Karma: The seeds we sow.
In each moment, we are creating future moments. Each action we take either evolves into something we desire or reject. How are we moving towards things we desire in each moment?
In Sanskrit, there’s a word that many are familiar with, Karma. One of the meanings of this word can be expressed in the common phrase, “We sow what we reap.” This indicates a causal relationship, meaning one event is dependent on the occurrence of the other.
Now, many of you are like, “Yeah, sure, I see bad people, doing bad things and getting ahead everywhere I look.” Now, this is often where people get confused - karma is about an individual and their ability to live with their decisions. We are responsible for our choices, and we make choices based on our perspective of the world and our values; everyone has differing moral guidelines, and levels of tolerance for injustice, integrity, and honesty.
Obviously, karma can look like a casual relationship when an action has a direct reaction like touching a hot stove, right?! - You’re gonna get burnt! As we mature as humans, we gather more information that leads us to believe in certain causal truths about the way the world works. That being said our causality is created through our experiences of the world in our bodies - male, female, gender queer, person of color, caucasian, disabled, rich, poor, loved, abused, and all the other realities of our existence. If there were immediate and equal reactions to actions, and people’s experiences were determined by the same set of rules, then causality would be easier to predict.
If causality were equal, then hypothetically ALL people who smoke would die from cancer, and NO ONE would ever touch a cigarette, but that’s just not how the world works. There are people who have never touched a cigarette and die from lung cancer, while there are people who smoke until their 98th birthday and die a natural death. For humans it’s really hard for us to believe the idea of karma because we don’t see its tangible existence in our everyday life. Hard work doesn’t guarantee that one will get rich; inversely, being rich doesn't mean one worked hard, i.e the lotto.
When we say the Seeds We Sow, all we really mean is, “Are you making decisions today that will provide a result you can live with?” Do you believe the world is mostly good or mostly evil, and how does that affect the way you interact with the world? How do your beliefs and perceptions direct your engagement with the world? This is Karma. When we look for goodness, we tend to see good all around. Our beliefs will either set us free or imprison us.
Throughout my yoga career, I had this idea that if I practiced yoga daily, I would avoid injury and live pain-free forever. I believed this until my 30th birthday, at which time my body started to respond differently to the same practice. In October 2016, I threw out my back picking up a picnic table. I couldn't work for a week - I also couldn’t move, which was the most debilitating experience of my life. My body healed with time, heat, light movement, and self-care. Then in January 2017, I fell and tore a muscle in my bum - it was the worst pain of my life, and I’m still seeking the expertise needed to help me fully heal.
Moral of the story, my belief, that if I practiced yoga everyday I would be healthy and injury free, was absolutely incorrect. Now that my belief has been debunked, I had the opportunity to reevaluate my practice, and what I discovered was that my yoga practice has given me more than a healthy body. The practice of yoga has given me the experience of knowing, feeling and experiencing freedom in my body. The Karma piece is that I know first-hand the benefits of yoga in my body - the flexibility and freedom it allows me. When I do yoga, I feel better. I might not stay young forever, or be injury free 100% of my life, but I know when I devote an hour of time to myself on my mat, it boosts my mood, it brings me into alignment with my values, and it grants me the physical freedom, or at least the ability to feel.
So, that’s why I continue to show up to my mat. Everyday may not be a Level 3 practice, most days aren't. Some days I breathe and move gently; other days I sweat and push myself. I choose to believe that yoga gives me a better quality of life based on my personal experience. Instead of saying. “My body hurts I can’t do yoga.” - I say, “My body hurts, I need yoga!” I also know first-hand what it feels like to not to move my body, and not having mobility really did make me appreciate mobility.
Yoga gives us an opportunity to take responsibility for our experiences; our karmic realities, both on and off the mat. What kind of world have we chosen to live in? Do you ask ourselves questions like, “Why do bad things always happen to me?” Or, do you ask yourself questions like, “What actions can I take to improve my current situation?”
In each moment, we can choose to be a victim or our circumstances, or a creators of our destiny. No, we can’t change the way we look, our gender, or our parents, but can choose how we perceive the world. This is the choice that will influence our karmic experience. We can either run from pain, or run toward healing. Yoga is the outlet that allows us to experience a range of feeling and movement, regardless of injury, aging, or inflexibility.
Which seeds are you sowing? Are you doing things that you know to work for you? Are you turning lemons into lemonade, or are you letting your lemons sour?
Every moment is another opportunity to align with your values, and live your best life.