A friend of mine often says, “I understand that bad things happen to good people. I just can’t understand how good things happen to bad people. What happened to karma!?” We’d go round that one for most of an evening until finally we’d have to admit that it’s our perception of “good” and “bad” that is the problem. Once we’ve built the categories, everything else becomes a logic locomotive. We start generating if-then sequences and ideas of justice and entitlements, forgetting that karma has nothing to do with a Last (or Lasting) Judgement.
To paraphrase Sylvia Boorstein, we get what we get. My nemeses get what they get. My friends get what they get. The fact that I choose to label them as Adversaries or Dear Ones is what gives their successes such power over me. More to the point, when I’m caught in concepts of deservingness, I miss the generosity of people around me.
A few years ago a colleague was diagnosed with cancer. He worked two doors down from me and I had heard about it but hadn’t seen him. Coming out of my office one day, I was greeted by this familiar person in my waiting room – a cartoonish sketch of someone I knew. It was my friend, physically dramatically changed from the cancer treatments. But I would have recognized those sparkling eyes anywhere! We went into my office and his first words were, “How is Frank? I heard about his surgery!” I was amazed and confused. Why was he concerned about Frank who was fine and recovering? How could he be so thrilled about Frank’s positive prognosis when he was on his way to a last-ditch effort at a treatment?
He seemed content. His life was a series of unending gifts – the medical students he had taught and mentored, the family who grew with grace and fortitude, friends who had walked with him in laughter and tears. He joined us in celebrating Frank’s “all clear,” embraced us, and said his final treatment has failed; he died three weeks later. It seemed he was so full of joy that he was giving it all away before he left us. This was a profound lesson for me in Resonant Joy.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to have attained my friend’s level of unconditioned love. But it might start in a little way with kindness. Self-kindness and gentleness. With saying “thank you” and “wonderful!” Saying “It’s OK” and “I understand.” With refusing to turn away from the momentary hurt. Refusing to allow that internal gossip mill to grind down the heart.
It’s a start.
It’s a choice to start.
There’s a story of a man in Korea who got a flat tire on his way to the airport and missed his flight to Thailand. He thought he had rotten luck until the plane crashed with no survivors. Suddenly he was one of the luckiest people in the world!
Near misses! Wow.
My perceptions of “good” and “bad” are most often self-centered, so of course they create problems. And my perception of “karma” – well, that’s even more confused and problematical. So I think it’s difficult to link present moment to past conditions; at least, it’s difficult for me.
But Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “You make, you get.” Pretty clear formula, if only we could correctly perceive what we are “getting.”