What Is Karma?
January 12, 2009 by Ray Baskerville
What is karma? How does it work? Traditionally, it is taught that karma is simply the law of cause and effect, the fruits of past actions and little more is said about its mechanism and workings than that. Subsequently, much misunderstanding and vagueness has arisen and continues to be perpetuated.
It seems very difficult for us to free ourselves of the idea of karma as a cosmic justice system. In fact, karma has nothing to do with justice and retribution and does not at all work like this.
What I’ve come to understand through my own spiritual process and work as a healer, is that karma is created when, and wherever, we have created separation in ourselves. Separation is created when we have had any kind of experience where our feeling response was overwhelming, traumatic, painful – or something that we simply didn’t want to feel, and so separated from ourselves ‘in’ the experience.
With each creation of separation, there is an accompanying sense of defeat.
We invariably have experienced these things at a very early age or in other lifetimes. In healing work, I consistently find for example, that when we have died suddenly, traumatically, in heightened emotion like fear or rage, that the feeling experience of the event is deeply trapped in the emotional body. The emotional and other subtle bodies imprint on the cellular memory of the physical body itself. This is a more extreme example, but common.
The same principle holds true for the whole spectrum of less intense feeling experiences regardless of when in the past they occurred. There are any number of ways in which feelings – at the time of the experience – are too much to bear or undesirable. If the feelings of an experience are too overwhelming for us, we separate ourselves from them in order to not have to feel them. In order to do that, we have to stop them moving. What we do in effect is to abandon our ‘self’ that is in the moment of the experience and cut off from it, leaving it there.
So we can say that, karma is the sum of all of our past that we couldn’t or wouldn’t be present to at the time of the experience, still held within us as unresolved and unhealed as separation. To recap: separation is created whenever we are unable to be fully present to our experience in the moment, and deny our feelings. Separation and denial push the feelings of the experience into sub-consciousness. When we aren’t present in the moment, we are not ‘conscious’.
At the mental level, an additional scenario occurs: we produce and wrap ‘scripts’ around the denied feelings and separation. Scripts are the stories we run in our minds about the experience, often to justify the denial and separation, and then maintain it.
Invariably, the stories revolve around some form of judgment, of ourselves, the other or both. Scripts are created in layers each time the feelings are triggered and denied. New layers of the script are created to protect the wounds from being felt, and to divert any possibility of exposing the denial. They therefore also maintain separation.
These scripts become the subconscious belief systems and patterns through which we experience and live our lives. In our identification with thought and emotion we come to believe this as who we are and how reality is. We then act and behave as if these scripts are true and real. In this light everything we believe is conditioned by past experience held in the subconscious mind.
Our actions are dictated by our beliefs and feelings. Because the source of their motivation is held in sub-consciousness, most of our behavior is enacted without our conscious awareness of the true reason behind it.
Let us look at an example of a script that many of us share. The script is “I’m not good enough”. In an everyday situation, someone is saying something complementary about us and inside us a small voice is refuting or diminishing everything they are saying as they say it. Or someone offers to do something for us and we say “oh no it’s fine I can manage” even though we really do need help.
These are examples of the influence a script might have on us. Underneath the script are the feelings we are holding. The script is formed in response to these feelings. In the layers of consciousness above the feelings and the scripts are the stories our mind creates about the experience of the moment.
It is easy to see then why self inquiry is so valuable as a spiritual practice. To pursue it relentlessly requires great courage and determination as it ultimately reveals ‘not knowing’ which is uncomfortable in the extreme to the egoic mind.
Our karma, then, exists in different layers of our subconscious. In our subconscious are the feelings, and the woundings of separations, caused and held by their denials, and the layers of scripts arising from them. The interwoven patterns of these held feelings and their stories, is what makes up the greater part of our ego personality. It is in the process of identification with these subconscious patterns, their desires, drives and beliefs, that we largely construct our identity. The source of this identification being subconscious, we have no awareness of our personality’s true nature and construction. We simply believe the way we are, is ‘just the way we are’. It’s also important to make clear that all of this is actually the past, trapped within us, replaying itself over and over again, seeking release. All of this exists in our internal reality.
Karma = Separation = Past Feeling/Wounds + Their Scripts & Stories : Held Subconscious by Denial