This blog relates some of the depth of the concept of karma. It’s given as a dialogue between a student and an instructor, just to be a bit different! I hope you find it useful.
Student: I really like Yoga, but I can never really progress past a certain point
Instructor: Why not?
Student: Well, I’m quite determined for a few weeks and I practice quite well. It really makes a difference: I feel better, and more mobile. But then I get bored, and it all falls away.
Instructor: Then what happens?
Student: Later on – sometimes even a couple of years later – I’m feeling stressed and stiff and I realise I should’ve kept going. I get my determination back, and start again. But then I lose interest again, and the cycle repeats.
Instructor: Unfortunately, it sometimes has to be like this. If you keep going, then one time – eventually – you’ll spot yourself getting bored. That time, you’ll know what’s coming and you won’t stop.
Student: Then what’ll happen?
Instructor: Progress. Progress will happen. There’s no way to know what it’ll be – it depends on your body and what you’ve been practicing. But, whatever can happen next, now will.
Student: Right, I see. What you give is what you get; I see that. Isn’t that karma?
Instructor: It is karma, but it’s more subtle than that. There are lots of possibilities inside you waiting to happen. But like a seed needs air, water, earth and sunlight, these possibilities need the their own specific circumstances to become actual events. The desire to practice inside you is the possibility, the seed. The practice environment – either sustained or faltering – provides the surrounding circumstances. If a plant can send a shoot up, then it’ll grow a leaf.
Student: I can understand that. If I give a little more and make a few sacrifices, then there’s bound to be a reward.
Instructor: Whoa! Who are you sacrificing to, and do they even want what’s on offer? Anyway, sacrificing doesn’t have to mean going without something; that’s creating scarcity and hardship. Sacrificing – making sacred – is gifting. Giving a gift comes from a place of love. It creates fullness.
Student: But if I’m making myself practice, isn’t that the same as making a sacrifice for my Yoga?
Instructor: Hey, it’s important to be practicing something you actually like. But if you do like it, then right now you’re making yourself repeat a cycle of dissatisfaction. A bit of Yoga, then boredom, then stopping, only to wish you’d carried on. If you can catch yourself getting bored, then carrying on isn’t a hardship to endure. It’s the gift you give to your future self.
Student: It doesn’t feel like that! It feels like an inconvenience, or hard work, especially if I’m tired or busy with other things.
Instructor: Gifting comes from a place of love, and it can be hard to find love for ourselves. There will be 101 reasons to withhold the gift when we’re living in scarcity, when everything is a sacrifice. That’s kind of seeing everything in life as a win or lose thing. Love can’t really be framed as a win or lose thing – that’s why it’s a gift.
Student: Yeah, that sounds great, but I still am incredibly busy trying to juggle work, family and all the rest of it.
Instructor: The thing is that love isn’t blind. Love transcends reason; what I’m saying is, love doesn’t always make sense. That’s why we can love people even if they’re downright awkward and difficult. And that’s why you can get on your mat, even when life’s crazy and there’s something else that you should be doing. It doesn’t have to make sense for Yoga to be allowed.
Student: So if I do practice, does that mean I’ll start to find love in myself?
Instructor: Love is permanent, regardless of circumstances. A real love really does last forever. It’s there in you already. You might be deliberately avoiding it by sticking with the stop-start cycle.
Student: Then this is like me manifesting something I want? Because I’m making something good happen for myself.
Instructor: Good or bad remains to be seen. But despite what we think, whatever happens next in our lives is never planned, no matter how meticulously we try to line things up. And it isn’t reward from a benevolent God or retribution from an angry God either. What happens next is always evolution. Think of the seed example – all futures are within you already. How you establish your world will decide which can happen.
Student: What drives evolution?
Instructor: Love, of course! Say you want something good to happen, but it all goes wrong and the whole situation turns sour. What’s going to get you back out there and trying again? Love of a better day ahead.
This blog was prepared by Ed Wood, who works at the Yogafurie Hot Yoga studio in Bristol.
Ed is also a lead instructor for the Yogafurie Teacher Training Academy, offering 200 Hours Yoga Teacher Training in Bristol and more.