January 26, 2011

How to Measure a Karmic Cup. ~ Janice Armstrong

“Karma’s a Bitch (Sometimes)”

Is your cup half full or half empty? That is the question. What is your “cup,” anyway? I have considered that it is the seat of your awareness, or your consciousness. We’ll call this your “yoga cup.” So, some might think that yogis are just going around all “blissed out,” not paying attention to what is going on around them. There might be a war or famine, and they just say: “it is all happening for a reason. That person is living out his karmic cycle and might be starving because of something that happened in a past life” while striking an impressive pose of some sort.  So, is it “all good” then? Is this ignoring or denying reality? Are yogis in a state of denial and this is the cause for all of their “bliss?”

The reason why I bring this up in the first place is that I was considering if my recent indoctrination into yoga philosophy was making me more of a pessimist or optimist. I have been both (in varying degrees) throughout my existence. It seems like my ego craves duality. It is either one or the other, right? You are either always seeing life in a positive light or a negative light, hence the saying: “your cup is half empty…or half full.” Now I (my larger, more actualized self— not my puny, petty ego) realize that my cup is neither empty nor full, and this is the best place to be right now.

I came to this conclusion after thinking about karma more and more. Everyone always says that they might have “good” or “bad” karma, but this isn’t necessarily accurate. Karma isn’t good or bad; it is just neutral. It is cause and effect. So, yes, a simplified version might be: what goes around comes around, but if you set out to make your karma “good” you are still acting, and therefore, there is still that cause and effect.  It will still come back to you in some form later on in life (or in a future life). So, karma is the result or the after-effect.  Karma is like the skin that is shed from a molting snake, the peel of the banana or the shell of a pistachio. In order to get that end result, one must do or act to peel it off, but there is always something left behind that must be processed, destroyed or recycled.  The self-actualized person acts in a way that does not lead to a karmic effect; therefore, the cycle is broken and you are truly free.

So, everything –good or bad— happens for a reason, and this could be a karmic cycle that goes back hundreds of lifetimes. In essence, if something essentially “negative” happens, this is because of karma. Therefore, is it all good? Or is it all bad? I guess it is neither. Yoga has made me (blissfully) neutral. If your cup is half full, it could still potentially be empty. If it is half empty, it could still become empty (or even full, which will inevitably lead to emptiness). So, the best place to be at any given time is to have a cup that is neither empty nor full.  I guess my cup just “is.”

–This is dedicated to Aaron Goldberg & Jeff Martens of InnerVision Yoga, for helping me realize my potential on and off the mat.

Janice Armstrong has been practicing yoga for seven years and is currently finishing her 200 hour teaching training certification at Inner Vision Yoga in Tempe, Arizona. She received her MFA in Creative Writing in July of 2010 and teaches writing and composition at several online universities. In particular, she is interested in the unique marriage of yoga and creative writing, especially journaling.

She lives in the Phoenix area with her husband, 3-year-old daughter and four cats. When she is not teaching or practicing yoga, she enjoys cooking vegetarian meals that will also impress her carnivorous husband, reading, writing (especially reading and writing about yoga) and just being in the present moment.

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