Practical Doing

Practical Doing

There is a tendency in spiritual circles to blame things on karma. “It didn’t work out because of my karma.” Or “My karma made this a bad experience.”

But this understanding is poor. Karma means action. While action has consequences, we can’t blame everything on that.

For example, we can’t expect waiting for something to happen will cause action to take place. If we want results, we have to act.

As a friend recently commented, until you’ve done everything you can, you can’t blame lack of results on karma. It’s in God’s hands only after you’ve done all you can. If you do nothing, you’ll get no results. A little will bring little result.

Sometimes we have difficult experiences that take time to process. If we don’t have the tools or understanding to support that processing, we may just suppress it. As a culture, we typically grow up surrounded by people modeling poor energy hygiene. We’re taught to “put a lid on it.” But that takes a surprising amount of energy to maintain.

These unresolved experiences create a background filter for our present experiences. Anything that comes up that unconsciously reminds us of what is suppressed will cause reactivity. It’s just a simple protective response to avoid pain.

The result is that many experiences have more to do with how we’re reacting to the past than what is happening now. For example, we’re driving in traffic and someone makes an unexpected move. If we’re neutral, we may react momentarily but then the charge will resolve. But if there’s some unresolved history, then the unexpected will act as a trigger. Perhaps anger or fear will surge up, then the control mechanism, blame will fly, and more energy will be needed to suppress everything later.

This reminds me of the old joke – if you want to see how enlightened you are, spend a week with your parents. Our family relationships are the oldest and sometimes the most fraught.

Reactivity is a natural protective mechanism. Our sensory data is automatically first compared to prior experiences unconsciously so we can react quickly to danger. It only becomes conscious after past associations are made and the experience has been charged. But if we’ve let the backlog build, this becomes a detriment to quality of life. The stress response isn’t able to complete. We end up sitting on reactivity just under the surface. Our unresolved past comes to dominate our experience more than what is going on in front of us.

It’s a little like we keep tossing garbage into the bag but stopped taking the trash out. After a while, things can get smelly and disgusting energetically.

All of this points to a key advantage of an established awakening (Self Realization). When we lose our attachment to action and its results, life can continue to unfold without us being so grumpy about it. It becomes easier to wind down the unresolved past although we usually have to tackle some of that to become clear enough to awaken.

Much of our backlog is roasted in awakening so we only have to deal with the “sprouted seeds” that remain. Without attachment, we also wind down the creation of new karma. In time, our life gets simpler and less drama arises.

So yes, there’s a direct relationship between these unresolved experiences and karma. As the Bhagavad Gita tells us, we are responsible for action alone, never over its fruits. Therefore, focus on doing your best and skip the blame and expectations. Clean house for the best quality of life.

Whatever your stage of development, your human life is lived in the world of karma so it’s useful to learn to be effective.


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    1. Thanks, Theresa.
      I write on this topic periodically but life brings it round and it’s worth exploring again.

      The principles of skill in action are simple but are easily obscured in the complexities of day to day life. 🙂

  1. K

    Thank you for writing this. It is amazing how much of an influence this iceberg of prior experience we come out with when we enter young adulthood. I am talking of myself because that is all I know. Grew up in a tough crucible surrounded by poorly modeled emotional hygiene. But now as a middle aged adult looking back into my 20’s, I see the iceberg that influenced my choices and reactions. Going back, I would have been different but I did not have the cognitive capacity (clear thinking) and emotional maturity to do different. Pity that I did not have the clarity and EQ I have now. Had plenty IQ not enough EQ.

    1. Yes, it’s true for most of us with variations in emphasis. It’s good progress that you’re seeing it. Thats a key step. Just be careful not to get into second-guessing, especially about the past. Do your best with what is here now.

    1. K

      One thing I have found useful is when I deal with my parents (dad in the 80’s, mom nearly there), is to look at them as old people rather than as parents executing an age old pattern of fulfilling their needs by cannibalizing their kids.

      1. (laughs) Yes, taking a step back is useful. Then it’s not so personal.
        It helps if we develop an adult relationship with our parents earlier but they’re not always willing. And seniors can be very much in denial about their capacities. A challenging time of life for the ego.

  2. K

    One type of prayer i have not found written about is that of adoration. One is not asking or accepting but just marveling at what is or adoring. Isnt that prayer too. Many of the hindu stotras lend themselves to this mode. Even naming (as in the 1000 names) is not necessarily asking just describing.

    1. I’d call that a prayer of devotion. It’s related to the second type of prayer I mention in the above link but rather than a prayer of allowing and surrender, it’s a prayer of gratitude and adoration. These are closely related.

      However, people don’t often frame devotion as “prayer.” The thousand names are not really “describing”, they’re a form of devotion that amplifies flow.

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