Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Recently, I taught class on the Bhagavad Gita to a new group of Yoga Teacher Trainees. at Anchorage Yoga and Cycle. These were some of the thoughts I held as we wandered through this epic tale together.
What do you think of?
Having something good happen because you did something positive at some point earlier in your life or maybe the opposite you are having a bad experience because of some former act?
Caste systems? Social injustices brought about from metaphysical causes?
Reincarnation? Past lives?
How about working or volunteering for free class at the local yoga studio?
These are all pretty unsatisfying answers and rather base in their understanding.
Karma is a pretty lofty word and I am sure some scholar in an ivory tower could tell us all about the etymology, ontology and massive footnote knowledge but that is probably unsatisfying too.
My only insight into this topic is what I personally experience. Isn't our experience ultimately the one that informs us as to how we see and interact with the world. I would dare say that experience is always the ultimate authority regardless of what experts, teachers and the like tell us.
Karma? What is it?
Having a bad day because you were a jerk the day before?
Something you do at a local studio or food co-op in exchange for classes or discounts?
Ok, scholars I am sorry but here is my lay person yoga teacher definition-action and the fruits of these actions, good, bad and whatever.
These actions are certainly influenced by our origins, propensities and contexts but there is always a result of what we do. It seems that karma isn't good or bad, it's just the perpetual wheel of actions. One thing will roll into another. I think it can make one feel pretty helpless after a time and lock one into a constant guessing and evaluating of what one has been done, what one is doing and what one might do in this attempt to control the roll of karma.This seems maddening and nothing more than a circus tricks of a clown with a set of spinning plates, he gets them started then whirls around from one plate to another while riding a unicycle in an attempt to manage them, trying to keep them all aloft and moving in harmony. This manner of living will never get anywhere and seem rather unproductive in the end.
How to step off this wheel? Once we figure out that then karma becomes the tool to push us towards our path instead of making us feel trapped by actions.
When I read the Bhagavad Gita and the sections on karma, it certainly suggests on a literal level that each one of us belongs to a chain of being with actions rolling out in our lives many of which pours down to us from previous events in this life and beyond. But on a deeper level it suggests a more meaningful experience of karma, one of teacher and liberator.
It that when we approach an action or something that we have to do, we just have to move forward into it with the best intention and faithfully do what is asked by the context. But here is the kicker, we are asked to act without any expectation that what we are doing is good or bad,we focus in the task and follow it through. Through this saying yes and being in the moment of this act we start to step off the wheel of maddening desire for things to work out in any sort of way.
This may seem simple and rather naive. Just do what lies before us? Yes, exactly, do what is before you, let go of the expectation. Start this then the magic will begin to happen.
What is the magic of this path? We start to serve the the way things are flowing and this grants perspective, one above the immediate and into the skill of what we are doing. We are drawn into the the now, focusing on what we doing and in this process stepping away from all else. We begin to lose ourselves or maybe it's better t say we start to find ourselves free of the fretting about before and after and into the now of skill building. This skill it takes to complete a task becomes the guiding principle from this point on. We leave the urgency and reactive nature of doing and start to move into the action we are performing instead of pondering its meaning, it become the meaning.
Through this we go deeper into the act, we start to see our own skill and awaken to the path of our destiny. Think of somebody who is involved in a job where he or she may or may not be passionate about. If one focuses on the fact that this isn't something of personal interest then it becomes a shift of doing this or that in order to get a paycheck, make the day go by without problems and maybe even please the boss. This what most of us are wrapped up in when we go to work or start a project. Life is like that to a certain extant.
Stepping back from the emotion of like/dislike and of the expectation for it to provide opens the door. If one just does the task regardless of what one thinks about it and starts to lose oneself in task then the task becomes the meaning. It's true! One loses the timeline of desires and is just in the moment of being. One steps off the timeline of what happened, what will come of it and so on. The moment becomes complete and in this performance of the here and now there is no consequence of anything just free uninhibited action.
We get to see into our own skill and even more importantly experience that realm of just being or what what some may call "being in the zone". Even if what we are doing at a particular job, isn't our life's goal, still, we get glimpse into a higher self, one of achievement and resilience in the face of challenges as long as we decide to make an effort to do move forward. Along the way, we will end up doing things we never imagined but most of all get a glimpse of what we really want to do, that thing that places us in the zone more often than naught. Some call this bliss, a vocation, life's purpose, the way, ad infinitum...let's call it...
Karma when listened to and followed leads to one's dharma and when this is recognized one is free to move into a life where karma is left behind...
...and that's another topic.