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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. 

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 haven’t been blogging much, but I’ve been Tweeting and Facebooking (is that a word?) often. I usually check all my accounts around 5:15 am, just before I leave for work. As I sat down with Twitter on the morning of November first, it struck me  – I didn’t plan it, honest! – to write what I was thankful for every morning until Thanksgiving. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook have seen these, and I thank you for your comments. We had some nice discussions. My Twitter feed also shows on my blog homepage, but  sometimes I tweet often, so you may have missed what I was doing. Anyway, I figured I’d compile all the Tweets into one blog post for easy reference. Here ya go….

This year, Gayle is thankful for:

  1. All my loved ones are healthy
  2. My rights as an US citizen (it was Election Day)
  3. My little warm house
  4. Opportunities to improve myself
  5. The little furry ball of sweetness that greets me in the morning with a gift, and loves me unconditionally
  6. The sound of children’s (ok, teen!) voices in my home
  7. Sweats, thick newspapers, and friends who invite me out
  8. My husband who lets me follow my path, which isn’t always the same one he’s on
  9. Early morning TV weathermen, especially the goofy ones. I need goofy weather this early in the morning.
  10. Warm breakfasts and latte in a bottle
  11. Friends – online and in person
  12. My job. As frustrating as it can be, I have it, I’m good at it so it comes easy, and my coworkers are nice.
  13. I live close enough to major cities so I can enjoy them , but don’t have to live in them
  14. Modern medicine and pharmaceuticals that help people live life to the fullest
  15. Indoor plumbing, hot water, and electricity that I don’t have to think about
  16. Wonderful family and friends who love me
  17. A healthy body that works the way it’s designed to. Eyes that see, legs that walk, brain that thinks, heart that loves.
  18. All material things I have been blessed to have: food, clothing, shelter, car…
  19. That I live in a country with easy access to fresh food and clean water. And chocolate Rice Krispies.
  20. Meeting with groups of like-minded, and sometimes not like-minded, people where I can feel unity as well as learn
  21. So many generous people who are willing to donate to organizations that help others
  22. Warm Sun, silvery Moon, generous blue-green Earth
  23. The ability to read, and that the opportunities to educate myself through reading is boundless
  24. Laughter, things that make me laugh, and the joy of making someone laugh
  25. Time, and not just on holidays. Precious moments with family and friends, enjoy every second. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

This is an excerpt from Why Meditate? Working with Thoughts and Emotions by Matthieu Ricard. I’ve borrowed it from the Fall 2010 issue of Tricycle magazine.

As you read it, remember that the unstable, disorderly mind that he talks about is the Monkey Mind we all live with at times – at least until we start to bring it under control. The veils are all the crap in our heads that we see through and that create the way we think and perceive our reality to be. Meditation is but one way of many that we can use to calm Monkey Mind, but all the different methods work by recognizing the big issues first and progressing to the small issues – gross to subtle. There’s no way we will even see the subtle elements of something until we understand the bigger picture.

“In order to recognize the fundamental nature of the mind, we have to remove the veils created by automatic thought patterns. How do we do that? Suppose you are trying to retrieve a key that has fallen into a pond. If you poke about on the bottom with a stick, you’ll completely muddy the water and won’t have the slightest chance of spotting the key. The first thing you have to do is let the water settle until it becomes clear. After that, it will be easy to see the key and pick it up. We must work with our mind in the same way. We have to begin by making it clear, calm, and attentive. After that, we can use this new skill to cultivate other qualities, such as altruistic love and compassion, as well as to develop a deeper insight into the nature of mind.

Most of the time our mind is unstable, disorderly, and driven by whims as it bounces back and forth between hope and fear. It is self-centered, hesitant, fragmented, confused, and sometimes even absent, as well as weakened by internal contradictions and a feeling of insecurity. It rebels against any kind of training and is constantly occupied by a stream of inner chatter that generates a constant background noise we are barely aware of. Because these dysfunctional states are nothing but products of the mind itself, it makes sense that the mind can also remedy them.

