Karma, For Dummies

Being spiritual is not something that comes easily to me. I don’t remember ever having anything close to what could be described as blind faith or trust in the universe.

When I was in middle school, a Christian family moved in across the street in my very small town. They had a daughter about my age. We had nothing in common, but they were kind and generous people and… well, there weren’t a lot of local playmates for any of us to choose from.

The family held daily bible readings. We would be running wild in the yard and get called inside where the mother would read us a bible passage and a second reading geared more towards children, usually a cute story with biblical morals. I don’t remember this being an unpleasant experience but truthfully I don’t think I got any spiritual substance from the practice.  Even at that age I was incorrigible and my engagement was tied more closely to the post study snack rather than any real appreciation for the divine.

I remember the day we covered Genesis and the creation of the world. I asked about dinosaurs, evolution, UFOs, and how could we possibly be the only life in the universe. To the mother’s credit, she was patient and told me that she believed those 7 days did not flow through time as we experience it today. The world was new, in Beta test. Even an omnipotent being needed time and some test subjects. Maybe all those details were not captured by the mortals who pieced together the Holy scripture.

I didn’t buy her explanations then and continue to resist anything that can’t be explained with logic, reason, and proof.  Needless to say, there is a lot that happens in life that can’t, so I find myself trying to force things into simplistic and ill-fitting boxes or obsessively trying to come up with rationalizations for things that are not rational, logic for things that are in no way logical, and for proof where there isn’t any.

If I can’t neatly sort and explain things, you ask? I dramatically crumble into a depressed existential crisis.

I acknowledge that this is part of why I struggle with letting go. I need (want) to always understand the why; even when it’s not available or knowing doesn’t make me happy either.

In recovery I have been looking for compromise; for ways to help me accept and let go of the unexplained. One concept that has helped me is Karma, or the idea that there is a relationship of cause and effect in people’s action (or inaction). Rooted in Hinduism and Buddhism, this idea has also been compared to Newton’s Third Law (thank goodness, some science!) which postulates that every action has an equal or opposite reaction. In other words, the universe is keeping tabs and eventually everything evens out.

I used to think that Karma was a result of justice and judgement, reward and punishment, but now I realize it’s about being accountable for yourself. Karma is supposed to encourage you to own your actions, the way you treat others, and also to trust that others should be left to do the same. Karma teaches us to be calm, emphasizing intelligent, unemotional and logical action. This leads to acceptance of reality as well as peace, calm, and surrender.

Another thing that makes this idea attractive to me is that it is often tied to reincarnation. Although I’m not sure I believe in an afterlife, it does help to justify the idea of suffering. While you may not get to experience the return of energy in this life, you will in the next. Some even teach that lifetimes are like levels in a video game with each life subjected to a new lesson or obstacle to overcome. Failure results in repeating the level while passing leads to harder and harder tests until you finally face off against the big boss and are rewarded with enlightenment, peace, and ethereal rewards.

While I think it’s unlikely that I will ever formally practice religion, I do see the value of spirituality. Belief in the unseen and unexplained makes it easier to let go by suggesting things will be sorted out when I let go. And, more importantly, these ideas can inspire hope, trust, and motivation to continue in this age of uncertainty, distrust, and scarcity. Because really, we could all use that extra bit of inspiration to convince us to continue when it seems like there is no hope.

8 thoughts on “Karma, For Dummies

  1. jonicaggiano

    It sounds like the neighborhood lady was reaching out to you trying hard to share her faith. It is my faith that kept me going as a very small child and still does. You can’t always prove things. I have seen so many miracles in my lifetime there is no one who could talk me out of my faith in God the father and Christ his son. My mother loaded us girls up in the car once, and she was very drunk. She ended up driving down a road going around 80 miles per hour. I remember still today looking at the display of her speed. I screamed as she moved to the side of the road heading straight for the pole. My older sibling turned the steering wheel all the way in the other direction. I closed my eyes waiting for the eyes of God. Instead when I opened my eyes we were in my Aunties driveway. The only safe place we ever had to go as children. God was looking out for us. He is there whether we see him or not. Thank you for sharing your post. Joni

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    1. Hi Joni! Always look forward to your input and I’m happy that you’ve found comfort in your faith. I’ve always been grateful when people have tried to share that comfort with me; although truthfully it still does not resonate with me. I don’t discount a higher power, but have not connected with a religion… yet! Looking forward to more of your posts.

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      1. jonicaggiano

        I think it is a glitch. I just got in but please let me know if you have trouble again. Thank you so much. and have a great evening. https://the-inner-child.com. Please don’t post this I just wanted to tell you I am sorry that you were hurt. You are obviously a very intelligent and interesting young man. My first marriage was a 20 year co-dependence marriage which I tried to get out of in a civil way. I ended up walking out with nothing financially. My freedom was worth so much more to me and I have a wonderful marriage now. There is someone out there I am just sorry for your pain and grateful for your posts. I wish people were doing this 30 years ago. Please keep writing.

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      2. There you are! Working now. I don’t approve posts, just allow them. I can remove your last if you prefer?

        I appreciate that, thank you. I’m sorry for your challenges also. I don’t understand why some people get dealt the hand they do… We don’t deserve it, but I guess we never get more than we can handle.

        I am grateful that this outlet exists. I’m not sure how long I will continue to write on this topic, and if I will go further with it, but I’m happy that some of the pain is turning into something positive. And that I’m being forced to organize some of it and deal with it by imposing a schedule on myself. Haha probably sounds silly. But they don’t kid about writing, it’s a great supplement to a recovery program.

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