When overspread by extreme vice --like a tree by a vine-- you do to yourself what an enemy would wish. -Dhammapada, 12
Don't you understand (man) universal law? What you throw out comes back to you, star. -Lauryn Hill, "Lost Ones"
Flashback. Senior year of undergrad. For the first time in my tenure at Rutgers, I was sharing a classroom with a number of my closest friends. We were all enrolled in a discussion seminar whose the purpose was to provide support for us during every stage of the writing of our honors theses. Generally, the class took a conversational tone, allowing us to converse easily about the progress we'd made in our research and the challenges that we faced.
True to form, I imagined myself to be at the head of the class. I'd already completed a 10-week summer research program at a prestigious university and worked with a faculty member to generate the 20-paged critical essay that was to serve as the first chapter of my thesis. All that to say - I was further along in the process than most of my peers.
So, when presentation day rolled around, I was fairly confident that my research would be more developed and polished than that of my peers. This was a good thing, as presentation day -with its goal of preparing us for the crticisms that might be issued when we actually defended our theses to the public- carried with it fears of embarrasment and public humiliation. Presentation day provided the more sadistic amongst us with a guilty pleasure, allowing us to harp upon the shortcomings or short-sightedness of another's project under the innocuous guise of playing devil's advocate. In no uncertain terms, it was an opportunity to be mean.
I leaned back in my chair to see what my less-studious peers would come up with. Before long, it became clear to me that less-studious was an understatement. "Is she serious? How ridiculously broad is that topic?" "Lord, if another student of color proposes a project about perceptions of race..." Self-satisfied and judgmental, I was less than impressed with the work of my peers. I kept my thoughts to myself, though. They needed the help of professionals, and I had my own presentation to worry about.
As my turn neared, my emotional climate changed dramatically. Though I'd prepared extensively, I was wrought with doubt. "What if they ask me about a text I hadn't read? What if there was some gaping oversight that I couldn't explain? What if I stuttered? My heart raced. Palms sweated. Hands shook.
Though my presentation evinced a polished project, it also showed that I myself was a mess.
Years later, I'd come to realize that this was a lesson in karmic energy. You see, some believe that karma is a force that's "out to get you". "Karma's a bitch" or "karma will get you back tenfold", they say.
I've learned that karma is the universe's way of bringing you face to face with the energy you've put out. Karma is not a bitch and karma is not punitive. In this situation, karma saw to it that I should have a fuller understanding of the ramifications of my self-satisfied and mean-spirited regard for the work of my peers.
Although I had every reason to be confident with my presentation, I was terrorized by the thought that someone might critique me in a spirit of cattiness or with an air of superiority. And how did this image of judgement enter into my sphere of possibility? How did it breach the boundaries of my imagination? Why, because I knew that there was at least one person in the room capable of generating that energy! Someone arrogant enough to silently belittle my work while I struggled to communicate my thoughts. That person was me.
Quite simply, my spirit was shaked when it was confronted by the ghost of my own negativity. I simply could not handle the energy that I myself had created.
I am quite confident that had I not created and released into the universe so much spite and dismissal, the preoccupation with being judged too harshly by my peers with would have never entered my mind. On that day, I got the first whiff of my own toxic energy and, reader, believe me when I say it tore me up.
A lesson learned. Since then, I've endeavored to generate only the kind of energy that I wouldn't mind returning to me. Present unto the universe that which I would have the universe present unto me.