I was on my way to work on my novel when a homeless man came up to me. He asked me for money to buy food and I gave him what I could. Then, when I was about to leave, the man said:
“It’ll come back to you.”
I was about to answer him, but the man continued:
“Back when I wasn’t homeless, I went to visit Mexico City,” he said. “There was a homeless woman on the street asking for change. I gave her money so she could eat for the day. I thought nothing of it and went on my way. That was decades ago. Then, about two years ago, I was struggling to survive in Las Vegas. I was asking people for money just so I could eat for the day. No one would look at me. They’d all pass me by. All I wanted was a few bucks to eat something for the day. That’s all. Then I looked over and saw this group of men standing a few feet away from me. One of them was headed in my direction, while his friends kept persuaded him against it. Finally, the man went up to me and handed me some money. I took the money and said thank you. Then, something told me to ask the man where he was from. ‘Mexico City’ he said.”
There was a twinkle in the man’s eye as he concluded with the moral of his story:
“So, like I said. It’ll come back to you.”
The man said thank you and then left to buy his food for the day.
I wanted to tell the man that I wasn’t interested in having the good deed come back to me—all I wanted was to make sure that he ate that day. But the man felt it was important that I understand that my good deed would one day be rewarded. That helping him was the right thing to do because later on it would directly benefit me.
But I didn’t care whether this act of good benefited me, I thought. I only cared if it benefited him.
Later on I realized that, in that moment, I learned what it truly meant to give.
Revisiting The Idea of Karma
Karma holds a very interesting place in our contemporary imagination. It seems that, without us realizing it, our materialistic culture has successfully co-opted the notion of “Karma” and deformed it until it has taken on the likeness of our materialistic culture.
Getting “Good Karma” has now become the means to an end. We do good because we want to be rewarded with cars, money, status, success. But this idea alludes to our materialistic mindset, and it is at odds with True Karma, which I believe is deeper and more meaningful than our wildest materialistic yearnings.
True Karma will only manifest and do good for you when you have no desire for it to do good for you. This is the paradoxical (and humorous) nature of True Karma. True Karma waits for you to understand that true giving has no personal agenda. It is not about the individual—it is the exact opposite of the individual. True Karma is not based on the need for independence (or dependence) it’s based on the need for interdependence.
True Karma says that when you do good for someone else, the reward is automatic.
False, or Shadow Karma, is linear. You must do a good deed in order to receive a future reward. Shadow Karma is a journey from “A” to “B” on a number line.
True Karma, however, is circular. Your good deed is the reward. True Karma is a journey from “A” and back to “A” on a number line.
Shadow Karma can take years, decades even, for you to see it manifest as a reward.
True Karma has NO DELAY. The reward of giving is the act of giving itself.
No Good Deed Goes… Unchallenged
It is often said that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
But believing this makes us afraid of doing any good deed because we fear the unexpected consequences of our noble actions. So many people withhold from doing good because they believe their good deed will not help, but only hurt, the current situation.
Recently, I had someone launch a personal attack on me. They said very hurtful and mean things to me. They attacked and undermined my experience, my age, my credibility, my accolades, and my intentions. I was upset at their mean words, but I was more upset because I felt like I had done good but was being punished for it.
This isn’t fair, I thought. I don’t deserve such a vicious, unfair attack.
But then I thought about it more. Was I being punished for my good deeds, or was I simply being challenged for them?
You see, when you do good, it is the nature of evil to do unfair, mean, unjust things to you to confuse you and tear you down–to deter you from doing good.
When you think about it, why wouldn’t evil try to stop you from doing good? That’s what evil does.
It’s evil’s job to discourage you from good deeds, to try to make you despair, to suck away all your hope, to make you bitter, desperate, angry, disillusioned and untrusting of the world. It is in evil’s nature to make you feel weak, helpless, lost, and insecure so you are more tempted to join “the dark side.”
How else would you expect evil to act in the face of every good deed that threatens everything evil stands for?
If negative consequences come as a result of your good-hearted, well-intentioned giving—although it may seem like a punishment at first—don’t be discouraged. In a strange way, this is a good sign.
Because no good deed goes unchallenged by evil forces in this world.
What If I Have Nothing To Give?
There is another misconception about giving: we believe that a gift must be monetary or material in order for it to be a true gift, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Deepak Chopra rightly points out that a gift can be anything: it can be a kiss, a hug, a kind word, a poem, or a story. A gift does not have to be material, and if we look closely, we may see that even if we feel we have no gifts, we still have something to give.
Mark Nepo tells the story of a woman who survived the Holocaust. This woman said that when she was inside the concentration camps, she carried only two possessions: one was a comb and the other was a piece of bread. The last possession, the piece of bread, was not for her. It was just in case she met someone who was hungrier than her, and needed something to eat.
If a tortured woman in a concentration camp could find something to give others when she had so very little, then we who are more fortunate should find it easy to find something to give as well.
Don’t Ask “What’s In It For Me?” Instead Ask “How Can I Contribute?”
These days I get so many messages from people who want me to sell their book, or promote their products. I try my best to politely say: “No, thank you” to these requests, but what I really want to tell these people is that they’re approaching life all wrong.
These people keep searching for the answer to the question: “What’s in it for me?” instead of searching for the answer to the more pertinent question: “How can I contribute?”
If these people would ask themselves the latter question more often, they might find themselves, ironically, in a place where their books sales would shoot through the roof, and people would arrive in droves to promote their products.
This is because if you start looking for how you can contribute (instead of just looking for what’s in it for you) then True Karma will appear and give you your reward instantly—without you even trying.
This is because there is nothing that separates you and your fellow humans. Our skin is permeable: it has holes for crying out loud! We all breathe the same air, we all eat from the same earth, we all take in the same energy from the same sun. We’re all brothers and sisters. We’re all one and the same.
So giving to someone else is the same as giving to yourself.
That is why there is no delay in receiving the reward of giving. That is why when we engage in True Karma, there is no delay in the manifestation of its positive impact.
The Law of Giving As It Pertains To Writing
At this point in the process of writing my novel, I can honestly say that I am no longer in pursuit of some grand end result. No, what keeps me going these days is knowing that I am working on a gift I can one day give to my readers.
This is because when our writing becomes an act of giving, we need not search for some reward in the future.
The act of giving is reward enough.
So… how can you contribute? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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