The idea of “Karma” as it was probably originally intended seems foreign to how we live our life. The idea that there is some mechanism by which our deeds come back at us is anathema to many of us, especially when we ask ourselves exactly who or what it is that regulates the process. The idea that this process might be mechanically built into the system often feels wrong. At the same time, the idea that there is a form of higher intelligence which concerns itself with the petty doings of human beings feels in many contexts even more false. There is a great deal in our education, at least in my corner of the world, which speaks forcefully against both an external mechanical agency and a higher-power, magical-thinking agency.
The reason the idea is valuable to me personally might be based on a much simpler agency. We human beings have, to a more or less greater extent, the ability to ‘feel into’ other people and other things. For better or for worse, we can get an approximate sense of what someone else is feeling. Have you ever watched someone fall on their spine, real or in a movie, and you get a kind of numbness, chills or goose bumps? Or you see someone eat something they find disgusting and you get kind of nauseous? There are thousands of examples of this and we’ve all experienced one or another of them. In fact, research implies that the absence of this is something of a psychological disturbance. In other words, it’s not ‘normal’ not to able to empathize with someone. It’s the result of a malformation in development or of a form of trauma. In other words, it must be actively eliminated for us not to have the ability.
Even when we ‘know’ that feelings are probably not there, we feel as if they were. Watching an ancient glacier fall into the sea or seeing an old house being demolished, things completely without nervous systems, evoke reactions in us ‘as if’ they had. So if it’s a given that we can feel another’s pleasure or pain, than it stands to reason that we can also anticipate the pain or pleasure that our actions, behaviors and even attitudes might bring. This anticipation sets a process in motion that subtly (or not so subtly) affects our consciousness filters. In other words, our expectation, at least to a certain extent, influences how we perceive what happens.
If you can accept even a little that empathy and our mirror neurons are a part of what karma may be, then there may be some very advantageous consequences involved. What I’m calling here “Instant Karma” is one of them. Doing something with the conscious intention of giving pleasure to someone or something becomes like throwing a boomerang. Sooner or later it comes back around at you. This is something of a double-bind, of course. The moment that you do something for someone else and it becomes obvious that you’re really doing it for yourself, the effect becomes less. Getting out of this double-bind takes practice, but is possible.
I believe this is a capacity which can be learned and can be taught. Just imagine in an extreme sense; we could feel pain or pleasure in someone else TO THE EXACT SAME EXTENT as they feel it. Overnight war would be eliminated. Prisons would be a thing of the past. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” would be completely outdated. It’s built into the system. Not as punishment, rather as “Pleasure Principle”. Wanna feel good? Make someone else feel good!
I often think this is not only our birthright, but the destiny of our species. It certainly would solve a lot of our problems.
Because my specialty is singing, speaking and The Voice, my own filter is primarily concerned with how this intention to give pleasure modulates the voice tone. Contrast in your own experience the voices of people you know who are generous and creative with those you know who are mean or sarcastic. Try it yourself, as an acting exercise. Speak the same neutral sentence in a sarcastic tone and then genuinely. Interesting to notice how the voice modulates and how the frequencies are strengthened differently.
In the realm of singing, especially opera, which quality of melodies and harmonies evoke genuineness and which meanness. This is, of course, the domain of opera composers and we can learn a lot from them in understanding speaking. Our very human ability to communicate multi-dimensionally has evolved our speaking voice to express myriads of emotions effectively. Making that conscious and tweaking our ability to communicate our highest values IS Instant Karma. The way we use our voice and envelope others in our sound and intention IS Instant Karma. Vibration and how our voices set it in motion IS Instant Karma.
Evan Bortnick http://www.musa-vocalis.de