Why karma isn’t just ‘some hippy shit’…

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Lotus flowers

I’m kind of getting tired of watching people roll their eyes at the word ‘karma’. Say it to yourself. Karma. I bet you get images of some longhaired hippy sitting on a rainbow coloured rug atop a mountain in Nepal; they’ll have a stick of incense burning beside them, while they chant the word ‘Ooooommmmm’…

OK, now STOP it!

Today I’m going in to bat for karma. Maybe I’m already preaching to the converted, I don’t know, but I want to provide some insight on how karma has more benefit beyond simply avoiding the wrath of the gods and their penchant for throwing lightning bolts.

Let me start with the Wikipedia explanation of karma, just in case anyone out there doesn’t know what karma is:

Karma means action, work or deed; it also refers to the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual. Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.

The way I see it, karma is more logical than we give it credit for. It stands to reason that when we throw out negatives, we cannot expect positives back in return. Yet we do it all the time, and see it all the time.

A student doesn’t study, so they get bad grades. A partner is horrible to their spouse, and although it might take twenty years, the injured party leaves. Or a partner cheats on their spouse, which they get away with; but spend the rest of their life regretting that hurtful deed. And then there’s the savvy businessman who steps on others on his way to the top. One day he falls from grace, loses his job, whatever. And what do you know, he sees those same people on his way down. That, or one or more of those people have found their own success, but he’s already burnt those bridges so no one’s willing to help him.

Often in relationships we show negative attitudes. We project that those close to us are not good enough, then wonder why they no longer react well to our presence, and our relationships fall apart. The worst part is these attitudes have wider ranging implications.

In a society that treats selfish behaviour as a commendable attribute, the lack of integrity that plays out on an individual level, goes on to adversely effect society as a while. You are not just a drop in the ocean, Your ‘drop’, along with many others, becomes the ocean.

raging ocean

“An individual is not responsible for the crowd, only for his reaction to the crowd. Will he allow it to suppress his own true voice? Or will he have the courage to forge his own path? In the end, if he allows himself to succumb to the roar of the societal monster and is absorbed by that monster, he himself becomes a part of the beast that rampages on.” – Tom Shadyac

Some would like to believe we live in a ‘dog eat dog’ world. With this logic it stands to reason that eventually we will succumb to our own vicious nature. When young and full of energy, we bite, we kick, we hurt each other; without seeing that we will grow old and weak too. And then this comes to pass, in our weakest hour when we are too old to fend for ourselves, we too will be eaten. Just look at how society treats the elderly, how quick we are to dismiss their experience. We believe they have failed to keep up, and we punish them for this. When in reality, the universal complexities in life such as love, war and community do not change much. In the end we do not value those who might help us the most, and we pay for this. This is karma for our ignorance. This is why history repeats, why wars start, why the same stupid mistakes are made time and time again.

But the thing is we don’t have to live like this. Humans are capable of making choices; we do not have to live on instinct alone like other animals.

If we each think of ourselves as one cell in a body, where each cell will affect those around it; we have the choice to be a healthy cell or an unhealthy one. A cancer cell kills everything around it, including the entire organism itself (in this case society). In the end not even the cancer cell survives.

So now you see that everything you do, will come back to you. Everything. You just have to read the top 5 regrets of the dying to know that in the end people most regret not having loved enough, or having neglected themselves and those around them. And all for the sake of ‘following the crowd’. Consider for a minute that maybe the crowd has it wrong.

Imagine how life would change if we took karma a little more personally, if we all got better at analyzing our own actions rather than just waiting for karma to affect those who have directly hurt us. Think about it. All those little tiny things we do to degrade the world around us – throwing a cigarette butt out the car window, taking more than our fair share, bitching out a coworker – all these little things that chip away at who we are and our integrity. We’re not just hurting those around us, what we do hurts ourselves most.

I remember a few months ago watching a guy walk his dog. Despite the laws in my country, this guy allowed his dog to take a crap, then continued walking without picking up the mess. Now granted, it’s gross that everyone walking past was thereafter forced to see this dog poop laying on the nature strip; but the ridiculous thing is, next time that guy took his dog out he would have seen it too. So imagine being him. You’re out taking a leisurely stroll, the air is lovely, the streets are clean… all except for that giant dog crap you left there the other day. You will have to look at that dog crap every time you go for a walk around your own block. It might seem like a small misdeed, but in that small choice that guy caused an injury to himself and everyone else on his street.

Let me give you another example in my country (Australia), with something called a ‘booze bus’. Sometimes the police here will set up random roadblocks to stop cars and test if any drivers have consumed drugs or alcohol. The bad part is, it’s quite common for people to hit up Facebook, Twitter, even create apps, to update people on where these buses are.  People post this information thinking they are being a good ‘mate’, and their friends pat them on the back for doing so. But not once have I ever seen anyone say, “hey dude, you’re an asshole. My mother is out there driving right now, and if any of your drunken friends run into her tonight I’m coming after you first”. Hell, the very same person doing the posting could find out tomorrow that their own loved one has died in an alcohol related accident. But we rarely think of these things.

Happy Rainbow painted on a hand

So assuming everyone reading this is super awesome, let’s next ask ourselves if it’s healthy to wait around to see someone bad get their serve of karma? Of course it’s not. Because karma doesn’t work like that. Karma is not about passive revenge. The world isn’t a place where ‘bad’ people always get their come-uppins. But consider for a moment that maybe that person is already getting their karma by virtue of who they are.

