A friend of mine rides the subway in New York to and from work each day and enjoys regaling me with tales of his journeys. One particular day, he shared a story about boarding a rush hour train in Brooklyn headed for Manhattan. The carriage was full, and people had to stand, but there was a woman sitting down that had placed a large sports bag on the seat next to her. Seeing this as an opportunity, a passenger asked the woman if she would remove her bag from the seat so that he could sit down. The woman began shouting that he didn’t deserve to sit down and that she would never move her bag for someone like him. Somewhat in shock, the man went and stood as far away from her as he could. When the train arrived at the next stop, the same scenario occurred.
As the train continued its journey, becoming even more crowded, an increasing number of passengers found themselves on the receiving end of the woman’s sharp tongue. After fifteen stops, the train pulled into the West 4th Street station and the woman stood up, pushed through those standing up, and got off. But just as the doors were closing behind her, she realized what all the other passengers had gleefully noticed—she had left her sports bag on the seat. As the train pulled out of the station leaving the woman open-mouthed on the platform, the people in the carriage broke into laughter and cheers. My friend stated to me that karma finally did what it was supposed to do. That day, the bad guy lost.
The Universal Law of Karma, cause and effect, is shared by the world’s spiritual traditions (the concept that one will reap what they sow). It can be comforting to hear stories such as my friend’s, to see there is divine retribution for those that do ‘unkind’ things. But this “retribution” is not based on judgment and punishment; it is simply a natural law. And if the natural law decrees that a negative deed attracts a negative response, then it stands to reason that the opposite is also true—if we are kind and generous and loving, then the effects we will feel will be positive. So, through karma, the universe is offering us a feedback loop on how to be at peace with one another.
Contemplating this universal law can likewise help us when things aren’t going in our favor. Instead of feeling angry when someone takes our parking space, we can pause and ponder if this was, in fact, our karma. This humbling exercise, in that moment, helps curb our anger. We can almost feel gratitude that, if this was the effect of something we caused, then at least the circuit is now closed. And if it wasn’t our karma, then we know the Universe has our back, and our thoughts of peace and gratitude will come back to serve us in the future.
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