One of the biggest misconceptions in our culture about yogic philosophy is the way we approach Karma. Usually, it’s some variation of a reward and punishment system being handed out by an invisible omnipotent and omniscient manager who also seems to think I, as an individual person, am the center of the universe and this cosmic balance sheet. This has a few flaws, of course, not least of all the ideas that we should want to exist in a system of reward and retribution and that the universe centers us specifically.
Karma, in its simplest form, is the idea that our actions either add to an experience of friction or it adds to an experience of less friction. It’s a deceptively simple idea but true karma is actually devoid of qualitative measurements. You can choose your actions, and you can choose to experience more friction or you can choose to experience less. Most of the time, existing in more kriya action, or flow action, is ideal – your suffering, according to great sages, is lessened and your ability to pivot or transition is easier and smoother. Sometimes, when we are transitioning, frictioned action is inevitable – sometimes growth takes some struggle, pearls are sand irritation made beautiful, after all – and our job then really is to just notice the friction and be aware and be willing to ask ourselves if there is a less frictioned way to go. As we become more aligned in our Bhava (deepest most authentic emotions), and then our Svarupa, our truest nature, a world of additional possibilities of how to move and glide through our lives become available to us. To be a yogi thus is not to master a handstand, it is to consciously reduce the frictions of our lives.