We like to flippantly refer to good karma and bad karma, but is there any truth in karma? What is karma? Can I change my karma?
My search for answers to these questions has provided me with interesting information. For example, I have always thought of karma as Buddhism or something that is unique to Buddhism. Since I am not an expert on this philosophy, I have kind of left it there.
But important things tend to come back to us time and again (karma?), and my curiosity was stimulated to the extent that I did some reading about Buddhism and karma. And guess what? I discovered that the same concept is expressed in many diverse sources, including Buddhist texts.
Here is a puzzle that has kept me awake for a few nights, and the answer is still eluding me.
The kabala (Jewish Mysticism) teaches that every letter of the Hebrew alphabet has three values. For example, Aleph (A) is the first letter of the alphabet. It also has a numerical value of 1, which reflects unity. Aleph is also represented by the head of an ox, as a representation of purpose and the generative power of nature.
All the letters of the Hebrew alphabet have these triple meanings, and they capture the essence of our existence here. These letters have many other meanings, but these three meanings (the alphabet, the numerical value and the symbolic representation) are the most significant ones.
Can you remember the last time you really looked forward to something and it did not turn out as perfect as you anticipated? Can you remember your disappointment?
Let's look at what happened here. You had particular expectations that were not fulfilled because your expectations were unrealistically high. You attached an emotional value to the outcome, and you focused on the emotional value rather than on the outcome.
The outcome was not equivalent to the emotional value that you attached to it, and as a result you attached a different emotional value to it, namely disappointment. You did not accept the outcome or actions for what they were worth, but discarded them on the basis of an emotional judgment.
Then there were other occasions where you felt that something was a chore and you did not really look forward to it but did it anyway, and it turned out to be quite enjoyable. Why would that be?
I am sure when I refer to the dark night of the soul many readers will sit up and say 'Ah . . . is that what it is called. And I thought I was the only one in the entire world that has experienced it'.
What is the dark night of the soul? I will explain that by means of an illustration. Of course there are as many variations to the story as there are people in this world. Once you have read the story, you can always re-write it by adding your life's detail. And remember, this can happen at any age, and it can happen more than once to any person.
See yourself as an innocent little baby that has just come into this world. You grow up trusting that everyone loves you and wants to take care of you. You have a happy childhood with all the skinned knees, first love, sibling rivalry and so on. You are truly an image of
Life is a rollercoaster at the best of times. When times are good, we feel the elation and fun of being here, and we want to share our joy with the world. When times are bad, either we do not want to face anyone, or nobody wants to face our misery.
Where do we find our solace and peace during the bad times? And why do we only seek solace during the bad times?
I grew up in a culture where I was taught that during the worst of times, I can find solace in the church. When I hit my first adult crisis, I went to the church and found an empty, cold building. I went to the people of the church, but they chose to avoid me. I became an outcast because I was getting a divorce. I then went to the church minister for the solace that I so desperately needed, but the reception – and the judgment - was cold and hostile.
That was not solace. I kept searching.
Why is it that we hold on to relationships long past their natural end?
Think of a friendship that no longer exists. Do you still remember how your friend insulted or deserted you? You gained new friends, but you still feel that hurt.
Remember that supervisor who made your life such hell that you left to get a new job? You smile every time you think what a sad sod that supervisor is, and how much better off you are now. Or you still resent the opportunity that you missed as a result of that person, even though you gained much more from the new job than from the old one.
Then of course there is your marriage. You have known for a long time that
I enjoy knitting and am always looking for a good wool shop where the shop assistants know the difference between a cable needle and a bamboo needle – and where I can find challenging knitting patterns.
I recently surfed the internet and discovered a small craft shop near the village where I live. I drove there immediately, as excited as a child going to a toy shop before Christmas. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the opening times on the website were wrong, and the shop was closed for the day.
The next day I phoned the shop about seven times, because I wanted to confirm that they had the item I was looking for before driving all the way there again. No answer. So I left a message on their website, saying that they should improve on these things.
I have since been back to the shop – their range of items is not the
Step 1: Breathe deeply and relax. Count your blessings.
Step 2: Do not take it personally, but take it very personally.
Step 3: Celebrate the next cycle of your life
I can hear you saying "There are bills to be paid. There is an ego that needs massaging. How will I cope until I can find another job during a time of recession? And she says I should relax and celebrate?"
Yes, I am serious about my advice, which comes from first-hand experience.
There is an annual prize that is awarded by the Bookseller Magazine for the oddest book title of the year. The first winner of the prize in 1978 was the title 'Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice' (University of Tokyo Press)
Here are some winners from other years:
· 'How to Avoid Huge Ships'
· 'Weeds in a Changing World'
· 'Living With Crazy Buttocks'
· 'People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It'
· 'The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification'
Now the top prize has been allocated to the 1996 winner, 'Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers'.