I’ve heard it said before that a person who hurts another is doing so as a way to transfer the pain in their own heart onto someone else. They hurt others in a misguided attempt to heal or defend their own wounds. You have no idea what that person experiences when they are alone with their own thoughts, chances are they are riddled with insecurities.

That does not mean you have to like or endure them. But if it makes you feel any better think about the fact that the relationships in that person’s life probably only run so deep, because of who they are. And that is the real pity…

delete yoga1

So next time you find yourself Facebook stalking someone who’s hurt you in the past, only to find they are still ‘living it up’, consider that maybe they are paying in ways so subtle you cannot understand. God/science knows I’ve worked enough events with the ‘living it up’ crowd to know that 90 per cent are miserable. For many life is a competition; it’s ‘dog eat dog’, and a never-ending race to prove to everyone that they are winning. Does that sound like a person who is happy? Think about it.

Because at the end of the day, that is what good karma and integrity is all about. It’s not about watching another get hit by a car for cheating on you, or about that coworker getting fired after hogging all the credit. Karma has more to do with you developing more empathy, happiness and inner peace than is does watching others implode. It’s about the bigger part you play in the world, while still being that little drop in the ocean. And don’t you think your happiness is a better reward than watching someone else become a train wreck?


Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

For updates on me, my articles and posts, please sign up for my new monthly newsletter. All details will remain private.

*Because I had fun adding a song last week, I’ve done it again, this time with something James Blunt. Besides, I think James is rather lovely to look at…

 “When James was at school (he was a bit of a geek), he hung out with a bunch of ‘cool’ guys (the wisemen). They found out that he liked a girl that they all wanted, so for fun they told her that James liked her. After hearing this, she had feelings for James and James ended up getting the girl.” – source

Image credits: Temaki, Mike Baird, BKOleg Klemetiev


  • Blogitudes
    March 31, 2014 - 2:24 pm · Reply

    Awesome post, Katerina! Really awsome! I so agree – we “are not just a drop in the ocean, Your ‘drop’, along with many others, becomes the ocean.” I think a lot of people are of the opinion that what they do doesn’t matter – that it’s not going to change or affect anything. They couldn’t be more wrong! Everything matters and everything we do makes a difference in some way – sometimes it’s a good difference, sometimes it’s a bad one – but either way, we are affecting something or someone. Your entire post is both beautiful and inspiring! Thank you!

  • Katerina Simms
    March 31, 2014 - 11:04 pm · Reply

    Thanks for reading Marcia, I really appreciate it, especially since you took the time to reply

    It just baffles me how some think being self serving will have them winning in the end. In reality, even without the damage to others, detrimental behaviour hurts the injuring party more than anyone else. It’s amazing though that for many this lesson takes decades (if ever) to learn.

    I’m glad you enjoyed my article. 😀

  • Carrie-Anne Foster (thatdizzychick)
    April 1, 2014 - 12:53 am · Reply

    Katherine, this is such an amazing post! This part:

    “Karma has more to do with you developing more empathy, happiness and inner peace than is does watching others implode. It’s about the bigger part you play in the world, while still being that little drop in the ocean. And don’t you think your happiness is a better reward than watching someone else become a train wreck?”

    is perfection.

    It drives me crazy when people use karma as a ‘what goes around comes around’ thing. Because there are a lot of jerks out there who remain successful through out their lives.

    Karma should be focused on improving one’s self. Not doing something nice with hopes it will be returned. Do good things to make you feel good!

    For me, that is karma.

    • Katerina Simms
      April 1, 2014 - 9:25 pm · Reply

      Exactly Carrie-Anne,

      They use karma as a threat as if they alone have power over the universe. When in reality, as I mentioned, bad people don’t always get their ‘karma’ in the way we’d like.

      I’m glad you liked my post, and it’s great that there are some like minded people out there who really ‘get’ it!

  • rishi
    April 6, 2014 - 11:18 am · Reply

    Beautiful article.
    i think your article can be summarized as ‘As you sow so shall you reap’.
    Karma can be seen as duty that a person has to perform on this ‘stage’ of the theater [here theater refers to the world itself] which is directed by the so called God [which is the inner soul of human itself].
    “Karma should be focused on improving one’s self. Not doing something nice with hopes it will be returned. Do good things to make you feel good!” – thats really true. i agree but how to make ourself feel good while doing something that we are not much interested in but still are compulsory to be done. For example, take the case of a student who loves to do poetry, study literature, write articles, make research in science and to discover new things but has to study the school curriculum unwillingly. OR In short my question is how to make our work enjoyable, how to love what we do?

    Karma is explained in detail in ‘ShrimadBhagwad GITA’ and the book ‘Karmayog’ by Swami Vivekananda. Going through them will certainly help you to make this article many times better than it is.
    i am looking forward for your answer.
    best wishes for next article.

    • Katerina Simms
      April 6, 2014 - 8:32 pm · Reply

      Hi Rishi,

      I think a big part of not becoming depressed with life is acceptance, more particularly, accepting things as they are. There is the saying ‘give me the courage to change the things I can and accept the things I can’t’ (or something along those lines). If the student is not happy they can change the course of what they are doing, if that is not possible then they must stick with what they are doing and learn to be ok with it. Accept that is one stepping stone onto greater things, and not every moment in life can be enjoyable. Those less fun times only make the fun times shine even brighter!

      Also gratitude will lead to more happiness. While you may not like the school curriculum, consider that you are very lucky to be getting an education, not everyone gets one, and knowledge is a privilege that can free you and be passed on to those who come after you.

  • Katerina Simms
    April 5, 2014 - 10:04 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the mention on your website, you’re awesome! I’ve tweeted and facebooked this as well 😀

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