Yesterday I was reading a book about Buddhism, as I often do these days, and gained a new insight into karma. I’ve read this particular book a few times before, but never understood the real meaning of karma. Maybe I am finally ‘getting it’, or maybe I am beginning to listen in a new way. Usually when I think of karma and try to apply it in my life, I get stuck in a duality of right and wrong, good and bad. I suppose that comes from my Christian past, trying to relate karma to heaven and hell. If I do good things, I receive good things; if I do bad things, I will receive bad things, even in the afterlife. Sounds like heaven and hell.

Karma is reaction. For every action there is a reaction. Karma does not have to be good or bad, it just is. If I’m being careless and drop my glass on the hard floor, it will break. If I’m lazy and ignore my need to do laundry, I will have no clean clothes to wear. That is karma, action and reaction. There are no long term consequences other than the loss of a glass and dirty socks.

Addiction and poor life choices are karma as well. If I continually eat processed, high sugar, high fat foods, I will feel like crap and gain weight. That is karma. I won’t gain weight immediately, but the weight gain will be a consequence, a reaction, to my action of eating poorly. Smoking addiction is karma too, with immediate and long term reactions. When I choose to smoke a cigarette, my clothes stink, my hands stink, my breath stinks, I pollute the air, and I blow a lot of money. These are the immediate reactions. The long term reactions to smoking include yellow teeth, lung disease, heart disease, and emphysema.

Hopefully this insight into karma will help me to be mindful of my actions every day. If I can learn to think before I act, maybe I can save myself from immediate and long term sufferings and pain. But I can also be mindful of my actions in a positive way. If I smile at a stranger, perhaps they will smile back. If I hold the door for someone, maybe someone will hold the door for me. If I just practice being kind and courteous in my actions and dealings with others, hopefully karma will be kind and courteous to me.

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