Interrupting Karma

June 14, 2023

Karma blocks our capacity to care about others. How can we interrupt our karmic patterns of self-concern right as they are happening? A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Let's talk about what people can do to relax in an ordinary way, not sadhana, not seated practice. If we're not relaxed, we can't be in the state of our practice.

Obviously, we're not fully relaxed because that would be self-realization. [laughs] Not even most practitioners, most great teachers, even they have areas where they're not totally relaxed. It's just how we are.

But if we are not able to relax and feel what our heart is telling us to do, we've really lost the whole thing. And we need to be able to feel the wisdom that's coming from the heart a little bit.

We need to be able to feel some concern for other people, putting ourselves in other people's shoes, a little bit of ability to empathize, ability to feel the care for everything in our world, not just people, but animals and plants, too. Spaces. We need to have some genuine feeling for our world, and it has to come from the heart. And this is the real intelligence.

And if we're caught up in fixation and anxiety, self-concern, trying to impress somebody, trying to win somebody, trying to keep somebody, trying to define oneself, carve out a little space for oneself, trying to stay out of trouble, trying to not get criticized, on and on and on. The list could go on forever.

If we're doing any of those things, we don't have any chance of contacting the wisdom of the heart. And as practitioners, our number one job is to recognize when we're not doing that and to use the tools that we have to relax so that we can feel that thread, that vibratory thread of wisdom coming from the heart, so that we can actually care about our world in a real way.

The question is, for most of you, how can I recognize the condition I'm in so that I can remember to apply something so that I can relax? What kinds of things do you know? It doesn't have to be anything you've learned from a spiritual teacher, just through your own life. What can you do? Because this is just crucial.

Like, just give a little example, like, we have water on the altar and everyday it gets changed. And that water is called nirmalyam. Nirmalyam means the remains of what's left after you do ritual offering.

Nirmalyam has a special quality that is food for other beings. And so we have some plants upstairs and the water is put into the plant so the plants can benefit, or I take the water outside and put it into some plants outside sometimes.

You came in today and then you just threw the water down the drain. And the reason is not because you're a bad person. It's just because you're all concerned about the performance of something and getting something and being nervous and... So you don't care in those moments. And everybody has this experience to some degree or another.

So what can you do to recognize, this is what's happening right now? 'I am worried about myself, or I'm just scattered, or I want, like, to use my— what I consider to be my intellect or my whatever to try to impress people.'

How can we recognize these things while they're happening and pick up our tools? What are our tools? What tools do you have? This is just ground zero. Right? Ground zero.

I've been working a lot on this at work for a couple of years because my workplace is very tense and I get very tense. And... But what I do when I notice it, is try to lean back in my spine, lean back against the chair I'm sitting in, lean back in the middle of the Zoom meeting where I'm getting tense, and also lengthen my spine so that I'm connecting with ground and, you know, sky and connecting up and down, blocks in the shoulders, connecting sideways, around me...

That's really good. You're moving out. When we are tense and caught up in patterns, we're all inward. It might seem like we're outward. You know, maybe we're, like, doing something very aggressive outwardly, but actually everything we're doing is really about us. So none of it's really about anything outside of ourself— our small sense of self.

So what I also would try is breathing really deeply. Right? Like expanding your whole chest in 360 degrees and letting yourself have the experience that air is moving in between each vertebrate and that your spine is actually being lifted by your breath.

Oh. Uh huh.

Just to add to your toolbox.

Thank you. That's good. Yeah.

And then what happens when you do that? It interrupts a defensive pattern. Even if we only interrupt it for a second, it's worth the effort. Every time you remember, you actually put those tools into practice, you will see and you will remember more. That's the feedback loop that works.

Because your body and your energy and your mind want to relax. They want to relax. Think of those patterns that cause you to be so defensive as little forms of mini-possession.

They're just like little entities that have inhabited you that have these things that just repeat over and over. They want to survive, too. But your whole body, energy, mind wants to relax. So if you build a little momentum in the direction of relaxing, that momentum will remind you, will make you notice more and will win out in the end.

But the effort to be applied is that when you notice it, you just don't go, oh, I'm not going to act on it now. Or you notice it, but you don't stop because you're enjoying whatever it is that you're doing.

You know, like, getting emotional attention from somebody through your manipulation, or getting your energy all up by being enraged with somebody or feeling dominant and powerful by smashing somebody with your arguments or whatever it is.

I mean, there's lots of forms of patterning that are actually very pleasurable and bring us— or bring them (those patterns) the reward that they're looking for. The effort to be applied is even if we're enjoying the pattern, that we find the gumption to interrupt it for a moment.

I have used this mudra at times. In the evenings.

