treats you have provided my skinny rail ass. They are most thoughtful and very delish!

  2. kaplanj

    Interesting, insightful, and enlightening. Learn a little more about you through your expressive voice……and perhaps a little more about myself. How come I wasn't mentioned in the company of your Mom, best friend, and god-daughter….or at least the chili and goodies that bring you so much joy?

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