Buddhism is a philosophy that really resonates with me. For many, the Buddhist notion of Karma feels threatening and fear provoking. We’ve all heard the saying, “Karma’s a bitch!!!” For me, Karma is actually very comforting. I don’t see it as the universe’s punishment for wrongdoing. I see it as more of a sacred contract we all have with the universe. The universe promises to keep providing us opportunities to learn whatever it is we need in order to live more fully and wholly. These opportunities are not always welcomed as they are not always pleasant. However, I believe they are the universe’s way of saying, “Trust me to give you what you need, and I will trust you to learn what you need, regardless of how long it takes.”

Ok, that is the Buddhist in me speaking. Now the psychologist in me has another more practical take on Karma. So, if we are having a problem with something, every time that something presents itself, we are going to notice it, and we are going to struggle with it. Until we learn how to respond differently, it will continue to be a problem simply because we are responding to it as a problem. If we don’t respond to it as a problem, we likely won’t even notice when it presents itself. It’s like it will cease to exist for us. Let me give you an example:

Many years ago, I worked with a woman who was afraid of becoming contaminated by blood. She was terrified of used band aids and insisted that she saw them all over the place. I thought she needed to get her eyes checked because I had never seen a single used band aid just lying around. As part of her treatment to expose her to used band aids, I suggested we take a walk around outside on the sidewalk, in parking lots, etc. to search for used band aids. I honestly did not think we would come across any and was convinced I would just have to plant them around before her next session. Well, was I wrong!!! Low and behold, when you are actually looking for used band aids (as she was… all the time), you notice them…all over the place. Because I didn’t have a problem with used band aides, I did not notice them. They ceased to even exist for me. I believe, from a more practical perspective, this is how Karma works.

Here’s another example from my own personal experience:

I struggle with getting stuck behind slow drivers when I am in a rush, which is most of the time. As a result, the universe keeps providing me with opportunities to get better at this by repeatedly putting slow drivers in front of me. Or perhaps, it is because being behind a slow driver is something I always notice and struggle with, it is that much more apparent to me. Who knows? Either way, we will land at the same conclusion, which is that I need to find a new way of dealing with slow drivers to get rid of this so-called problem. Recently, I have been getting stuck behind soooo many slow drivers that it has actually become noticeable to others. My family truly thinks I am cursed. I used to get stuck behind every school bus. One would think, with COVID, my situation would have improved. Nope, now it’s garbage trucks…seriously. And, if it is a car that I am stuck behind, it is not going just a little slow…I’m talking snail’s pace, or the car might even just stop dead in the middle of the road for no apparent reason (but to tick me off)…I kid you not. I have chosen to look at this as a sign that the universe really believes in me to get better at this. As a result, I have been challenging myself when this happens by trying to just shake my head and laugh, appreciate that the universe is trusting me, and resist catastrophizing about being late or whatever else. As if the universe wants to reinforce my efforts (I have witnesses to this), not just once but twice, the car in front of me actually sped up… as if on cue. Possibly just a coincidence. Either way, it is getting me to where I need to be so that this is not a problem (or, at least, not as big of a problem) for me.

The notion of Karma can provide an immense sense of comfort if you trust in it along with your own ability to learn from whatever is thrown at you. When I am going through something difficult, I lean in and try to trust that it has some deeper purpose that will reveal itself in time, as long as I am open to learning and growing. I love the quote, “Remember growing might feel like breaking at first.” It often does. We are all beautiful mosaics.

I have also noticed that the less I try to overcontrol whatever is happening or not happening in my life and accept what is meant to be will be, the smoother things tend to go. I try really hard to only focus on what I can personally control and leave the rest up to the universe.

If I am angry or infuriated by something someone has done, Karma again provides a source of comfort for me. I have little tolerance for people who are great at talking the talk but not walking the walk, people who do not take personal responsibility or hold themselves accountable for reprehensible and harmful actions or, worse yet, convince themselves that their actions are somehow justified or ok. I fully believe in people’s ability to change, but when someone is not willing or interested in even acknowledging his/her mistake, there is no possibility of learning from that mistake, which makes it much more likely to reoccur. When this is the case, the struggle for me comes with letting go. I want justice, and I want it right now on a big screen right in front of me. The problem is no one is showing up with popcorn. In fact, no one is showing up at all. It is up to me alone to do the work of letting go…and to trust the universe. This is still a work in progress (and likely always will be), but I try to trust that we are all on our own journey of learning, and everyone will be given the opportunities they need to learn and grow… over and over again as needed. I trust that, just as it is between the universe and me, it is also between the universe and you.