Monday, July 27, 2009

The Boomerang and the Ripple Effect

People talk a lot about karma. And when they talk about karma, often they use the concept in a way that could be more complete.

Most times, when you hear the word karma, the person is talking about results that flow back to you from an action you’re taking, something you’re saying or even a thought you’re having. Certainly, there’s plenty of truth to this. If you consistently put out negative actions or messages to the universe, there is a very good chance that negative results will flow to you. If you consistently put out positive messages or actions, there’s an excellent chance positive results will return. Often they return to you instantly.

You can compare this observable fact to the idea that there’s a perfect accounting system at work in the universe, rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. It’s as if you throw a giant boomerang, then it circles around, comes back and hits you with the exact type of energy you sent out, often multiplied in force.

It would be wonderful if this were always true. But the boomerang doesn’t always find its mark. The accounting system is somewhat flawed. I’m sure we can all think of people who have hurt others, either in our own lives or in history, who somehow escaped the payback they seem to have richly deserved.

So what’s another way to think about karma that might be more complete and more useful?

Karma is like the ripples on a lake, after you throw in a stone. The results of your actions ripple out in every direction, through time and space. Some of those ripples come back to you on the shore. But many of them radiate away from you, affecting people and events for a long time afterwards.

As a result, we have immense power, in our daily lives, to create positive ripples that radiate outwards, sparking even more positive ripples. We can be good karma machines.

A kind word, a moment of deep listening and empathy, some little generosity, all of these things are good karma. Indeed, they are Messages of Love. If we’re mindful, if we stop, get clear and Have a Moment, we see that opportunities to send these Messages arise all the time. It costs us nothing (or almost nothing), but it can make another person’s day. And the person who gets a Message of Love from us, might well turn around and send one to someone else.

Perhaps more powerfully, our good karma sets an example for others to follow. People (especially our children) witness our actions. Our generosity sends them a message that it is good to give, that we live in abundance, that there is plenty for everybody. Our willingness to listen tells them that people are important. Our good deeds show them that there is a wider world we must care for.

At first blush, these might seem like small things, but small things can and do become big things. Do these types of actions create good results for us? You bet they do. But they do even more – they help create the kind of world we want to live in.

The ripples of karma, good or bad, have a way of becoming gigantic waves.

Monday, July 20, 2009

When Cats Dream

If we aren’t careful, we can spend much of our lives on automatic pilot, mechanically flitting from this problem to that one, from bills to pay to distractions on television, from problems at work to problems at home, from bad memories of the past to chronic worry about the future. In this way, we can easily sleepwalk through our time here, day after day, overlooking the 800-pound gorilla in the room with us.

What are we overlooking? The simple, astonishing fact is that we are here, alive, together, at this moment. Our very existence is amazing.

Who are we? How did we come to be here, on a tiny planet, in the midst of an unimaginably vast universe? If we stop, and Have a Moment, we see that we are surrounded on all sides, and at all times, by mystery and enchantment. Look into the eyes of your lover, your child, the person who rings up your purchases, the person you hate, the person whose feelings you hurt, and notice how incredible this being is. They, and we, are miracles.

And it doesn’t stop there. The lavish display of stars across the night sky, the millions of blades of grass in a wide-open field, the endless ocean waves pounding the shoreline, and the countless living things in that ocean – all miracles.

Yesterday I watched a cat I know while he was sleeping. He is nine years old, a full-grown adult, and somewhat surly as cats go. He will scratch you. While sleeping, he began to dream. While dreaming, he started making a rhythmic movement with his paws, and he began to suck and then lick with his tongue. For several moments, he looked like nothing more or less than a kitten, suckling at his mother’s nipple.

A cat dreaming of his mother – the magic is everywhere.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Everyday Gifts

I walked down to the road today to pick up the mail.

The mail is the most mundane thing in the world. And the mail can pull the wool over your eyes. There are bills in the mail. Bank statements. Colorful advertisements. All sorts of things that seem to demand your attention now. All sorts of things that can spark anxiety, that can create envy or longing, that can pull you in ten different directions at once.

The mail is seductive. It can make you forget what's really happening here. It can make a Fool out of you.

But on the return trip from getting the mail, I spotted two wild turkeys almost hidden back in the woods, shepherding a brood of six or eight baby turkeys. They were gently picking their way through the brush near a small pond formed by the recent rains. I stopped, captivated by the beauty of what I was witnessing. Then the two adults became aware of my presence, and quickly moved to shield the babies from my view.

These are not deep woods by my home. This is old farmland and civilization is close by. But the music still plays and Nature does her dance, even when we're in the shadow of big city skyscrapers.

The turkeys brought the Message. They were a small, momentary gift to me from a loving universe. Of course, the turkeys had their own agenda - to eat, to protect their young, to procreate, to survive. These things are beautiful and necessary. But make no mistake: the universe, Love, Unity, was shaking me and saying, "Look, man! Look here. This is it. This is what it's all about."

We've talked before about Having Moments? This is an example of what I mean when I say to Have Moments.