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New Thoughts On Old Karma

The following article has taken its inspiration from the writings of Jon Kabat-Zinn, in particular the book, Wherever you go, there you are. The book introduces the concept of mindfulness and teaches different ways of implementing it in everyday life. Towards the backend of the book there are a few pages on Karma that I thought I would share with you.

Kabat-Zinn begins by discussing the definition of the word. He claims (in my view correctly) that the word has been misconstrued as meaning fate or manifest destiny whereas the real definition of the word is closer to tendency. He sees the individual as being caught up in reviewing the past, which in turn locks them into certain behavioural patterns. If the person remembers certain occurrences negatively, he or she is more likely to behave with animosity in the present, raising the likelihood of experiencing a similarly negative situation in the future. (i.e. someone who has been bickering with a colleague at work is more likely construe the other person’s actions as being ill-meant even if the person does not mean them to be).

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Think about it this way, a symptom of bad karma is frustration. When we meet someone who is frustrated, the frustration will transfer over to us, and we will be more likely to behave badly towards them, intentionally or unintentionally (i.e. a customer who is having a bad day berrates a barista because of the long queue. The frustration of the customer transfers over to the barista who in turn feels stressed-out and gets the customer’s order wrong). A symptom of good karma on the other hand is being in a relaxed state. A relaxed person would not mind there being a long queue at the coffee shop and therefore not treat the barista badly in the first place.

Kabat-Zinn claims (in my view correctly… again)  that a state of mindfulness can break the tendency that is karma. By breaking our tendency of reviewing the past as a chain of negative events, where we are the innocent victim and bad things are perpetrated onto us by bad actors, we will be able to exhibit the relaxed state that welcomes positive things to happen to us. A state of mindfulness can be achieve in several ways, either through traditional meditation, controlled breathing or by focusing your attention on trivial details (i.e. the way the light lands on a pane of glass, droplets of water falling off a leaf etc).

I hope this short article on karma has offered you a new perspective on how our attitude and the way we interpret our experiences shape our way of acting in the present.

Philip Andersson

Life Coach

Cross Culture Therapy


Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn

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