We have finished our talks on karma with the question “Is there free will or are we pre-destined based on our karma?” Here is a summary of the discussion and some little notes of my own:
Karma teaches us to evolve. We reap the fruits of our actions with precision but there is still room for Divine grace. Grace cannot be earned or gained, it is God, it is devotion, it is absolute freedom. All spiritual traditions claim that God is love. Grace is purely God’s love, we know that we don’t deserve it but it loosens the bonds of karma. Grace manifests through opportunities for us to grow, not as a result. Evolution has no short cuts so we must grow through experiences.
Today as I was running I was praying to God to help me lose weight, to give me perseverance, determination, and keep me injury free. In that same moment the wind changed and started pushing against me making the run even harder. Then, some huge waves came and I was treading through water. I started laughing, I was really hoping more for fat to melt off me in the middle of the night not for my run to become more challenging! It is a silly example but we learn and grow through experiences, not miracles. We have to put in self effort. A farmer does not know if it will rain but he plows the fields and plants the seeds anyways. Rain is like the grace of God, without it there is no fruit. But, if the farmer does not put in the self effort of planting the seeds then he will definitely not get any fruit, he will just get mud!
The fruits of past actions must be experienced but there is still room for us to change how we react to these experiences. We can work with the laws of nature to remove suffering. It may be your karma to experience disease and you end up with the flu but you have the choice to suffer through it or take medicine to ease the suffering. Fighting karma is an impossible battle but you can learn to react in positive and neutral ways to prevent planting more negative seeds. The say each second there are sixty karmic seeds planted, you better make sure they are good ones! Our karma that plays out in this lifetime is like inheriting a piece of land. The size, location, and climate are pre-determined but through self effort we can make the land into a beautiful garden or a filthy dump. Destiny is your own creation through your thoughts and actions. Make an effort to plant positive seeds!
I just had such a unique moment in my life, a feeling that I have never experienced before. Every night after dinner I have been going for a walk along the beach and it is always beautiful, but tonight was really special. The sand felt like powdered sugar beneath my toes, the waves were huge and crashing along the shore, the breeze was making a beautiful song in the palm trees and the sun was changing the entire horizon into one big rainbow – the clouds along the horizon were a cornflower blue, the sky above them were pinks, peach, and lavender, and the cloud the sun set behind was outlined in a neon coral. All of my senses were peaked. I kept turning around to watch the sunset but as I walked east I could watch the bright and luminescent nearly full moon. It was like I didn’t know which way too look and I felt giddy and happy to be surrounded by so much beauty. I walked out to the breakwater and up the stairs to sit and appreciate it all. As I was sitting there soaking it all in I thought about how at that moment life was perfect and I started to think about how I never wanted this moment to end. I was wishing that I could freeze time and live in that exact moment forever. It was a feeling I had never had and as I was really immersed and absorbed in this moment a gigantic wave came over the entire breakwater and soaked me! I started giggling and laughing as I hobbled down the stairs completely soaked. I kept giggling to myself half the way back to the yoga retreat. Life is hilarious and I just wanted to share this special moment with you! I am sure there was a lesson in all this, I think God was trying to send me a message but I am still so happy and giddy that I can’t think straight. The present moment is a wonderful moment!
“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” ~Brain Tracy
Try keeping a gratitude journal. You can make this as simple or complex as you would like to but here is what I suggest. Each morning you wake up write down five things you are grateful for and each night before you go to bed write down five more. Try not to repeat any! Ever! You can get more in depth on one – like instead of saying “I am grateful for Nancy.” instead list qualities of Nancy that you are grateful for. But each time you make your list try to think of unique things you are grateful for – it could be a specific moment that happened during your day – you had your favorite food, you got to see the sunset, you have a job, you have electricity, you were able to pay your cell phone bill – just because it isn’t a big deal doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be grateful for it. If you did this every day for a year then you would have a list of 3,650 things you are grateful for. Having a rough day? Going through a tough time in life? Start browsing through your list to remind yourself of all you have!
This morning we went on a silent meditational walk along the beach as the sky changed shades of pinks and blues. The water was very still and became a mirror making the sky and the ocean the same color with no horizon in sight. It was a beautiful way to start the day. Kanti Devi brought her guitar and as we were singing hymns and chants the birds lined up on the shore in front of us in silence – not the typical squawking you hear from them. It was as if we were all at one with nature, with God and we were all at peace. Occasionally for our morning lesson we open up one of Swami Sivananda’s books, the Upanishads, to a random page and read a letter he has written somebody in the past. Today’s letter was on page 273.
“You have wasted much of your life. A little time is left. Make the best use of it. You too can realize God and be ever happy.”
“Fear not. The mind is no doubt extremely turbulent. Through repeated attempts you can perfectly subdue it. You are the master of the mind. By constant practice and non-attachment assert your mastery. Feel the power, bliss and splendor that results from Self conquest. Curb the mind ruthlessly. Annihalate desire. When desire dies, the mind is your slave. Become desireless and be victorious. May you rest in your pristine freedom!”
I am glad this message came up today because I have been very introverted these past two days trying to figure out what I am experiencing here. I think I am feeling the non-attachment we keep learning about, it is a step on the spiritual path, but it feels very strange. I am so used to being goal and career-oriented, always wanting to do more and be more and now all of a sudden I am just happy where I am. I have everything I want in life and I have no attachment to any physical location, material things, job, goals, etc. This doesn’t mean I am going to just sit here on the beach and meditate for the rest of my life but I am learning to let go, to be at peace and be happy in the present moment. I don’t have to wait until I achieve a goal in the future – I am blissful just to be me, right here, right now.
“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society will benefit from our peace.” Thich Nhat Hanh
To me, this quote is along the same lines as Ghandi’s famous quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I have heard the quote time and time again but it is just finally beginning to sink in. We always hear that you can’t change somebody else but people aren’t as quick to mention the fact that we have an incredible power to change ourselves. The positive changes we make in ourselves inevitably effect those who surround us. Take the time to truly figure out who you want to be. If you could be described in just one word, what would it be? If you were remembered for one thing, what would it be?
I am in no way telling you to be selfish BUT if we each focused more on ourselves and less on external distractions we would be much better off. The whole world would be much better off. Think about what an amazing world we would live in if we each lived up to our full potential!
Well, what are you waiting for?