I’ve been thinking about karma a lot lately, so I feel it’s the right time to repost this.

Monkey With Glasses

At a dharma talk yesterday, Ari (the speaker) said:

“We are the gods of our own world – we create it. We have infinite potential to achieve anything, but the responsibility to achieve is on us.”

I’m loving this, it’s such an interesting way of saying that we’re the only ones in control of our lives. The choices we make absolutely determine the path our life follows. Karma in a nutshell.

Karma is the law of cause and effect. Our karma determines what happens to us based on actions we have taken, and please note that actions include thoughts and intentions. The tricky part is that we can’t control what the results will be or when they come. It may take minutes, or it may take lifetimes to feel the effects of a particular action. Karma can get a bit complicated, but there are four simple rules that always apply:

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Well. I haven’t been here since 2011. That went fast. 

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll start up again. Hmmmm. 

What is beyond the known?

I’ve been afraid to even speak of the changes that seem to be coming, lest I impart some weird cosmic vibration and mess it up.

However, I’ve told some and things still seem to be on track for the most part. Much insecurity, but even my horoscope – which I mostly read for fun, and usually after the day is done just to see if it was close to being accurate – has been telling me good changes are coming for at least a month now.

I’ve been wanting to do something different with my career life for a long time. I tried my own enterprise, but I didn’t have the energy to invest. Even so, it taught me much about myself. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to “run the show”, as the case may be. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and my choice of a positive attitude in the face of difficulty has been noticed. Long ago I decided to rethink my purpose at work, trying to make it more of a practice of selfless service than a career or job. The opportunity to serve people is there on many levels… serve a coworker in the normal course of business, serve a coworker who is in a jam, serve a friend who needs a favor, ultimately serve the customer way down the line – the one who has no idea I exist or stops to wonder how the drug they’re taking in an effort to save their life makes it into their veins, as it should be (they have bigger fish to ponder). Changing my perspective this way has made it much easier to get out of bed at 5 am every day.

I have chosen to live my life by this quote:

Peace: it does not mean to be away from noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart.

So simple. So difficult.

Anyway, the opportunity has arisen to do something else for a living. A short hop away from my present role, but a huge leap in knowledge base and responsibilities, a change in the people I would serve. I’ve been told by everyone I’ve whispered it to that I’d be very good in this job. I believe that, too. It still scares the crap out of me.

Another favorite quote, this has been taped to my desk for years:

Knowledge is the antidote to fear. ~Emerson

With that quote in mind, I’ve set up a plan. People to mentor me, people to shadow. Classes to take, learn how to listen and pay attention. I can’t control headcount, and Corporate America is notorious for dangling a carrot one minute and hitting you with a stick the next. Expectations are there to be demolished and disappointed, so I shall forge ahead with my plan yet still take the tack of letting the path lead me.

Perhaps, if it’s in the cards, and I’ve made the right choices, and karma is in my favor, and the stars align… maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to make a definitive statement and not talk myself into spirals, worried that the cosmic gate will slam in my face or hit me in the ass.

Dug out my journal and found a few Haiku I’d written awhile ago:

Tick tock clicks the clock
Illusion marches onward
Be only in now

Wide, flat branches sway
Cherry blossoms vibrant pink
Eyes squint in the glare

Sheep, fox, bear, reindeer
My dog is all animals
Sleeping, she cares not

My backyard

It’s a funny feeling when one recognizes that things are balanced.

I know what it feels like to be at the peak of the mountain, and in the valley far below. While I suppose most folks are happy at the peak, I’m wary because I know that won’t last and I’ll soon be sliding down (hopefully not too far). When in the valley at least I can be hopeful that I’ll be climbing out soon enough. One only slides as low as the highest peak, and I’m fortunate that my swings aren’t too dizzying.

But lately… things just feel good. Almost too good, like… afraid to talk about it goodness. I don’t want to jinx myself. I think  I’m in a balanced place and can actually feel it. Instead of rushing past it, I’m kind of simmering in it;  I’m enjoying the feeling of contentment mixed with the curiosity of what will come next.

I haven’t blogged in a long time.

I’ve had ideas rolling around in my head, but none of them wants to bloom. Perhaps they’ll emerge some day. I have to let them do as they wish – they won’t be forced, it just pushes them further down into my subconscious. Sometimes these little nuggets pop out better as Tweets or Facebook statuses.

