5 steps to good karma

New Year's resolutions!

Karma. It’s more than likely a word you’re familiar with. Everyone from John Lennon to Boy George has sung songs about it, and you’ve probably used the line, ‘what goes around comes around’ to define a situation many times.

Even science has recently had a go at proving that not only does karma exist, it can be beneficial. As one study from York University found, practicing small acts of kindness may make you a happier person and the boost in your mood can stay with you for months.

“The concept of compassion and kindness resonates with so many religious traditions, yet it has received little empirical evidence until recently,” says lead author Myriam Mongrain. “What’s amazing is that the time investment required for these changes to occur is so small. We’re talking about mere minutes a day.”

But what exactly is karma? “Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘action’,” explains Brian White, Chairman of the NSW Buddhist Council. “Karma is the cause and effect that comes from human intention, motivation and what is in our minds when we do something.” Karma is both action and the consequence of that action; it is cause and effect simultaneously, because every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in kind, such as good will be returned with good; bad with bad. The expression, ‘you reap what you sow’, is a great rationalisation of the law of karma; if you want to create happiness in your life, you must learn to sow the seeds of happiness.

Knowing about karma means understanding the importance of our minds, how clearly we think and how compassionately we feel towards others, White explains. “To have a better life, or better karma, you need to cultivate your mind so you think better and feel better,” he says. “However, while your thoughts are important, you also need to take responsibility for your actions and take steps to change your life for the better.”

Here are some steps you can take to make a positive difference in your life.

Step One. Treat your mind-body health as one of your most important responsibilities

An active gym membership and doing your weekly fruit and veg shop at the organic farmers market will only protect your health up to a certain point; you also need to pay attention to the connection between your mind and body for good health. “We need to remember that the mind and the body are connected,” says White. “This means being aware that our health is affected by toxins that we ingest, but also the toxins of the mind, which include greed, jealousy, worry and anger.” 

Step Two. Be aware that anxiety, worry and stress are self-imposed habit patterns of your mind that you can reduce and eliminate

A growing body of research is finding that chronic stress and prolonged negative thinking may weaken your immune system. The good news is, studies are also revealing that people with a positive attitude have less risk of becoming sick compared to those with a glass-half-empty outlook on life. Practising positive karma can help to reduce negative thoughts, anxiety and stress. “Everything that goes on, even the bad things, you can learn from,” says White. Saying ‘poor me’ is self pity, so instead of worrying or being anxious you need to turn the situation around and acknowledge that even something bad can lead to something good.

Step Three. Meditate for a few minutes, twice each day

To re-program your mind to make better decisions and invite more positive karma into your life, try meditating every day, at least twice a day, suggests White. “By sitting still and focusing on your breath for five to 10 minutes in the morning and again in the evening, you can purify the self-imposed habit patterns of your mind, such as anger, fear and greed,” he says. “If at first you experience a rush of thoughts, like a waterfall, you’re on the right track. Stick with it and eventually the thoughts will become like a river and your mind will clear.” The clearer your mind, the better life and better karma you will be able to have, as meditating will be an anchor and throughout your day you will find you’re more mindful, and more aware of what you’re doing and the choices you are making. 

Step Four. Give others compassion and kindness without expecting anything in return

“Doing compassionate things for others can bring about instant happiness,” says White. “You can’t get happy directly, it’s not something you can buy in a shop. It’s a consequence of your lifestyle and having a deeper connection with people beyond yourself.” Consider volunteering, and expand your circle of concern beyond just yourself to include your family and friends, he says. “When you stop focusing on just you, and instead help or turn your focus to others, you get a sense of fulfilment that’s profound. You know you’re having a positive impact on them.” The karma reward you will reap is happiness.    

Step Five. Be more mindful in day-to-day tasks

Do you feel as though you’re experiencing bad karma? White suggests bad karma may be a result of a lack of mindfulness. “According to Buddhist beliefs, the world is not random, everything happens for a reason,” he says. “Also, karma is not time bound, so an action five minutes, days, weeks or years ago may only now be ripening, which you may be experiencing as a string of bad luck or ill health.” To change your karma, embrace mindfulness, take responsibility for your thoughts and actions, think positively, learn from mistakes and practice forgiveness. When you rule out the negative and embrace the good, you attract positive actions into your life, and will have good karma. NH

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