So the idea is to gradually progress from a state of mind where unfavorable conditions prevail, to another state that is characterized by stable attention, inner peace and clarity, confidence, courage, openness toward others, benevolence, the ability to deal with emotions, and other qualities of a vast and calm mind.”

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:

  1. The result is similar to the cause. Meaning the action you do will bring you more of the same. If you are nasty, nastiness will come back to you. If you desire wealth, you must give generously.
  2. The result is larger than the cause. So that nastiness you put out there will come back worse. The generosity and kindness you show will come back in spades.
  3. Everything you do is collected and held until the time is right for the karma to play out. This is often referred to as the karmic seed ripening. The situation must be just right for whatever karma, which is why it can take a long time to experience the consequences of your actions.
  4. Everything that happens in your life is a ripened karmic seed. Nothing is random.

If you’re looking to improve your karma, the best way is to give selflessly. This means giving without looking for anything in return –  including the words “thank you”. There are four ways to give:

  1. You can give things, like money or items
  2. You can give protection and eliminate fear
  3. You can give love, compassion, friendship
  4. You can give your knowledge, particularly your knowledge of relieving suffering as this will allow the recipient to end his/her suffering and pass along the same gift

Karma is a very detailed topic, this is just a tiny part. If you have any particular questions, please leave a comment. But ultimately, you need only know Buddah’s Fifth Remembrance:

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

What seeds have you sown in your life so far? Really?

In yoga, there are eight areas of practice, two of which are Yamas (moral restraints and disciplines) and Niyamas (self-restraints and observances). There is a good explanation of the yamas and niyamas here. One niyama is Santosa, which translates as modesty, non-greed, contentment with what we have.

From that link:
Santosa
is having a sense of modesty and the feeling of being content with what we have. To be at peace within comes from fostering contentment with one’s life, even while experiencing its challenges.  When we accept that life is a process for growth all of the circumstances and experiences we create for ourselves become valid teachers and vehicles for expressing our highest nature. Accepting that there is a purpose for everything – yoga calls it karma – we can cultivate contentment and compassion, for ourselves and for others.  Santosa means being happy with what we have rather than being unhappy about what we don’t have.

The easiest translation of this I’ve ever seen is, “Want what you have. Don’t want what you don’t have.” When I’m feeling the constraints of my budget (or lack of one), this is something I say to myself often. It’s akin to walking through Target (where I can spend $100 in 15 minutes) and repetitively saying to myself, “Buy what I need, not what I want.”

Santosa is a good topic to meditate on. When meditating on santosa, we’re thinking about wanting what we already have, and being grateful for it and satisfied with it. And we’re thinking about not wanting what we don’t have, not craving or desiring. The craving, desiring, and clinging to what we already have is what causes so much stress and suffering.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

I learned just by chance this morning that today is the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. I’m a little ashamed to realize how little I know about this piece of history, although since it’s not one of our country’s proudest moments I’m not surprised that it doesn’t get the same History Channel kind of coverage that other war events get.

Just hopping quickly through the internet this morning I found this link, a story about a man who has been painting the portraits of survivors. But more impressive than his paintings are the couple of survivor stories the article shares. I’m kind of surprised there are any survivors, as my mental vision of a nuclear bomb implies total and complete destruction. Yet there are survivors, who have felt ashamed all these years – imagine feeling ashamed for being a victim of such a brutal event! The people who lived in Hiroshima in 1945 are senior citizens now and soon will not be here to tell their stories. I hope more and more of them do, in the same spirit that Holocost survivors tell and retell their stories in the hope that history will never, ever repeat itself.

I have some reading to do.

PS… Hiroshima looks like a beautiful place today. If you have a strong stomach, do a Google Image search on “hiroshima”. The people of this city have come a very long way.
Photo credit to TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images.

Beautiful Blogger Award Look! I got an award! Melissa at Sugar Filled Emotions was very kind to recognize my blogging efforts. Melissa is a really great and brave blogger, writing very honestly about her life and how she is working with some medical issues. I appreciate her vote of confidence.

So, according to the rules, I have to pass this on to seven other bloggers, as well as tell seven facts about myself. Some of my favorite bloggers are professional authors and don’t allow comments on their posts, so I don’t know how I’ll pass it on to them but I will pass it on to the others.

