The Law of Karma

When I was a little girl (waaaaaay back in the early ‘70s), I watched “The Doris Day Show” and Doris sang the theme song “Que Sera, Sera” in such a breezy, lilting way that I believed every word of it:

When I was just a little girlI asked my mother, what will I beWill I be pretty, will I be richHere’s what she said to me.Que Sera, Sera,Whatever will be, will beThe future’s not ours, to seeQue Sera, SeraWhat will be, will be.

Life was destiny and fate and a big jar of peanut butter. But as I got older, particularly since I turned 40 almost six years ago, I began to understand that there’s a lot about life I am responsible for, separate from “que sera, sera,” the things I cannot change or prevent.

The word “karma” is often (mis)understood in our culture as “what goes around, comes around,” and we hear it most often used to explain someone’s ill fate or as future punishment for wrong doing, a “karma’s gonna bite him in the ass” kind of thing.

But karma isn’t schadenfreude, which means to delight in another’s misfortune, nor should it be seen as destiny or fate. Karma isn’t positive or negative. It doesn’t have a conscience or the mind of a deity. We create it. To an extent it is “what goes around, comes around,” but it’s so much more.

I had a helluva time last week dealing with things within my control and things outside my control. So it was like a drink of water in the desert (or “fate,” perhaps?) that I read this teaching by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron:

“According to the law of karma, every action has a result. If you stay in bed all day with the covers over your head, if you overeat for the millionth time in your life, if you get drunk, if you get stoned, you know that’s going to depress you and make you more discouraged, if it’s just this habitual thing that you think is going to make you feel better. The older you get, the more you know how it just makes you feel more wretched. The law of karma says, ‘Well, how do you want to feel tomorrow, next week, next year, five years from now, ten years from now?’”

Now here’s the kicker:

It’s up to you how to use your life. It doesn’t mean you have to be the best one at cheering up, or that your habitual tendencies never get the better of you. It just has to do with this sense of reminding yourself. The law of karma is that we sow the seeds and reap the fruit…So when you find yourself in a dark place where you’ve been countless, countless times, you can think, ‘Maybe it’s time to get a little golden spade and dig myself out of this place.’”

So I found my little spade (it’s in the garage next to my bound-and-gagged fat chick and Negative Nelly) and dug in the ground until I could say again for the MILLIONTH time, “I’m the one, ME, Lynn Haraldson-Bering, who controls what goes in my mouth, how I move my legs and arms, and what I see in the mirror. I’m the only one who can either allow what someone else says to turn me upside down or to see that their words are their truth, not mine, and to see the beauty in differing points of view.”

Guaranteed there will be a next time and a next time and a 2,000,000th time that I’ll have to find that spade and dig myself out of that space. But each time I do, it gets a little easier.

If there’s one thing the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson can teach us it’s that we don’t know if we’ll be here tomorrow. So as long as we’re here, we can use the time to made amends with our bodies – to learn and to grow and to heal, to NOT put that food in our mouths and to GET on that treadmill or elliptical, and to LOOK in the mirror and SEE beauty simply because we are who we are with all of our stretch marks and flab, because there is also lovely skin and cute freckles and sparkly eyes and a good hair day once in awhile.

“Que sera, sera” only works for things beyond our control. To help me remember this, I bought a piece of wood carved with the saying “What will be is up to me” and I keep it on the shelf in my office that holds other important reminders: photos of my children and grandchildren, and a card from my husband that says, “Do you know what I love most about us? You.”

Today I choose to stay present and to stay on course for where I want to be tomorrow, five years from now and ten years from now. Today I will remember the rule of karma.

13 thoughts on “The Law of Karma

  1. I am the only one that puts food in my mouth, no one else. You are right, we do control our own personal actions and hopefully those actions are life affirming and life building.

    We don't know how long we have to live, so for me, losing all my weight and keeping it off, helps me stay healthy, so I can live strong for as long as I have. Thanks for the reminder to live day by day, and not try to look ahead too far.

  2. I loved all that you wrote – very true. And I liked the little golden spade – to start on one edge of a REALLY big mess and dig. The overwhelm-ed-ness (of first starting) still amazes me (in its complexity). There is just so darned MUCH. And I think that has so much to do with maintenance – for me – just SO not wanting to be faced with all of that again.

  3. I loved reading this post. The idea of karma that every action has a result is so eye-opening and life puts that truth right in front of us every moment. It's up to us as to what we do with it. Wonderful insights.

  4. What a great post! We truly do have power over our lives. It is how we choose to live – what words we use, what we eat, what we focus on. Yes, there are some things out of our control, but we are always in control of how we react to those things!
    Thanks for sharing this – it really hit home for me.

  5. Thanks for this – lately, I have quite literally felt like I was in a hole, and I don't know how to get out. My inclination has been to 'stop digging', but that hasn't worked yet. Maybe the golden spade image will help me be more proactive and get myself out of this (again!). Thanks for the uplifting words! It really helps.

  6. Whew, this was great, Lynn. Just what I needed and I didn't even know it! Vickie's comment ” to start on one edge of a REALLY big mess and dig” really nailed it for me. I have been feeling overwhelmed with the mess my house has gotten in (mostly d/t other responsibilities, but not all.) So now, I will do just that. Start on one edge, and dig.

  7. Wow. I really didn't expect any comments on this one because I wrote it as more a conversation (read: “talk”) withe myself. So glad you guys can relate and “needed” to hear this, too.

    It's not like we have to dig through the entire mess right now, right away. It's enough to just start digging with the right intention.

  8. I loved this post, too. Thanks, Lynn! (You hooked me with the Pema reference…in a good way!) Your wooden plaque reminded me of the theme to a leadership conference I attended in high school: “If it's to be, it's up to me!”

    Now I need to make myself a “little golden spade” fridge magnet….

    that quote? precisely what I chant in my head on those RARE days I actually run.
    works so so well for me.


    when I get back home it is amazing how zen I feel—and Ive never even experienced a runners high.

    take care,


  10. I really enjoyed this. Thanks Lynn! I check out your blog as I am trying to get myself going, get motivated to lose weight and clean house—literally and figuratively. I too plan to make myself a “golden shovel” reminder. I always enjoy your “messages” but so often am struck by how well you write!!! Thanks for your site and for your talents as a writer!

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