Spring Cleaning: Clear Your Mind and Reboot Your Karma

Awareness of our actions leads to a sense of responsibility, which is much more empowering than feeling life is conspiring against us.

Even if we don’t exactly understand what it is, we all want to have good karma. The word, which simply means “action” in Hinduism and Buddhism, is frequently referenced in our culture when we want to explain why things happen a certain way for us. Maybe the idea of karma in reincarnation is too much for you. But, taken more practically, it’s a good way of understanding cause and effect.

Here are a few observations on what has worked for me to clean up my karma—or, in plainer language, to feel a more positive sense of control over my life.

Notice patterns. Is there a problem you have again and again at work with different colleagues? An issue you face with your current lover that feels eerily similar to the one that caused your last break up? It’s important to start asking these questions; in my experience, life will interject again and again until you learn the answer. Sometimes I just want to bang my head into the wall because I get so sick of being reminded that I can’t control other people. I have to tell myself that this conflict continues to come up because there is something I need to learn about myself and my role in the world. If you slip into a “why me” victim mode, then the lesson is lost. As you begin this practice of noticing, don’t get too caught up in trying to fix the problem. Awareness of our actions leads to a sense of responsibility, which is much more empowering than feeling life is conspiring against us.

See yourself in the world. Once you have a sense of what you are working on, have a quiet, honest moment with yourself whenever that issue or person starts to irk you. Most importantly, it’s good to have the courage to say, “Yeah, sometimes I kinda do that, too.” A few months ago, I got very worked up after spending Sunday dinner with my dad. In my opinion, he doesn’t listen to me very well. On the ride home, my boyfriend began to tell me a story. After awhile, I realized I hadn’t been listening to my boyfriend at all because instead I was getting upset about my dad not listening to me. The irony was so strong that I had to laugh at myself. Since noticing that, I am a lot more compassionate when I notice my dad getting distracted. My advice is to start doing this with acquaintances, and when you are ready for advanced studies in karma, move on to your partner or your parents. Sit with their most annoying qualities and ask yourself very honestly if you’re not also guilty of the same habits.

Watch your thoughts. To be ready for these humble openings, we need to make some space in our brains. Until we know what it feels like to be in balance, we won’t notice what it feels like to spiral out. Meditation is good for us, but it’s never going to work unless we actually do it. I talked about doing meditation for years, but only in this past year did I start my daily practice. Actually meditating is much harder and more awesome than talking about doing it. Start today. Set a timer for five minutes and watch your breath in and your breath out. If you get distracted, no big deal. Notice where you mind went and come back to the breath. As you do this for longer, you’ll notice the awe-inspiring busyness of your mind and the sweet spaces of quiet that we can cultivate, just by sitting there and listening.

Cultivate positive thoughts. When we start to engage in these everyday practices, we eventually find there is no true or false, right or wrong—it’s just our perceptions. And the good news is that our perceptions can be the most malleable parts of our being. Social researcher Brene Brown has spent years interviewing people about shame and fear. From that data she unearthed a special brand of people that she refers to as “wholehearted,” people who have an abundance of love in their lives and feel lots of genuine appreciation for what they have going on in life. After years of this research, she found the one and only thing that set wholehearted people apart is the belief that they are worthy of love. That’s it—just one paper-thin thought is the most important indicator in how valuable we feel in the world. Since thoughts lead to actions, which lead to reactions (i.e. karma), then it makes sense to start with cleaning up your thinking. Start by noticing what thoughts tear you down inside. When you find one that strikes a chord, pay attention and see if you can cultivate a positive opposition. “I’m not qualified to be here” can turn into “I don’t have to be perfect at this.” This is an important yogic technique called pratipaksha bhavanam that has been practiced for thousands of years. Like all these estoteric yogic and Buddhist ideas, I believe they are still used today because they make a lot of sense and actually work. We just have to do them.

Photo via (cc) by Flickr user spaceamoeba.

We're giving away $500 to put this challenge into action! Participate in the 'Clean Up Your Act' challenge on GOOD Maker here.

Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less