As we move through life we make choices. To me, karma is ultimately about destiny. The core of the concept asks us to consider how the actions we take will impact the health of our future selves. When I think about this concept my mind connects back to several different religious teachings regarding morality and what it means to live a good life. It seems that many share a similar foundation, and that is that our choices have repercussions, either positive or negative. Often these lessons are framed in a supernatural way with specific outcomes relating to some eternal result for our soul, which is an approach that I believe is ultimately unproductive as it separates our decisions from our lived reality. However, if we are willing to take a second look and investigate these concepts, some ideas around human well being emerge that could help us live better lives.
As our society becomes more complex and religious traditions become antiquated, the idea of the soul, of karma, has become somewhat laughable. Our access to information has created a society built on a foundation of reason, and in many ways this has resulted in a significant amount of progress relating to quality of life and physical well-being - but we must ask ourselves, is our foundation complete? If we choose to recognize that religious teachings originated from lived experience, from years and years of accumulated wisdom from the past, then perhaps we can mine some meaning from those ancient teachings that could be valuable to our lives in a modern context. The notion that we should dismiss teachings related to the internal, to human experience, because people in the past didn't have good mechanisms with which to explain the external universe seems a little misplaced to me. Religion doesn't have to be our only outlet for spirituality; we can embrace spiritual practices aimed at improving our well-being without having to subscribe to silliness.
At a structural level our reality is made up of feedback cycles - something happens, and it creates a feedback effect because everything is connected through direct and indirect relationships. Have you ever heard that like attracts like? Well it's true. As you make certain choices you increase the likelihood that you're going to make those same choices again; that's a habit. As you make choices, you increase the likelihood of attracting others living similar lives; that's attraction. This is all karma. Recognizing the nature of karma shows us that if we don't take active steps to steer our lives towards a future we want, then we may wake up 20 years down the road wondering why our lives went down a bad path. That's why internal landscape mapping is important. Practicing self-awareness opens up the opportunity to redesign the paths we will take into the future.
Let's look at a tangible example of this; let's consider the concept of rebirth. I used to look at born-again Christians and smirk at how ridiculous this ritual was. How could dunking yourself in a river ever wipe away all of the bad things you've done in your life? But now I think I understand what this ritual is really about; it's about recognizing the importance of forgiving yourself for your past transgressions against others and yourself. To truly relieve yourself of the mental karma, you need to first embrace the ills you've committed by admitting to yourself that something went wrong, and from that you can begin to understand what led to those poor decisions. This is repentance, and from that position you can start the process of truly forgiving yourself. And being able to create a catalytic moment when you are given the opportunity to make a conscious choice to move on past the pain of your past seems really valuable. Catharsis allows us to fully embrace the darkness, feel the sadness, and then leave it behind us when we've learned what we can from it.
It's for this reason that I am such a large proponent of spiritual medicines like psilocybin. In my personal life I have seen psilocybin use lead to major inner realizations and personal transformations because it encourages users to look past their artificial mental stories and embrace their true inner selves. It can be a frightening experience to come face to face with your deepest and truest reality, but if you go in with the intention of learning and growing, and have designed the experience towards that goal, then the end result will be positive and the experience will have been worthwhile. But the important part of any spiritual growth is the recognition of the process - catharsis is not enough on its own. Once you discover a blank canvas, you then have to take active steps towards drawing a masterpiece on it.
With age I've begun to see how important it is to build on regular daily practices of living consciously. By making choices aimed at living a more thoughtful, peaceful, and meaningful life I have found a state of being that feels whole, and full of light. At the same time I have discovered an inner strength with which I can combat uncertainty, fear, hate and anger, and that has been really valuable as well. My hope for you all reading this is that you can recognize what it is that you truly want for your own lives, and then begin to reflect on how your choices are either contributing or detracting from that vision.