“The sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.” ~ Hafiz
Karma ~ In Hinduism and Buddhism: the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
Karma yoga ~ In Hinduism: the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection.
We often talk about karma with a half-hearted sense of understanding, using it silently, on a wish of revenge for an unsuspecting enemy. Or perhaps, as a way to find within ourselves, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of achievement that we are good or saintly. That we did good, therefore we will receive good in return.
There is nothing wrong with doing good in the world. Ever. I would far rather someone did something good for the greater universe so they would feel better within themselves, than if they didn’t do anything at all.
However, how many times can you honestly say you gave selflessly, without expectation and demand?
The karma yogi makes all actions an offering to a higher being, the higher intellect, with no thought of personal gain. Through serving others one is selflessly serving the universe, selflessly serving the divine.
The path of Karma Yoga means just this and follows the cosmic laws of cause and effect *. The Rishis, Hindu saints or seers, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rishi) conducted thorough investigations into the nature of reality and universe and discovered three laws:
- There is no effect without a cause
- The effect is the cause in a different form, like steam is another form of water
- If you remove the cause from the effect, nothing remains
The Bhagavad Gita (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita ) itself gives summary of the karma yoga process. The Gita (the most famous episode from the Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata) refers to a time when Sri Krishna, friend and charioteer to Prince Arjuna, teaches the nature of sacrifice, the nature of action, the means to liberation and the relationship of human beings to the universe.
Mother Theresa and Mahatma Ghandi are both examples of karma yogi practitioners. Giving selflessly, of time, material wealth and personal service, so that others may benefit from their generosity and humanity. Sacrificing for others, and for the greater universe as a whole.
My own personal karma yoga has taken form under the guise of this very blog. It is certainly nothing like the humanitarian work of those I’ve just mentioned, but it is within my means and is a free resource available to anyone with internet connection. My hope is that it can and will be used for reference and guidance by others in times of need.
Blogs are started by people all over the world for many different reasons. I do not wish to be famous or make a ridiculous amount of money (although any abundance of material wealth the universe decides to gift me is always welcome on my yogi’s wage), I am not a showman or circus performer and despite my love of debate and philosophical discussion, I don’t write this just to have my voice heard.
(Although I will add as a side note here; I blame my rising sun, Leo, and my Chinese sign of the Monkey, for any fool hardy, extroverted attempts at showmanship that you may have witnessed in the past, or which may appear in future writings…)
Here’s where I get all yogi-cliché’ and tell you something you have probably heard many times before from others, but it is one of the most truthful things to have ever fallen out of my mouth and into the form we know commonly, as words , words which hold deep meaning.
Yoga saved my life.
I have been practicing for the better part of 15 or so years, however, it wasn’t until my marriage broke, and I flew the country coop to flip my life upside down, inside out and around a many number of times, that my mental state really started to crack.
When I left, I was strong. So strong. I maintained this strength, despite feeling otherwise, for quite some time.
That’s what is expected when you’re the one who ends something that looks, by all appearances to be the pinnacle of happiness. You made the call, so you bear the brunt of the decision. Let’s not even go into why the decision was made, it’s completely irrelevant to the story. However, you should know, that the man in question is one of the most loving, beautiful, and generous persons I have ever had in my life, and I am so grateful for our time together.
And so, here I was. Still strong. Still, by all appearances, smiling widely and loving life, exploring, seeking, experiencing. Without giving you my whole life spiel (or at least the last 8 years, which would still fill an entire book with room for a sequel – did anyone say Eat, Pray, Love?!), everything that had happened, which I clearly hadn’t addressed emotionally, encouraged my yoga practice to deepen. A lot.
I remember when I first went THERE. Yogi’s – You know it, that d e e p place you’ve been avoiding, pushing to the side, completely ignoring. Holy crap, I burst into loud, sobbing tears in the middle of Savasana (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavasana) during a packed class in Central London.
It was humiliating, but I couldn’t stop. I was finally acknowledging my worth and my existence, I had actually started to forgive myself. I was experiencing self-compassion. That is the power of yoga.
Flashback a year earlier, I had completely broken. I honestly, wanted to die. I had to talk myself out of some pretty hairy thoughts, and that was damn hard. I was experiencing self-hatred. That is the power of ego.
Yes, I’m fully aware of the irony here. Writing a post about selflessness and admitting that I have experienced absolute selfishness is hard. But, it is the truth. And anyone who has been through, or even still going through, depression and thoughts of suicide will know fully well how difficult a task it is to claw your way back out of that dark hole.
I was lucky. The mental warrior within knew it could handle what was to come, the mental warrior within wanted me to love myself, to love others. To show true compassion and courage, not with ego, but with love, with life.
The emotional release you get from your physical practice is powerful. It is most definitely work, and still in progress, but slowly, you start to peel away the layers, until all that is left, is you. Stark, naked, bare and fully exposed, just as you are. No mask, no cloak, no ego. Your essence, your soul, complete love.
And wow, the level of love and compassion I have for myself and others now is so empowering and beautiful, all I want to do is share it. And the best thing is, it’s growing every single day. Some days are still harder than others, but it lessens as time moves on, and you learn to accept who you are completely.
The reason I am so submerged through yoga, with yoga; in fact, the whole reason I feel so compelled to write about yoga, teach yoga and still practice yoga, is because of my experience/s, I really believe it is the way towards universal harmony and acceptance, and I want others to feel what I feel now.
To smile widely and really mean it, to break through the mental barriers that have held us captive for far too long, united through yoga, through life, through living, and connected through love.
This is my Karma Yoga. This is why I write livelovegiveyoga.com.
I earn money through teaching, yes, I still have to live in this world, pay rent and bills like everyone else. But through my blog, through the love of yoga, it is without expectation and with absolute gratitude to this universe, for receiving the gift of knowing yoga, and being blessed with the ability to share it with others.
Even if it only reaches just one person, that will be enough.
It doesn’t have to be big. Some days, the joy I get from cleaning the house surprises me. I go about my work, singing and whistling away to the universe like we’re sharing something special, something unique. Even better when I’m in the garden, chattering away to the tiny insects and plants like they were my brothers and sisters. And, in many ways, they are.
Your karma yoga is not restricted to human beings, everything is considered one with this universe, extend your love in whatever way you know how. Through plants, the environment, animals, or humans. Ironically, Karma doesn’t judge!
We are all connected, remember this and your actions will become more mindful, less selfish, and gifted by love.
Om Shanti, Annie
*Reference: http://www.yogihari.com/yoga-teacher-training-course-200-hours/ my teacher, my guru, for the resource on the cosmic laws of Karma and the Rishis