Karma & Breaking Patterns
Karma Effects Us Immediately
Many believe “karma” is the consequential backlash of doing something bad or harmful to someone else, but karma means more than that. Most simply, karma refers to the effect of any cause; for instance, throw a pebble into a river and watch the ripples flow from where the stone entered the water. Karma is the ripples. It is the effect of throwing the pebble into the water. This is karma in it’s most immediate sense, and is fairly simple to identify in more complex life experience; for example, live in conflicting relationships, and conflicting thoughts pervade the mind; forget to look both ways before crossing the street, and get hit by a car; eat to much food and gain weight; sit improperly at the computer, and get a backache.
Karma Can Supersede Our Immediate Life And Travel The Course Of Lifetimes
There are karmic effects that can be observed immediately, but according to Vedic theory, karma can also supersede our immediate life, and travel the course of lifetimes, and even ancestral relationships. We can observe the enduring aspect of this type of karma too; for example, cultures that have been displaced and invaded are often affected for many generations. The wounds and scars of attempted genocides are expressed in grand children, and grand children yet to come. This is also where the meaning of karma becomes more complex. In a sense, the entire universe is a river, and every thought, action and deed are tiny pebbles tossed into it. All of the ripples culminate in our present experience, and are very vast and difficult to quantify.
Samskaras Are Deeply Embedded Karmas
Mother Maya teaches karma is embedded in our tissue memory, and even in our DNA. Karma can dominate our decisions in ways we are not fully conscious of. Destructive habits, ways of thinking, depressions, physical disease and addictions, are all potential indicators of how we could have been relating to the world for many lives. These habitual ways of being are etched into the fabric of our being in deep ways. Like neural pathways created in the brain whenever something new is learned, we create pathways in our energetic body as well. These pathways are called samskaras. Habituations continually acted out carve pathways into our energetic being, solidifying the habit, and deepening the pathway further. Samskaras make familiar decisions and behaviors easier then new ways of being. A neuron will fire down a neural pathway that has been created and used many times, much easier then one newly formulated. Habits are hard to break. Resistance becomes inevitable when attempting to create a new pattern. The depth of habit dictates the depth of resistance.
Samskaras Are Difficult To Alleviate
Resistance in this sense is an interesting word. It suggests effort that doesn’t come easily. Many times it is the effort of resistance that keeps us from making positive choices in our lives. The illusion of ease becomes a mistake of the intellect. What feels familiar is taken for what is easier. It is easier to divulge and eat ice cream and sweets at 10pm then white knuckle our desire for sugar. It is easier to be in a destructive relationship then question why we are engaging in it. It is easier to be a victim of abuse, then a hero crusading for her life. The whole body wants to be in the flow of familiarity, guided by habituated thoughts and unconscious decisions.
The truth is, while resistance may be required for the short term, resistance does not sustain over the long haul. A person in the midst of a serious addiction may have to resist for a while, but without a shift of mind, the resistance will crumble in do time. Just like a chronic dieter vacillates between intense fasts and binging, we too will find ourselves vacillating between every habituated tendency and new choice we could make. The question then becomes, how do we facilitate a real shift in mind, and balance it with a healthy amount of resistance, to tie us over until the shift is complete?
What Can We Do To Help Alleviate Samskaras?
1. Cultivating Inner Awareness Through Meditation Leads To Freedom
Figuring out the origin of our neurosis makes great couch talk, but we could end up on that couch forever. It is impossible to trace the impulsivity of our decisions to an exact moment, and it doesn’t really matter. Maybe we had a poor relationship with our mother, maybe our father abandoned us. Maybe our culture was displaced. Maybe everything has been textbook great, and we don’t know why we can’t maintain a good relationship, or are at loss of what to do with our life. We could spend a lifetime trying to figure it out by looking at the past. But it doesn’t really matter where it all came from, it won’t change where we are now.
The truth is, it is all about how we relate to life through our awareness. One man grows up impoverished and becomes a wealthy entreprenuer. Another man grows up impoverished and becomes addicted and depressed. What differentiates these two people? What makes them cope with the same life events in two different ways? It is their awareness and perception. What happened to us, what we’ve gone through, is just a dream. A million different people would remember it a million different ways. Our stories change as we change. And so what has actually happened matters less, than how we relate to what has happened. How we relate to what has happened says a lot about where we really are. Every moment serves to tell us where we really are at in our development.
