March 28, 2011

Karma is Age-Appropriate.

By the time I turned 25 and started truly delving into life as a meditating, contorting, sweating, luon-wearing, mala bead holding yogini, I had conquered many of my life fears.

I was no longer afraid of my parents, I did not fear that my boyfriend – now my fiancé – would dump me. I knew I’d perform at work and do well in my career. I was no longer fearful of getting fat, growing old or, eventually, even dying. Well, okay, I was a little afraid of this last one.

Even though I had transformed my life and begun living healthy, active, productive and devoted to a better world, there was still this one problem: God knew. He knew I hadn’t always lived this way. He knew I stole a Power Rangers book from my school book fair in fifth grade. He knew I lied about taking my cousin’s Tomagotchi (remember those?). He knew I was the one who broke the dryer door by sitting on it in Kindergarten, even though I denied it vehemently to my parents. He knew I took a little bit of vodka, a little bit of gin, and a little bit of scotch from each of my parent’s bottles of booze when they were out of town. He knew I also filled them back up with water. He knew I took ADHD medication to perform better on college finals. He knew I got drunk and drove. He knew I harbored hatred for those I loved most.

God knew it all. And this was a problem.

It was a problem because, the more I believed living the yogic lifestyle could save me, the more I also believed in that other yogic principle, the one that makes living the yogic lifestyle all the more important: Karma. As I read about ultimate karma, about people who would spend lifetime after lifetime releasing their past karma until they could eventually be set free, the more I wondered just what God was thinking about me. Did a few sun salutations and a promise to be impeccable with my word really overcome 25 years of reckless living?

The thought began to eat away at me. What would my children’s lives be like if I could not clear my karma before they were born? What unknown twists lie ahead of me because of that damn Power Rangers book? If I gave up every penny today and retreated to an ashram in the Himalayas, swearing to never harm another ever again, could I really make it up to the world?

Gratefully borrowed from the blog of Danielita Paz

That’s when I got some of the most relieving advice I had ever received: karma is age-appropriate. The universe does not hold us captive for the evils of our childhood. All children are still learning their moral compass. Some get there early. For some, it takes much longer. Some continue to screw up, not realizing how their actions will affect the world, well into their twenties. Eventually, though, when they do begin to understand the role of karma – that what you put into this world is spread and shared for thousands of years to come – that is when their karmic journey truly begins.

All this time I was asking God to forgive me for putting water in the vodka bottle, He was shouting back, “Child, I have forgiven you.” The breakthrough came when I also forgave myself. As don Miguel Ruiz says in The Four Agreements, “True justice is paying only once for each mistake … In your whole life, nobody has ever abused you more than you have abused yourself.” I had paid, more than once actually, and my karma was expelled. It was I who was abusing myself, not karma coming back to get me, and it was time I stopped.

This was the key to moving forward in my practice. This was when I realized getting on the mat didn’t have to be about tears for the past, struggles with how my soul would be received and concerns over whether my teacher would be able to see my scars. It was about joy. Pure, blissful, trance-dance on the mat joy. I stopped worrying about saving my own soul and realized it was time to get out and save others. Coincidentally, the time I stopped worrying about my karma was the time I did the most to improve it. Or maybe that is not coincidental. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be:

Though the unwise cling to their actions, watching for results, the wise are free of attachments, and act for the well-being of the whole world. {Bhagavad Gita 3.25}

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