Something I have wanted to write about is my practice between March 4 and April 25. Due to unusual circumstance, work was incredibly busy and stressful for those seven weeks. I had to work late many, many nights which threw my meditation and exercise practices way out of whack. What saved me is my belief in mindfulness – that every thing I do during the day can be meditation if I choose to be mindful. I had mentally prepared and decided that I would choose to stay calm, have a sense of humor, and consider it all selfless service or karma yoga. Even though the stress and long days actually sent my resistance so low that by the end I got a nasty cold (I am rarely ill), I never freaked out, yelled or snarked at anyone, and kept a smile in my heart the entire time. Ego is pretty proud of that! (Body was pretty angry once the exercise kicked back in.) My tattoo and LIVE SLOW signs helped keep me focused. I’m so visual.

Much has happened in the world.

The Arab Spring made me think about a Nostradamus show I saw years ago once that predicted an evil, Arab-looking man would come to rule the entire world. Yet here are the youth of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya (to name a few) choosing to protest and fight for change in their countries. It’s an interesting turn of events, and I hope the people in Arab countries find a way to live productive, peaceful lives. Maybe I’m naïve, but I believe Arab moms want to see their children grow up healthy, strong, educated, and peace-loving. Just like all the other moms around the world.

Osama bin Laden is no longer walking this Earth, which can’t be a bad thing. It’s not in me to cheer any death, but I understand why some did and if that’s the emotion they were feeling then fine with me. He’d been on the lam so long, now that he’s finally gone it feels odd – like when a childhood celebrity dies… I can’t believe it actually happened and everything is a bit different now.

I found the whole Obama birth certificate thing funny. You just knew the minute they released it someone would pick it apart and claim it’s Photoshopped. Puh-leeze. As for Donald Trump… when nonsense like him actually affects political polls, that is a sad moment in American history.

Hopefully an idea will decide to bloom soon because I like to write. It has been a pretty nice spring so far, with summer right around the bend and I’ve been able to spend more time outside watching my trees sway in the breeze. Inspiration can’t be too far.

There are times, often at 1 a.m. when I should be sleeping but can’t, when my brain spins and I drift along on my stream of consciousness. Maybe I’m seeing with clarity, maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m just delirious. This past Tuesday I was stuck on a thread about my spastic social skills.

Whatever happened to me while I was growing the neurons used for social skills, I’d like to know because I have such trouble with situations that other people find completely benign, if they even think about them at all.

I’m no Hemmingway, but I can string a pretty good sentence together, even on the fly. I have a couple of girlfriends that are going through some powerful life changes, and we mostly communicate via chat. Sometimes during the conversation I refer back to the transcript and I’ve gotta say, I impress myself. Typing and thinking very quickly I see myself using cohesive, emotionally sensitive, empathetic, clear thoughts studded with age-appropriate vocabulary and decent grammar. Now where is this skill when I’m in a verbal conversation? Half the time I can’t remember words and phrases I want to use, ultimately substituting whatever I can claw out of my feeble mental dictionary. I lose myself in my own stories, and I glaze over during other people’s stories (leading me to think I shouldn’t be telling mine, since I’m probably spreading more glaze than an Easter ham). I’ve started trying to speak less, both as a life practice and because my Mean Voice tells me that nobody cares anyway. When I do speak, I usually sound like a sixth grader with a swearing problem, so I get startled when I hear myself sounding like a grown-up.

I’m even worse in physical situations. Forget dancing… I can’t even figure out how to go through a door properly. Do I hold the door open for people from the outside, or go through and pass the door to the person behind me? What if the person is more than a few steps back, do I hold it or just go in? Whatever I choose is usually wrong and I end up in someone’s way. I can’t even manage a level of adult sophistication when I’m playing with kids. I once playfully flipped my young nephew upside-down. I was distracted by a spilled glass of wine and then, focused on the glass I’d knocked over, forgot I was holding him by his feet until he cried and his mom rescued him. I frequently relive that one in my mind. Ugh. Seriously, I’m a walking Seinfeld episode.

I need to get more sleep.

One of the lessons I learned early in my walk down the yogic path was that I could not trust my assumptions, judgments, and many of my beliefs. They had been formed through misinterpretations, poor guidance, and unclear vision. Sri Swami Satchidananda considers this lesson so important, he includes the following story within his translation of Sutra 2, Book 1 of Sri Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – the core Sutra that underscores all the others. This simple story opened my eyes:

“Imagine you have not seen your father since your birth and he returns when you are ten years old. He knocks at your door. Opening it, you see a strange face. You run to your mama saying, “Mama, there’s a stranger at the door.” Your mama comes and sees her long-lost husband. With all joy she receives him and introduces him as your father. You say, “Oh, my Daddy!” A few minutes before, he was a stranger; now he has become your daddy. Did he change into your daddy? No, he is the same person. You created the idea of “stranger”, then changed it to “Daddy;” that’s all.”

