Journey Monologues No.1: Where does it all begin? #karma

Where does it all begin?
Hardly anybody gets through the first 30 years of life without some major traumas, some major betrayals, some major grief of one kind or another, even if we are unaware of it.”
— JON KABAT-ZINN, GUIDED MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

We are all born in a certain place and time, with particular parents, a defined culture and economic situation.  In Buddhism it is said that the karma - defined as the ripening of past virtuous or non-virtuous actions - that appears at the moment you pass on, determines the conditions under which you will take rebirth. Absent this, birth/rebirth seems totally out of our control.

At birth we cannot yet speak or talk or intellectualize; yet we are open, vulnerable and take on whatever comes our way.  What we learn is quickly cemented into our brains.  In our earliest years our minds are like empty computers, sucking up any input it comes across in an effort to create a “default” setting it can later return to.

Additionally, when we are born, we are completely reliant upon our parents or those responsible for our care. Beyond the basics of food, shelter, and clothing our parents or caregivers give us our first sense of security, fear, love and anger.  In fact, through the mere act of being present, they pass down their entire gamut of emotions and feelings.

Those who nurture us set the stage for our conditioning; though they may be completely unaware that they are doing so. We learn what they learned, know what they know, and form our opinions of ourselves based on their opinions of themselves. When they laugh, we laugh.  When they cry, we cry.  If they know peace and joy, we know it too.  If they know fear and anxiety, anger or hate then so do we.

Absent karma or the conditioned circumstances in which they are born, our parents or caregivers could access their inner wisdom or Buddha nature. We would all be showered with love, compassion, and joy.  We would be taught how beautiful and amazing we truly are; worthy of every moment of love given to us. No matter what is going on in the world outside of ourselves and regardless of our race, gender, looks, intellect, or economic situation, we could connect with love, security, and support. Most importantly we would learn that we are all strong and powerful creators of this amazing life that is about to unfold.

So here is where the big C word – compassion – comes in. Compassion for our parents who want the best for us but are perhaps acting in response to their own conditioning. Compassion for ourselves as we may be one of the estimated 80 to 95% of people who do not receive the love, guidance, and other nurturing necessary to form consistently healthy relationships, or to feel good about ourselves and about what we do – this according to Charles Whitfield, M.D. in his 1987 book, Healing the Child Within. And compassion for others as, according to the quote by Jon Kabat Zinn, few escape some form of drama or major tragedy in their lives.

This, our beginnings - good or bad – sets the stage. The upside of it all is that we have been given this precious human life in which to reconnect with our inner wisdom or Buddha nature. A quote from the 1998 film Hope Floats states– “Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.” We can do this.