Here are some of my fave blogs:

Tom Peters is an author and business guru. What I love about Tom is his energy and constant emphasis and encouragement that everything you do should be EXCELLENT! (always written in all caps, by the way). While he doesn’t blog as often any more, he Twitters like mad and I enjoy that very much. I find Tom inspiring as I sit in my little beige cube every day.

Leo Babuta writes Zen Habits. It was one of the first blogs I started reading. Leo writes about simplifying your life, and has successfully changed his life – documented in real time on his blog, of course. When I was doing professional organizing, I often recommended my clients read his Zen to Done ebook.

Seth Godin is an author and marketing specialist, but you’ll find more than marketing tips in his posts. He really understands how and why people behave the way they do, which I find fascinating. You’ll never look at your Tribe the same way again.

Garr Reynolds’ blog is Presentation Zen. The main topic at Presentation Zen is improving how you present yourself when giving a talk in front of an audience. Luckily, I don’t have to present often, but reading his posts totally changed the way I create support graphics and work with an audience. Besides that, he often links to fascinating video clips of other excellent (there’s that word!) speakers from around the world.

The Being Brand is written by Judith Ellis. I discovered Judith through tompeters.com. She gets political sometimes, so it may not be for everyone, but I find her to be quite interesting. Her “Being Inspired” series is just great… wonderful video clips of speakers and singers that are sure to inspire.

THXTHXTHX is by Leah Dietrich and I’ll let her speak for herself: “Leah Dieterich’s mother always told her to write thank you notes. So she does. To everything. thxthxthx is her daily exercise in gratitude.” Leah can find something special in the smallest things – today she was thankful for short fingernails. She has pretty handwriting, too.

Heidi Bayer writes Brooklyn Allergy Mom. Heidi is a good friend and great mom. Her blog is full of wonderful recipes, resource links, and stories about her life deep in the trenches of the food allergy war. I wish she’d come cook for me.

Brooklyn Bunny isn’t so much a blog as a webcast. Roebling doesn’t say much, but he “transmits soft white soothing signals” that chill me out in the middle of a stressful day. He’s kinda like meditation with fur.

And now, seven things about me. Hmmmm….

  1. I love to laugh, and have been known to snort as well as have Hawiian Punch come out my nose
  2. I’m really lame about pop culture… I don’t watch much tv or see too many movies. So I never know what people are talking about at lunch.
  3. I’m socially awkward and think too much
  4. There was a time when clear was my favorite color. And rainbow.
  5. I really love my family
  6. I suck at math
  7. I’m addicted to reading

How’s that? Those are some things that most people don’t know about me.

Thanks for the award, Melissa! You really made my day!

Well, here’s an essay that will shake up your Ego (click HERE). This is written by Neil deGrasse Tyson; you’ve seen him if you watch NOVA Science Now, but his main gig is as an astrophysicist and he’s the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in NYC. I absolutely adore his outlook and perspective. This essay, written in 2007, really makes me think about the absurdity of the human mind. There are more than six billion humans on Earth; many of them struggle daily to survive while others haven’t worked a day in their lives. Many have no food or clean water while others kill each other over borders, money, and whose God is the better God. When you look at our place in the Universe, you realize how insignificant many of our “problems” are. How much time/effort/resources are wasted on things that only matter because we decide they should matter? Here’s a quote:

As grown-ups, dare we admit to ourselves that we, too, have a collective immaturity of view? Dare we admit that our thoughts and behaviors spring from a belief that the world revolves around us? Apparently not. And the evidence abounds. Part the curtains of society’s racial, ethnic, religious, national, and cultural conflicts, and you find the human ego turning the knobs and pulling the levers.

Now imagine a world in which everyone, but especially people with power and influence, holds an expanded view of our place in the cosmos. With that perspective, our problems would shrink—or never arise at all—and we could celebrate our earthly differences while shunning the behavior of our predecessors who slaughtered each other because of them.

Mr. Tyson is more eloquent and thoughtful than I dare dream being. I will return to read this essay often.

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