He continues with this next illustration in the same translation:

“Whenever I speak to prison inmates I say, “You all feel you are imprisoned and anxiously wait to get outside these walls. But look at the guards. Are they not like you? They are also within the same walls. Even though they are let out at night, every morning you see them back here. They love to come, you would love to get out. The enclosure is the same. To them it is not a prison, to you it is. Why? Is there any change in the walls? No, you feel it is a prison; they feel it is a place to work and earn. It is the mental attitude. If, instead of imprisonment, you think of this as a place for your reformation where an opportunity has been given to you to change your attitude in life, to reform and purify yourself, you will love to be here until you feel purified. Even if they say, “Your time is over, you can go,” you may say, “I am still not purified, Sir. I want to be here for some more time.” In fact, many such prisoners continue to lead a Yogic life even after they left prison, and they were even thankful for their prison life. That means they took it in the right way.”

I have been reading a lot about the Tao and Taoism, and a few more stories with the same theme have caught my attention. I always take note when the same themes appear in different places, whether that be different theologies confirming each other, or better, when science aligns with spiritual lessons.

Perhaps these stories strike a nerve with me because I see myself in them. From Taoist writer Lieh-tse:

“A man noticed that his axe was missing. Then he saw the neighbor’s son pass by. The boy looked like a thief, walked like a thief, behaved like a thief. Later that day, the man found his axe where he had left it the day before. The next time he saw the neighbor’s son, the boy looked, walked, and behaved like an honest, ordinary boy.”

The Chinese story of “The Well by the Road” really reminds me of the flame-throwing, fickle pundits who live on cable tv news shows:

“A man dug a well by the side of the road. For years afterward, grateful travelers talked of the Wonderful Well. But one night, a man fell into it and drowned. After that, people avoided the Dreadful Well. Later it was discovered that the victim was a drunken thief who had left the road to avoid being captured by the night patrol – only to fall into the Justice-Dispensing Well.”

And one last story to remind us of how we allow external pressures, desires, and events to overshadow our true Selves. From the writings of Chuang-tse:

“An archer competing for a clay vessel shoots effortlessly, his skill and concentration unimpeded. If the prize is changed to a brass ornament, his hands begin to shake. If it is changed to gold, he squints as if he were going blind. His abilities do not deteriorate, but his belief in them does, as he allows the supposed value of an external reward to cloud his vision.”

Do you see yourself in these stories? I do. Over the years, with much practice and effort, I see myself less but not completely gone. We humans have chosen complicated ways, and the path to clarity is very long.

I hear from friends all the time, “I have no time!”, “My to-do list is too long!”, “Why can’t I ever get everything done?”

Time is a precious commodity, as we only have so much and we have no idea how much we have. It amazes me how people give it away so freely. There are several tricks that can help you get your time management under control, but one of the best tips comes in the form of a story. I’ve seen this story attributed to various sources, so I won’t attempt to even try. You’ve probably seen this already, but if you haven’t here’s the story:

The teacher stood in front of his students and put a large, wide-mouthed jar on a table in front of him. He produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is the jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped the gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

He asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time, the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in, and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this demonstration?”

One student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your life is,  you can always fit in some more!”

“No!” the speaker replied. “That is not the point. The lesson is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are your big rocks? Time with family? Quiet time for yourself? A special project? A cause? Focus on your big rocks first. If it’s truly important, don’t worry, the gravel will transform into big rock all by itself when it needs to. Remember, there is a difference between “busy” and “productive”.

Be sure to prioritize your big rocks, then rest and rebalance. Otherwise, there is always way more gravel than rocks.

So I talk to myself. Often. Out loud. I rarely worry about what strangers around me think, and my friends don’t mind – or at least seem to tolerate – my nuttiness.

I find talking to myself calms me down when things get chaotic, and it helps me bring some organization to the situation even if it’s just in my head (perception is reality, you know). Doing it out loud definitely works better than doing it silently; I have no idea why nor do I care. I just go with it.

According to this website, talking to yourself is a sign of self-awareness but you have to be careful what you’re saying to yourself. I wrote about that a bit in this post. Don’t listen to the mean voices in your head – tell them to just shut the hell up, then go sit quietly and listen for the voice of your Self.

I’m not talking about that kind of self-talk. I just talk to myself in general, about everything and nothing. About getting the work on my desk organized, or the way I wish a conversation will go, or what I’m going to make for dinner.

Here’s a tip: if you wear your Bluetooth earpiece, you just look like you’re on the phone, so it’s even easier to not look insane.

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