2. Pranayama, Mantra, And Asana Create Shifts In Consciousness
Mother Maya teaches that even when something painful in life happens we don’t have to be hurt. How many of us experience an undercurrent of joy and safety even when something horrible is happening? This is the cultivation of spiritual faith, and transcendental experience. This undercurrent of joy and safety is something that continues to grow as we develop awareness.
In Ayurveda, we use meditation, pranayama, mantra recitation, seasonal alignment, and asanas to help cultivate awareness in a dedicated daily practice. Awareness means being present, disengaging from the dramas and reactions of the past, and seeing reality as it truly is. Through the cultivation of awareness we are able to respond more decisively. If a person steals or says something mean, and we have cultivated adequate awareness, we will not react the same way we once would have. We will no longer react to anger with anger and spread anger. We will put a stop to it with our calm. As our mind awakens and aligns itself with it’s true nature, our intellect is restored. We are able to perceive and experience the true nature of ease, which is a genuine release of all our habituated acts and enslavements.
We can cultivate awareness in a daily practice, but as awareness increases, we are able to live in meditation. We can fully pay attention. We hear with more clarity, and we can see things as they truly are. It isn’t about us anymore. We can see that others are just responding and reacting to their own karmas.
3. Find Forgiveness For Self And Others To Alleviate Pain & Resistance
Terrible things happen during this temporal life. People are capable of doing tremendously hurtful things to one another. It is no wonder we can be marred with resentments; and yet, there isn’t such a thing as revenge. After we’ve been hurt, there is no justice in hurting the other. It does not free us. It doesn’t make the hurt go away. It doesn’t give us back what we may have lost.
Carrying the anger around will wear at us. It could potentially make us sick. It might prevent us from getting the things we want from this life. We must find forgiveness to move forward. This goes out to people who have hurt us, but also to those of us who have hurt others.
Mother Maya teaches that in the cultivation of our awareness we are able to see others as they really are. It may not mean we are meant to have relationships with our perpetrators. Certainly in abusive circumstances, distance must be created. Sometimes it is this stepping back, that allows forgiveness to completely unfold.
4. Pain Is Often The Result Of Habit
This is one of the most powerful things Mother Maya speaks about. In some cases, we have become habituated to certain pains in our lives. We are use to it being there, and even recreate it, for it has become an experience of normalcy. The cause of pain may not be there anymore, and yet there is some part of us, unable to let it go, that lives as though it is. If this is the case in your life, it can help to contemplate what ails you, and inquire, “Is this real?”
5. Ceremony And Ritual Are Catalysts For Your Intentions
I am a huge proponent of ceremony and ritual as aids to letting go. I have co-created many rituals and ceremonies with my clients that involve breath, mantra, visualization and prayer.
Chanting a mantra and burning sage into a bowl while thinking of something you would like to let go of, then burying the ash outside, can be a very powerful ceremony that can be done inside your home.
Abhyanga therapy (self-application of medicated oils) is another way to tell the cells in the body that they are safe to let go of things that no longer serve.
6. True Freedom Is Immediate
Many of us have heard that on the path to enlightenment we are ridded of all our karmas. Through the development of our awareness we are purified of our samskaras, and able to perceive the present with a clearer perception previously unavailable to us. This sounds very grand, and for me, for a time it sounded somewhat unattainable. When the yogis say “free of our karma” I instinctively thought it referred to being free of the karma incurred over many lives. While it does mean that, it is in every way, referring to what is happening right now. When we cultivate our awareness, we become connected to our body’s true needs and naturally desire foods that sustain us. We no longer react emotionally, and are able to perceive the true motives of others. We can forgive while creating adequate space for ourselves as needed. We no longer live as though experiences in the past are still happening. We simply do not react in the same ways we did in our lack of awareness. We hear what is being said beyond the words spoken. In this way, we become free of our karma by not reacting. Most importantly, we refrain from creating more karma, and fully experience that we are free.