Cultivating Everyday Karma

This entry was posted on May 17, 2012 by Charlotte Bell.
everyday karma

Tomato Potential

Everyday Karma in My Garden

A few years ago, I dug up the sod in my front yard and parking strip to replace it with drought tolerant plants. While my yard is quite small, six years of drought—and even more years of minimal watering—had rendered my soil, particularly the dense, sun-cured ground in my parking strip, positively adamantine. The excavation process required many hours with my modest shovel, piercing the granite-like ground, pulling up clumps of roots and whacking the root clumps with the side of a garden spade to loosen the excess dirt and return it to its place. This was not the part of the process that captured my heart, although I have to say that bare dirt was a vast visual improvement over the brittle, desiccated, needles of grass that had inhabited my plots.

I began getting hooked on gardening when the rocks came. The two pallets of sparkling, striated quartzite—that’s four tons—looked rather daunting when they arrived, but stone by stone, the piles shrank, each rock becoming a treasured piece of a completely new creation. By the time I was ready to begin filling in the spaces with living plants, I was hooked. Thanks to a yoga student and landscaper who graciously plotted out a flexible blueprint for me, I was able welcome my new flora friends to my yard knowing they were in their proper places.

Coincidentally, my next-door neighbors decided to landscape their front yard at the same time. A party of two, their sod excavation took considerably less time than mine did. Once we’d planted, we greeted each other every day as we hand-watered our little seedlings.

As we watered, we talked about how, at least at first, a perennial-based landscape seems to require a whole lot more energy than grass. But, I added, while it was much easier to neglect my yard for so many years, it had looked damn shabby because of it. All my energy and effort have produced a landscape that adds joy to my life. It immediately occurred to me that this truth applies to pretty much everything. Those places where we invest our energy tend to blossom. It’s karma.

I’ve never been fond of the expression, “what goes around comes around,” as a description of karma. This phrase too often comes with a self-satisfied sense of judgment. If something bad happens to someone we don’t like, it’s their karma, of course. If something good happens to someone we like, it’s also karma. To my mind, this presupposes an intervening deity or being who metes out our just desserts. It also assumes that our goodness or badness influence the things that happen to us in our external lives.

The fact is life generally doesn’t follow such a neat formula. Good things happen to not-so-nice people, and bad things happen to kind and generous people. Unless your worldview includes a vision of a continuum of life that includes previous incarnations that influence this one, the “what goes around” premise makes sense only some of the time.

Karma is the law of cause and effect. Every action, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, produces some sort of impact in the world. Often we are quite aware of how our actions affect our own lives and the lives of those around us. But just as often we may never know the effects of our actions in the world because their ripples may occur outside our sphere.

When You Plant Tomatoes, Expect Tomatoes

I’ve come to understand karma as an everyday process of cultivation, much like gardening. When we plant tomato seeds, they grow into tomato plants, not corn or squash. When we do not water or weed around our little tomato plants, they are deprived of nutrients and water. They might shrivel and die, or at most, reach only partial potential. When we water, weed and fertilize them, giving them regular attention and care, at summer’s end we enjoy a crop of succulent homegrown gems.

In the same way, when we plant and cultivate seeds of anger, we should not expect to harvest a bounty of love or kindness. When we plant and nurture seeds of generosity, chances are we will not be inclined toward selfishness or stinginess. We become the expression of those qualities we choose to cultivate. Because of the energy I’ve given my front landscape, it is far more vibrant than the former neglected sod-based yard ever was. Whatever we invest our energy in becomes strong and healthy.

What seeds are you planting in your life today? How can you keep them alive and thriving?

Stay tuned for Everyday Karma: Part 2 next week!

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

One response to “Cultivating Everyday Karma”

  1. Avatar Piximon says:

    What a well-grounded message! Inspires me to take greater care of my “garden.” And over which ones I run around in.

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