Karma and Growth

Take a simple behavioral pattern such as starting something before we finish what we are currently doing. Observe where that pattern of behavior occurs in our life. In our work, we start a new project before we finish the old one. In eating, we take a bite of our sandwich before we finish swallowing the food already in our mouth. In conversations, we start into a new sentence before we have completed our thought.

Once in place, such patterns permeate our lives. We repeat the same dynamic over and over again. We are complete automatons. We may appear to be as graceful and delicate as a fern, but it’s pattern, all the way down.

The work of meditation is twofold. Through mindfulness, we are able to see these patterns and how automatic and pervasive they are. Through insight, we can see into a pattern, see the form that generates it, and release our identification with the form. (These last points will be topics of future articles.) When the identification is released, the form disintegrates and the corresponding pattern of behavior falls away.

All of our actions, including the stories we tell ourselves, the ways we interact with other people, or the little things we do in private (leaving dirty dishes in the sink until the morning), have the potential to grow into a pattern. As we repeat the same action, a pervasive pattern of behavior takes shape, like our fern-leaf. The essential dynamic of the original action begins to operate in other areas of our life and comes to permeate our whole personality.

Hence the importance of mindfulness. Since everything we do becomes part of our personality and shapes our world of experience, as I described in the last newsletter, we need to be aware of what we are doing in every moment. Every action can have very significant consequences for us. For me, this principle is the essence of the teachings of karma: every action shapes our personality and our experience of the world.

The Karma Series: What Is Karma? | Karma and Growth | Karma Doesn’t Explain Anything


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