“The mind has questions.
The heart has answers.”
~ Eleanor Tara
There are a lot of spiritual teachers who offer answers to life’s mysteries.
Personally, I find it more helpful when they teach me how to ask better questions, so that I can connect with the truth that my heart already knows, deep down.
There are five questions that have been central to my inquiry into the mystery of life that I’ll share with you here. They have shed an immense amount of light into my being and I hope they do the same for you.
Here they are, in a very specific order:
1) What is my karma?
The word “karma” is often misused. After thousands of years of describing of how life works, karma now has a bad reputation as a vengeful device that ensures we can “even the score” with anyone who has wronged us.
However, the law of karma, according to Hinduism and Buddhism, is essentially that every action has an appropriate result, whether in this lifetime or a future one. (For anyone who doesn’t believe in reincarnation, this could apply to your ancestral lineage where the results are carried by your children and grandchildren).
Karma can be both good and bad. We often hear about the bad examples, but what about the good ones?
If we look at Bill Gates’ astrological chart, or even his bank account, it is evident that he had some pretty fixed karma to become a billionaire in this lifetime. And with all the philanthropic work and giving back he does, he might just find himself in the same situation in his next lifetime.
That celebrity who was destined to be rich at a young age and has squandered his fortune on drugs and partying? It could be the end of the road for his good fortune.
This is why when navigating our lives it’s so useful to know what our karma is.
If we have “bad” karma, we probably want to create better karma, and if we have “good” karma, we might want to think about how to cultivate it so that we can continue to enjoy the benefits in future lifetimes—by giving back, for example. (And if we’re a serious yogi, which is relatively rare, we want to eliminate our karma by doing special practices for many hours a day…)
Our personal karma manifests as all the patterning and automated things we do whenever we aren’t meditating, which is why most enlightened beings recommend we spend as much time as possible on our zafu.
Karma gets created by the repeated actions and thoughts we have throughout our lifetimes—for better or for worse. These turn into deeply embedded, subconscious memories and lead to experiences that give us an opportunity to liberate ourselves from our nest of unconscious behaviour, or to reinforce the patterns and create more karma.
Which brings us to our next question…
2) How can I create better karma?
The funny thing about karma is that we can’t really avoid its effects, even if we don’t remember what we did to create it.
That’s why karma is actually predictable through devices like our Vedic Astrological chart, for example. Our birth chart shows the most deeply rooted patterns we are playing out in this lifetime, the ones that probably haven’t changed much, even during the past few decades.
By having a reading that reveals our karma, we can finally see what’s been hidden from us and begin to bring awareness to our most unconscious ways of being.
In some cases, when the pattern is not completely entrenched, we can experience an instant shift just by seeing what we’re doing, which is a miraculously rapid way to transform ourselves.
In the most difficult cases, however, it can take a really long time for these patterns to shift. These patterns took many lifetimes to create and it will likely take many lifetimes to break them down and create new ones that are equally habitual but more constructive.
It’s a good idea to start working on them now, but what if we have thousands of lifetimes of karma to resolve but want nothing more than to be a better person…right now?
Lucky for us, there’s Grace.
3) What is Grace?
When we’re faced with the truth of how we are and how we’ve been, and we can’t see a reasonable way out of experiencing the unpleasant results in this lifetime, and we realize we’re completely screwed, we can either grin and bear it with excruciating patience (which is not easy to do without extreme suffering), try to escape off of the nearest tall bridge (it won’t work because we’ll just be reborn into a situation that brings us a similar experience) or… pray for a miracle (aha!).
Where do miracles come from? Some people might say that they come from Grace, at least that is what I’ve come to understand over time.
And what is Grace? According to many religious traditions, it is God’s gift of salvation. For anyone who doesn’t believe in God, or isn’t into religion’s God, consider Grace an unfathomably generous gift from the Universe that can’t be earned or deserved.
With an endless storehouse of karma, and a funny habit of losing our awareness and having to regain it every time you are reborn, Grace may ultimately be our only way out of an endless cycle.
