I’ve been reading the Bhagavad Gita in my endless journey into the unknown recesses of my mind, and I learned that the way we Westerners understand Karma is woefully ignorant. Yes, it can be summed up in the phrase, “What goes around comes around,” but there’s another dimension to the concept of Karma that I was surprised to learn.
In essence, it’s a huge lesson in taking complete accountability – total responsibility – for one’s own life.
Although karma implies everything I do will come back to me, the other side of the coin is that everything that happens to me, is because of something I’ve already done.
Metaphors make me happy, and I stumbled upon a great one as I prepared for bed last night:
When I first moved to my flat in the Upper West Side, I habitually left dishes in the sink. “I’ll clean them tomorrow,” I thought as I turned off the light in the kitchen. And sure enough, when the next day dawned, I found myself at the sink, groggy eyed and scrubbing.
About a week ago (Bobby Shmurda voice,) I had a sit-down conversation with myself about this unfortunate business of leaving dishes overnight.
“Alicia,” I said to myself, “You don’t have to live this way.” I imagined a world where I woke up to a clean kitchen and got to make my coffee first thing. I imagined how much pleasanter it would be to turn the kitchen light on and see not a stack of dishes from last night’s dinner, but a blank canvas for today’s breakfast.
I’ve been doing a lot better about tidying up before bed, and it has definitely improved my mornings.
I realize, as I learn more about Karma, that taking care of the messes in my life is a great metaphor for keeping a spiritually, and emotionally, clean life.
Because the mess, even if you turn off the light and can no longer see it, is still there.
I’m saying that even if you get blackout drunk, the toxic relationships are still there. I’m saying even if you smoke a blunt every time you feel anxious or reach for another (albeit delicious) brownie, the cause of the anxiety isn’t going anywhere.
In fact, I discovered I much prefer washing dishes before bed, than washing them the next day when I’m still half-asleep. In the same vein, I feel like it is easier and happier to deal with personal messiness sooner, because you may feel even worse about it later. Have you ever left a bowl of melted cheese in the sink and then tried to clean it the next day? Y I K E S.
Have you ever dreaded a conversation with someone, and then when you finally had that convo, it wasn’t half as bad as you’d expected? Imagine all the mental tension that could have been avoided, had the conversation occurred sooner.
I used to think washing dishes sucks, but now I have a deep respect for the act of cleaning up messes. Cleaning up, whether in the physical or spiritual realms, is an act of love.
Listen, if I care about our relationship enough to come forward and initiate a difficult discussion, it’s not because I want to hurt you. It’s because I love you and I don’t want there to be any bad blood between us.
Even the pans that are toughest to scrub and may need an overnight soak, they are dirty because I used them to make a meal to eat. I used them to create sustenance to keep me alive.
In the same way, our relationships with one another are the emotional foods that keep us alive within our hearts. We may think we can be totally independent, but we’d starve emotionally. Therefore, clearing up a mess within our relationships is the same thing as saying, “I respect you and the fact that we are in this humanity business together; let’s talk.”
Maybe I’ll never make a certain dish again because it ruined my pans. That’s fine. Or, maybe I’ll research and learn I used the wrong cooking oil, and it wasn’t the fault of the ingredients or the utensils.
We each certainly have the freedom to end relationships. But I feel like unfinished business is a real thing. There’s a difference between leaving old milk in the jug to rot in your recycling bin, and simply rinsing it out with warm water before throwing it away.
We each have the chance to untether ourselves from painful cords that do nothing but cause swollen joints, because we are unconsciously carrying around these emotional burdens that could be cleared with a simple sharing of truths.
It can be hard to have a serious conversation, especially when there is genuine disagreement. But the difference between an open, honest disagreement and a closed, festering wound of a disagreement is the difference between waking up to a clean or a dirty kitchen.
Have you ever had a difficult conversation that was actually much better in reality than in your imagination? Can you think of any interactions that, if you’d had them sooner, would have eliminated much stress in your life? Do you tidy up before going to bed? Let me know in the comments. 🙂