Oh yeah. Uh uh.

And, and that can kind of ground me. And, you know, under my desk, I can just do this.


And it, it just kind of connects, centers, and everything settles and I relax.

That's great. I have a— one of the jobs of teachers and students is to find out what works for particular students. For myself, I feel very connected to mudra.

I've been teaching this mudra every morning when we do the Mahamrityunjaya chanting, which is a heart opening mudra. You can try that too. Looks like this. You close your fingers into your palm and let your thumbs stick out in opposite directions. And then you just rest this on your knees. But you can experiment with what works for you.

I got really wigged out yesterday dealing with the computer stuff. And there were two things that helped a little bit. One was I found a spot in the parking lot by the Apple store that— where there was a tree and I just parked and there's this nice breeze.

And sometimes just looking at green, the color green, or whether it's a shrub or a tree, or— and just feeling the breeze on my skin was helpful. And then the other thing that's been helping me lately is just moving slowly, like walking really slowly.


So when I went back to the Apple store from the parking lot, just walking very slowly.

Yep, that's good. And also putting your awareness on the bottoms of your feet. When you're feeling very anxious you're wa— and you're walking, you just put your awareness on the bottom of your feet, both feet at the same time. That's very helpful. Especially— that's very helpful for inducing an experience of modesty also.

You know, and you were in the Apple store, right? So the air in the Apple store is very stagnant. So it doesn't surprise me that you were enjoying being in the wind after being in there. It's like, it's kind of this weird stagnancy. It's like 'neeeee'... You know, it's like jiggling in place. [laughs]

I'm really relating to a few kind of, like, signals that I'm going to a really fixated place. that tension. Kind of, like, jutting my, my ribs out sort of and compressing my low back and in my voice, too.

The thing that I do is usually, I think the thing I do most commonly is kind of like open gate posture, but not if I'm in a position where I can't literally change the posture of my body and just kind of try to be in it without acting like the external shape of it.


But it often just feels like a lot of— more space in my body.

Yeah. So open gate posture is something that everyone who's taking foundations will learn. And it's a way— what we do when we sit down to do practice or when we do yoga, asana, but also just what we would like to be in all the time.

And it's related to the foundation of the tradition, which is that we are trying to open the gates of our perception. And this is a way of getting into that by working with our physical body.

I used to use 'Om Maa', but I fall out of touch with it. These days, I'm just breathing in more deeply, before I go to bed and feel more spacious.

Try 'Om Maa' again. Read Didi's diaries. I keep mentioning, I'm sure, reading Volume Eight of Gurupriya Devi's diaries. She was one of Ma's principal female disciples. She took care of Ma and traveled with Ma for 50 years.

She came to Ma when she was 13 years old. And she came from a middle class Indian family, I think. And, you know, her parents were— had a different plan for her. But somehow she convinced her parents to leave her with Ma. I don't know how she did that. And she just stayed with Ma.

When she first met Ma when she was 13, the first thing Ma said to her was, 'where have you been?' Like, you should have got here when you were four. I don't know. [laughs]

Anyway, the books are marvelous. Gurupriya Devi was also called Didi and— which means older sister. And she wasn't the most creative person, so these are not literary masterpieces. But in a sense, that serves the purpose pretty well. You know, she doesn't embellish. She just says what happened and she reports what Ma said as accurately as she can.

As I'm learning from reading Volume Eight, Ma often didn't sleep much. And when she wasn't feeling like sleeping, which was many nights a week, she would call Gurupriya Devi into her room and they would just sit up chatting all night.

Gurupriya Devi records some of these conversations. It's just marvelous. And you just really get a sense of who Ma was and the fine— more fine-grain texture of her. So I recommend it. It's pretty inspiring. And also just how... what a— she was such a trickster and so playful.

There's many, many points in this book where she arrives somewhere spon— no one knows that she's coming, but she just arrives. And then the minute she arrives, all these people find out she's there, and they all start making plans for her. 'Well, tomorrow we'll do this, and the next day we'll do that, and the day after this, we'll do that.'

And invariably, Ma says, this body (meaning herself) does whatever it wants, don't make any plans. Or she'll say, tomorrow is tomorrow, we'll see what happens. She never accedes to anybody's plans, you know, unless it's that same day, you know, maybe that same hour even, when she'll say yes. But she never accedes to anyone's plans that are planned in advance.

Gurupriya Devi apparently hadn't quite 100% got the message. And she called ahead to somebody to say that Ma was coming and they should pick her up at this particular station. And Ma immediately changed the station that they were going to. [laughs] And said something to Gurupriya Devi, like, you still don't get it. [laughs] I'm not going to follow along.

Pretty cute.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.