Somehow, no matter what we’ve done, who we are, or how bad things seem, this magical, saving Grace always presents the possibility that things can get better, soon.
So if we can’t earn Grace, how do we get it?
Jesus once said, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22)
It seems to me that he was talking about how to create miracles using prayer to invoke Grace. (When I worked this out for myself it was like little light bulbs turning on in my head: So that’s how prayer works…)
If we want a miracle, all we need to do is ask for it.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve asked (prayed) for plenty of things I’ve never gotten, which got me wondering… how does it work?
This brings us to the next question…
4) What can I pray for?
When I pray to get a great parking space, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not convinced that all of my prayers for a parking space in downtown San Francisco are being answered.
I know that Jesus said we would get anything we pray for as long as we believe we will get it, including the miracle of free parking, but I think there is an embedded caveat in there, which is that only the prayers that are most aligned with the ones made by our Self with a capital “S” will be answered.
When my egoic lowercase “s” self wants a parking spot so I can go numb out challenging emotions at a movie theatre, it probably isn’t going to happen (in fact, I’ll probably get stuck behind a big mess of construction, circle the block 50 times, and get there too late).
But when I’m en route to do important volunteer work and I’m running late because I spent extra time that morning helping a friend in need, you can bet I’ll hit all the green lights and park right in front of the door…especially if I’ve asked for some Divine intervention.
I use my intuition to differentiate my S/selves and to know which one is making the prayer. It works differently for everyone, but for me it shows up as a feeling in the pit of my stomach. My Self likes to let me know if I’m on track by having me feel good about whatever I’m asking for if it’s aligned with my bigger prayers, and feel very uneasy about it if it’s not, by creating uncomfortable tummy pangs that are impossible to ignore.
I can’t say for sure how this all works—for instance, if there is a law of karma, how on earth can a prayer change it?
My theory is that big prayers travel outside of time and space and therefore outside of the laws of karma. When we invoke these prayers by aligning with our intention and humbly begging for them to manifest, a more powerful, truer force begins to guide our life instead of karma…and that’s Grace.
Of course, it’s not possible to prove any of what I’m sharing here—it’s all a mystery. Only each individual can know the power of Grace and prayer by seeing for themselves if it truly works.
That’s why I highly recommending testing it out, to experience the gift of having faith.
5) Why have faith?
Simply put, faith means “to trust completely.” So what are we trusting when we have faith?
We could trust the Law of Karma… but somehow this does not inspire feelings of loving devotion in me…
We could elevate that trust in karmic cause-and-effect to mean that there is a higher order and some sort of magic amid the apparent chaos… which I find somewhat more inspiring.
Or we could trust that Grace will deliver miracles whenever they are aligned for us and carry us to the fulfillment of the most high, Divine purpose of our soul… Get me to the nearest place of worship! I’m ready to sing!
Through my own trial and error, I’ve learned that faith can be cultivated in at least two ways:
1) Through experience. Once we witness something repeatedly, we will begin to trust that it exists. It only takes a couple of miracles before we can’t help but have faith in the power of Grace.
2) By realizing that the other option sucks. How do we feel when we don’t trust a situation (or life in general?) Do we feel awesome? Empowered? Inspired? No. We feel a false sense of control and a sinking feeling of doom. (I have spent plenty of time with this option and know it well).
How about when we approach something with full trust? Do we ever regret that? Even if something didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, isn’t our experience a zillion times better because we had faith that the outcome was for the best?
I have found balance in a combination of both methods—I trust Grace just because I can and it feels better, but then I back that up by looking for evidence of miracles, and I start to notice them everywhere.
I’ve found that as I ask myself these five questions, they birth all sorts of other little questions and soon I discover that I know even less than before I started!
These questions don’t lead us to more intellectual knowledge but they may have a huge impact on that deep sense of knowing in our hearts.
And that will definitely rock our spiritual world.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Eleanor Tara
Editor: Emily Bartran