Good Luck. We’ll All Be Rooting for You.
I thought this question in response to my last post was significant enough that it deserved its own post. I think you’ll find it very thought-provoking.
Are the events of life random? Do we live in a stupid universe or is someone watching over us? Or, do we create our own reality? How responsible are we? What, then, is karma? Are we just paying for our sins in this life?
Good grief. Why do people ask me these things?!
You said we live in a giant matrix of cause and effect. In a previous blog post you made a passing reference to “random” events.
My question is this, do you believe the popular, overused saying, “There are no accidents?” Or do you believe, as you have seemed to indicate a couple of times, that things can happen randomly?
I straddle both the eastern and western world views at times so I grapple with this question often. I’ve personally witnessed that outward circumstances can change when you’ve healed elements in your own consciousness, so it would seem to point to the idea that it’s all just done with mirrors.
Do you agree w/what all the New Age gurus say–that you create your own reality? Most of these teachings evolved from New Thought, and I’ve been involved in a New Thought practice for several decades. Because of my training, I’ve endlessly taken responsibility for my lot and worked hard to change myself to overcome it. I’ve struggled long and hard with this as I have a “reality” I’ve not wanted for a long time and I’ve worked endlessly on myself to effect a shift in my experience. I’m still working and still stuck.
So the question of karma comes in. Am I just doing penance for past mistakes in other lives? Will no amount of work or awareness or witnessing my internal processes eradicate a debt that predates this life?
My situation is extreme, and to simplify something very complex, a great deal of it stems from a misrepresentation of me and a deliberate false accusation which set off a cascading chain of events which eventually spiraled out of control.
I have been working for literally three decades to resolve the situation, at times I made things worse simply because I could not effectively manage my own emotional triggers, nor handle violence and injustice with poise.
So then the western concept of the existence of evil comes in. In the Faust legend, Mephistopheles is described as a “cold, scoffing, relentless fiend.” My life has been indelibly touched by such energy–one where no matter what you do or say, you cannot redeem youself, and you cannot improve it.
So, do you think “accidents” like these are random? Do you think they are karmic? Do you think they are just outward manifestions of our internal map of reality? I’d be interested to learn how much you think we actually create our day-to-day reality and how other people see and treat us.
If you read my other posts on this blog you’ll have a pretty good idea of my views on such things. If you take my Life Principles Intergration Process online courses (www.centerpointe.com/life/preview), you’ll get an even deeper and more practical (“here’s what to do”) view. But here’s a short answer:
Overall, as I’ve said, you have quite a bit of influence over your EXPERIENCE of life–if you’re aware enough. With enough awareness, you gain choice over 1) how you feel (feelings are something you DO inside in response to what happens outside), 2) how you behave (for the same reason), 3) which people and situation you attract or become attracted to, and 4) what meanings you assign to what happens (meanings are NOT inherent in things and events–you add them with your mind).
These four things become a choice if you are aware enough to see how you create them. If you create them outside your awareness (as nearly everyone does) they happen automatically, without choice.
So these are the things you COULD have choice about. You don’t, however, have any choice about the fact that everything is impermanent, and you have just a tiny amount of influence over the world of cause and effect, and that influence is only because you are one of the elements in that world of cause and effect. Given that you are one of an infinite number of other elements, your influence is small.
The closer you are to a situation, the more control you have over it. You have more influence with your own home than with your neighborhood, less with your town, less still with your state, nation, the guy living on the other side of the world, etc.
Then there are all the physical events going on around you. What influence can you have over the weather, for instance? Move to a different climate? Use an umbrella? Stay indoors? Then, what about gravity? Cosmic rays? Earthquakes? Magnetic fields?
You have a small amount of influence over your immediate environement and the people around you, since both of these act partially in response to what you say or do. If you’re persuasive or, I suppose, commanding enough, maybe the people around you will do what you want.
Who, however, can successfully control his or her spouse or children, much less the guy at the DMV? What happens outside of you is influenced by the entire matrix of cause and effect, of which you are a very small part. The whole is constantly moving and changing in response to itself, and you have but a slight effect on that.
If you are skillful enough and aware enough, even that little bit of influence can make a big difference, though, which is why it is worthwhile to become more aware and develop certain skills.
So are there “random” events? If you mean events beyond your control, or events for which you aren’t responsible, then yes. If you mean events that are truly random, in the sense that they happen outside the realm of cause and effect, no.
I don’t just mean Newtonian cause and effect, to which New Age people have given an undeservedly bad rap. Newton’s laws are obviously valid. In fact, their discover changed the world and our understanding of it. All of modern technology, not to mention all your day to day interactions with the world, are based upon it and an expression of it. Newton’s laws were the first significant step in human beings understanding cause and effect. Prior to the discover of those laws, most thinking was magical thinking. When people don’t understand how things work, they make up magic to explain it.
Newton’s discoveries, however, have been refined by the discoveries of chaos theory. Complex, open systems–which include living beings, social groups, and other complex systems–are not predictable in a linear way. The exact outcome of an interaction can’t be determined in advance, as it can with Newtonian cause-and-effect situations. Such systems are too complex. Possible outcomes are instead governed by probability theory. A bell curve of outcomes are possible, one of which will happen, and some of which are more probable, but none of which is certain.
While we’re talking about cause and effect, I’ll just add here parenthetically that the New Age love affair with quamtum physics is pure hocum. Every New Age teacher I’ve ever heard touting quantum physics a) has no idea what quantum physics is really about, and b) is using the mysterious nature of quantum events (that they don’t understand) as evidence that certain similar-sounding magical events can happen on the relative level.
