“If you’re really a mean person, you’re going to come back as a fly and eat poop.” –Kurt Cobain
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to respect and appreciate the law of karma. It’s kind of like confronting an armed man in a dark alley and saying, “No, I’m not going to give you my wallet in exchange for my life.” Reasonable people just don’t mess with that shit.
Unfortunately, it appears there are more than a few less than reasonable sorts out there who are willing to sacrifice their lives (or at least the quality of their lives) for the sake of hanging onto that wallet.
History and popular culture are filled with folks who didn’t believe the karma bus would ever come calling—think Kenneth Lay or Jeffrey Skilling. Or larger karmic outcomes like the rise of ISIS in the wake of Western powers abandoning wars they initiated and leaving shaky and corrupt “democratic” governments to handle the fallout.
Karma is basically the philosophical cousin to Newton’s third law of physics, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Be a distant, critical, and unloving parent–be prepared for your children to hate you and abandon you in old age. Treat your co-workers with repeated disdain and backstabbing–don’t expect anyone to come to your defense when lay-offs start.
But here’s the thing about karma: It can be slow, and it’s not always obvious. Which might just be why so many people think they can escape its clutches and why so many of the rest of us rail against the karma bus’s failure to arrive at what we feel is its designated stop.
The Dalai Lama advises, “When you have made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.” The idea here is that you can fend off bad karma from a bad action by making things right again. But don’t suppose you can make things right by working in a soup kitchen after cheating on your spouse or donating money to a charitable cause after blindsiding your business partner. “Non sequitur,” as we journalists like to say.
In other words, you’re still going to hell…or at least purgatory.
You’re still going to die alone of terminal cancer with no friends or family who really care all that much because you’ve alienated them all, failed to nurture your relationships, or maybe never chose real relationships to begin with.
And maybe all the people you hurt, abandoned, or took advantage of are dead or senile by then, and maybe you’re senile, too, but who wants his legacy to be heart attack after indictment for a massive Ponzi scheme or slow death among indifferent strangers who have to be paid to change your diapers?
I had a great aunt who died in her mid-90s after many years as a widow. While some of her age and generation wailed about grandchildren who didn’t visit them, she was taking pictures with a digital camera at her great-granddaughter’s volleyball games, chatting via email with her children, and reserving vacations with other adventurous strangers on long bus trips to national parks.
“Happiness is not something ready-made,” the Dalai Lama tells us. “It comes from your own actions.” My great aunt probably didn’t think much about karma, but she lived as if she did….
So how do you ensure you’re not sitting on a stinky cow eating poop in your next life? Or maybe even in this one?
Here are some tips….
- Stop fulfilling your own negative prophecies. Let go of the past. It’s only an informer of the future if you let it be.
- Do something different. So you think life is meaningless and sad? It’s probably because your existence is like the movie Groundhog Day. Go for a hike. Take a class. Ask someone in the grocery store line out for coffee.
- Build real relationships, and then nurture them. Love people for who they are, not what they can do for you.
- Dump toxic hangers-on. If your friends only come calling when they need something and frequently fail to show up for you unless you’re buying the drinks, shed them. No friends left after that? Refer to no. 3….
- Practice gratitude. Be thankful for the good things in your life. And remember to thank the good people who look out for you.
- Be vulnerable. Smile at strangers. Tell a friend your most secret fear. Admit it when you’re in error.
- Stop taking offense. Try not honking and cursing at the driver who cut you off in traffic for starters. And if you feel criticized by a friend, look for the loving intention before you lose your temper.
- Say I’m sorry, and then prove it. Not by working in a soup kitchen but by working on yourself.
- Be honorable. Speak the truth, especially about yourself. And do the right thing, especially for others.
- Say “I love you” daily, even if it’s to your cat, even if it’s to yourself.
And as for all those folks who are angry, bitter, and mean…well, walk away, trust the karma bus, and let them eat poop….