What is your understanding of Karma? Well until today, my understanding was that it was always just a b!+ch. Heck, if bumper stickers told me so, it must be true! Right? Well, on a serious note, I understood that positive and negative energy was somehow involved. Primarily I thought that if I was to harm another living being, (to my sister-in-law’s dismay, this includes spiders and centipedes), bad karma would be knocking at my door. I interpreted it as a law of the universe that always came true to fruition, but just like a pesky mother-in-law, you never really knew when the results of your karma would show up. Furthermore, I believed that the only thing I could do with karma was to pray that it would simply ‘knock’ at my door, and not come barging in.

Today I learned that karma goes much deeper than my initial understanding. Karma is a spiritual law of the universe, but more specifically, it is the result of a motivation of the mind. It refers to a universal state of cause and effect. Simply put, virtuous motivations will always lead to happiness, while non-virtuous motivations will lead to suffering. And because every motivation begins in our own individual minds, only we dictate our own karma. For example: If I were to grab a knife right now, depending on my motivation to use that knife, I could cause good karma or bad karma. If I were a surgeon, and that knife was intended to help someone, well that would produce good karma. But if I were to use that knife to rob someone, that would obviously create bad karma.

On a practical level, we can use the cause and effect of karma (mental motivations) to mindfully move ourselves away from a negative karmic cycle like depression. For example, over the years, when I was depressed, I used the negative emotions I felt to discourage myself, i.e. my karma was continuously negative. This negativity only created more negative karma, and therefore the darkness I felt got worse and worse. I never thought to say to myself, “I had better change my mental motivation to a positive one so that my negative thoughts don’t keep me in a cycle of bad karma and depression”. If I had truly understood what karma was back then, I would have thought to use any negative emotions during my depression to encourage me to change my mental motivations to positive ones. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do when you are in an intense stage of depression, but rather than wait in misery for someone or something else to change my mood… if I had known that only my mind can create positive karma, I would have possibly attempted to see the positivity of life with a little bit more gusto.

Another aspect of karma is that it’s like a seed we plant (either a good seed or a bad seed) that requires the right conditions for it to sprout. And contrary to our belief that another person’s mental motivation can create our seed’s sprouting conditions, is false. Only we can cause either the good seed, or the bad seed to sprout. If we perceive a person as being mean to us, and we lash out at them, we might say that they caused us to create negative karma, that they watered the negative seed. But that’s not so! Only our own personal perception of any person, place or thing can determine which seed gets watered. I may perceive a person as mean and allow that person to cause me suffering. But you may think that the exact same person is wonderful, and cause you to be happy; it’s all in the eye (perception) of the beholder. If we practice being more gentle with our perception of people, we can avoid causing ourselves undue negative karma. This isn’t to say that we should allow people to be mean to us, we are still very much entitled to create healthy boundaries. But if we initially perceive a person with a lighter heart, we are more likely to create positive karma for ourselves.

Whether you believe in karma or not, is entirely up to you. This is simply food for thought. But why not throw the idea around a bit? Maybe take peek through the peep hole for the first time, and see which kind of karma is on the other side of your door, and remember it’s up to you as to which type of karma you let in.