Real scientists throw up in their mouths when they hear this stuff, or roll their eyes. If someone starts talking about the law of attraction and quantum physics, run.
But back to our story. NOTHING happens that isn’t the result of extremely complex interactions of the different aspects of the whole, and all of this follows certain immutable laws of nature. New Age magical thinkers have this fantasy that you can somehow bypass or override these laws with your mind. This is, however, not possible. This is the result of a lack of understanding of cause and effect. It is scientific ignorance. There is not one shred of credible evidence supporting such a view, and believe me, I have looked very closely at this, for a number of years.
Those who don’t understand what science knows about how the world works (which includes most people, unfortunately), and those who hope they can magically create the outcomes they don’t know how to create through a knowledge of cause and effect, are willing to believe that certain studies “prove” that you can alter the laws of nature with your mind.
People much smarter than I (including major studies by the military, who once wondered whether they could use such things to more effectively kill people and break things) have looked at all the studies about psychic abilities and have found NO evidence that any of it is valid. There’s plenty of belief by scientifically uneducated people, but no evidence to people who understand the real definition of “credible evidence”. More throwing up in the mouths of real scientists.
Bottom line, there are no random events, except in the sense that things do happen to every person that that person did not want or intend, and had no responsiblity in creating. If someone runs a stop sign and hits your car, and you are injured, I suppose you might have prevented the accident if you’d been more aware, but then again even the most aware person might not have been able to do anything.
There’s no evidence (again, there’s plenty of belief, but no evidence) that in some metaphysical way you “planned” to be there at that moment, or that you arranged to be there to pay off some sort of “karmic debt,” or some other blah, blah, blah. Though this car accident isn’t a “random” event. It’s the product of the interactions of that giant matrix of cause and effect I’ve described–one of the probable outcomes in the bell curve of possibilities I described above. While not random, it is something beyond your control and not caused by you (which is what most people mean by ‘random’).
So let’s talk about the much-misunderstood topic of karma. “Karma” comes from the Sanskrit root “kri” which mean “doing” or “happening.” Your karma is then, quite simply, what you do, or what happens to you. The idea that it’s punishment for past sins is a moralistic and fundamentalistic version of the idea–the Hindu version of the “you are a sinner” outlook of fundamentalist Christianity. It is another of those many beliefs that people are willing to look at because a) it seems to explain something people have trouble explaining, and b) lots of other people believe it, and they must know something.
To the extent that you have some input into the world of cause and effect, your karma (what happens to you) is partially the result, the effect, the consequence, of what you do. If you lie to people, for instance, it will affect you. People will eventually stop trusting you (of course, you lied to people because your parents were mean to you, and they were mean to you because their parents were mean to them, and their parents were mean to them because…).
If you leave food out of the refrigerator, it will spoil. If you fail to pay your water bill, they’ll eventually turn off your water. This is the most simple version of the so-called “Law of Attraction”–which is nothing more than cause and effect. The Law of Attraction becomes magical thinking when it assumes that you can control the world with your mind. Show me the person who is doing that successfully.
Karma, once you put the magical thinking aside, is nothing more than the idea that you have an effect on what happens to you. There’s nothing metaphysical about it, unless you believe in past lives and such, which just shows that you are willing to believe things without any evidence other than the fact that many others also believe it (which isn’t evidence–if it were, you’d have to believe the world is flat, the earth is the center of the universe, floods happen because the river goddess is pissed off, the government can solve your problems, and other silly things that used to be widely believed).
Other than the fact that there are consequences to your actions, there is no debt to pay. You are, however, caught in the human condition, which is governed by cause and effect and impermanence, and from that there is no escape (and, it includes consequences you didn’t create, and which are beyond your control). So stop trying to escape. Human beings create an enormous amount of addition suffering and angst by trying to solve an insoluable problem–how to escape from the human condition.
Of course your situation is very complex (as you say in your letter). Of course is involves pain and suffering. Of course certain other people have treated you unfairly, or in a way you don’t like. Believe me, though this might not be apparent, EVERY person has his or her own version of this same story. One of the main things I learned from the Centerpointe retreats I used to lead is that EVERY person has been to hell and back in his or her life. Most people just don’t tell others about it. They deal with it as best they can and move on. Or, they don’t deal with it and they stay stuck.
Become aware enough and you can exercise choice about the four things I listed at the beginning of this letter. Part of that awareness is an awareness of cause and effect and how it works. Part of this might be an understanding that if you had more skills or more knowledge, you might be better able to create what you want. Or that you need to stay away from certain situations and certain people. If you gain this awareness of how cause and effect works (and act on it) you gain a huge advantage. Despite the fact that your influence is small, with enough awareness your life can be much better and much happier.
There is, however, no escape from the human condition. Your situation is just one localized version of it. My heart goes out to you. It also goes out to everyone else, though, because we’re all in the same impermanent, cause-and-effect boat. Life is filled with problems, with loss, with pain, with unfairness (whatever that is to you), and with not getting what you want.
But it’s also filled with joy, love, music, interesting challenges, delightful surprises, tasty food, warm baths, deep kisses, soft beds, laughing children, and beautiful sunsets. My suggestion would be to become aware enough (Holosync is a great tool for doing this) so you can more clearly see what YOU are creating (as opposed to what is outside your control), so you can do something about it. Then, accept and make your peace with those things you can’t do anything about. This will free you to focus your attention on the joy, love, music, interesting challenges, and delightful surprises.
Good luck. We’ll all be rooting for you.
PS: If you’re a current Holosync user, please check out my new video about the current research on meditation and stress at www.centerpointe.com/participants. This is must-see information.
(click the player above to listen to this post)
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