Often misunderstood as some hippie buzzword, "karma" is one of the oldest Buddhist philosophies and reaches far beyond Eastern beliefs. Simply put, karma is the sum of a person's intentional words, actions, and thoughts, meaning you get what you give in life whether it's good or bad. The consequences of these intentions are spontaneous, natural and instant. The attitude we portray to others comes back to us with the same energy.
Since fate is never truly set because of free will, life gives you chances to better yourself. If you can explore your actions and attitudes through positive intention, you can effectively alter your outlook to create good karma for rich life experiences.
Always be honest with others and yourself — even if it means you might get embarrassed. When people lie, the lie returns and most often comes back tenfold. It might seem impossible to live a life without lying (especially when we talk to our kids about the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus), but through a greater aspect of intention, karma means taking responsibility for every word and action we verbalize. Being dishonest hurts no one but yourself.
Gossip might be a form of bonding for some, but on a subconscious level, it's also an incredible waste of time and effort. It's a means to create comparison and unhappiness in ourselves through judgment -- gossip can bring about bad vibes and haunt you. If you're talking behind someone's back, you can be certain they're talking about you, too. As the cliché goes, always treat others the way you want to be treated. It might seem like no big deal at first, but think of the person you're talking about -- would you say the same if they were in the room, and would they think also your words are harmless? This kind of negativity spreads lies, and tarnishes your integrity and trust.
Lend a Helping Hand
As President Roosevelt said, "Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care." To improve your karma, lend a helping hand. While many consider volunteering at shelters and food banks a genuinely positive way to help those in need, it doesn't have to be such a grand gesture if you're short on time or resources. Karmic improvement can be made through small gestures like helping someone cross the street, giving up your seat on the bus, or even opening a door for a mom and her baby. Create a conscious effort of spontaneous help that becomes a habitual extension of your kindness.
When things don't go according to plan, we grow impatient. This kind of irritation is part of the angercontinuum where we bottle our frustrations and take it out on loved ones. Sure, screaming and cursing might feel good in the moment, but it's not the best solution for maintaining good karma. Those same actions can come back when you least expect it — so think twice. Take deep breaths, relax, and think of the person on the receiving end. As self-help author and speaker Wayne Dyer says, "How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours."
Pay it Forward
Different from helping others, "pay it forward" is a true karmic seed that inspires others to create change and an enduring impression on how to treat others. By selflessly giving without expecting anything in return, this action produces a ripple effect of positive moments between people. Easily achieved through little gestures like putting a quarter in the parking meter that's about to expire, paying for the person behind you in line, or even packing a lunch for someone less fortunate you see on your way to work.
It might seem simple, choose happiness and gratitude, and always say "thank you." As the architects of our own fate, we need to express appreciation to everyone who has ever meant something to us because it counts. Giving thanks not only changes our outlook on life, but makes us really value everything and everyone around us. Think with your heart, be kind and let virtuous intentions guide you to nurture those karmic levels.