Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians

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A Contemplation on Caregiving and Karma

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

For the greater part of our lives, most of us want someone to say this to; and most of us want someone who will say it to us: "I love you, and I will take care of you."

When we commit to caring for someone, we feel a sense of purpose. And when we know that a parent or a partner - or a God or a Goddess - is taking care of us, we feel comforted.

As one who has been a caregiver, I think there is no worse stressor than a chronic illness befalling someone we love. It's almost worse than getting sick, ourselves. The pain of not being able to cure a loved one has dragged millions down into the depths of depression. To some small degree, it's comforting to speculate that there wasn't anything more that we could have done; the whole painful episode was written in the stars.

Many people believe this philosophy of predestination or karma, while just as many others adamantly proclaim that we have free will, and that in a more scientific age our loved one would be cured easily. I find Yoga philosophy refreshingly reasonable on this subject. Yoga recognizes that crappy things can happen to anyone at any time, no matter how strong they used to be or what spiritual powers they were once able to display; so it must follow that free will and karma are both players in the game of life.

My Bhakti Yoga Guru taught that we come into this world with twenty percent free will, which we exercise within the restrictions of our personal karma, which comprises the other eighty percent. To illustrate the point, he offered the image of a cow staked out in a field, on the end of a long rope. She can graze wherever she wants, within a large circle; but she cannot range any farther than that. Her circle comprises only twenty percent of the field's total area.

In like manner, within a circle of limitation we can make a difference. We can effectively care for those we love, but under the limitation that all of us are influenced by past choices and actions, and each of us must eventually die - at a time and in a way which we can guess at but never really know in advance. And when that time comes, there will be nothing we can do about it.

Vedanta claims that we are all individuated parts of the One Oversoul, or Atman, and that upon attaining this awareness we no longer grieve the passing of individual bodies. I have never reached that state of detachment – have you? I do grieve. I do miss my loved ones. This is in our nature. Neopagans, by the way, accept and embrace Nature. If you accept the beauty, you must also accept the ugliness.

For in this physical dimension of reality, everything exists with its opposite. More salient to our discussion, nothing can exist here without its opposite. That is true of matter and anti-matter, peace and war, health and illness, joy and sadness, fulfillment and frustration. When you say “yes” to the experience, you say “yes” to all of it.

And yet we also say, "Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again." We believe that the same emotions that brought us so much pain will eventually bring us back together in joy.

In those immortal words of the Beatles, "All you need is Love."

Though we must leave these bodies, and the whole physical world for a time, love is the very essence of our being and it transcends the body. Our love binds us together in a spiritual energy field, regardless of which realm we are in.

Physics teaches that energy can never be destroyed; it only changes its form. If nothing can ever be lost, then we must be like sparks going back into the fire, or drops of water going back into the ocean. Our apparent separation couldn't possibly last for more than a short while. (In Cosmic terms, that is.)

As a caregiver, my ego struggled for years with the frustration of unfulfilled desires and thwarted plans, as though my wife's bizarre illness was something she had concocted purposely to test me. We had married in our mid-thirties with the expressed agreement that we would spend all our time together, travel the world, and make love in prime spots all over the planet for as long as we lived. That was the plan, Stan. It never happened. Who's fault was that?

Of course, intellectually, I knew that Karma, or Fate, or Kismet, or Chance, had done this thing to BOTH of us. SHE was frustrated, too. SHE was just as unhappy about what had happened as I was – more so, since she was the one in extreme pain - and she had just as little control over it. This wasn't happening to just me, or just her. It was happening to us. And yet, after months and years of being worn down by expectations that she would get better – expectations that were always first built-up and then disappointed - my exhausted ego couldn't help the irrational feeling that, on some level, she was doing this to me intentionally.

A few months ago, we were seeing her lovely Indian doctor for one of many follow-up appointments. My wife mentioned that, in addition to the pain and nausea, she was also feeling guilt – guilt and responsibility for how her illness had messed-up her husband's life.

Dr. Namita dismissed that with an impatient toss of her shapely hand. “That's HIS Karma!” she declared. “Don't worry about it.”

I burst out laughing; I couldn't help it. This was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment in my life. What a great insight! Our Karmas had come together and intertwined; but one had not caused the other. Something like this was always going to happen to me, no matter whom I had married. And this illness was always going to happen to her, regardless of any intentions she might have had to the contrary.

The very act of being born exposes us to pain. To joy and pleasure, yes, but also to grief and pain. We purchased the whole package, and it was unfair to keep pestering God to change the rules. In fact...in fact...it may be that the gods themselves are subject to pain. And they have no one to pray to, to take it away.

This is not something that we usually consider, preferring to imagine ourselves hard done-by and taken advantage-of by powers superior to us. But think about it for a moment: If the price of human life is to be exposed to such pain as this - then what must be the price of attaining Godhead?

To my mind, this was a breakthrough equal to the Buddha's attainment of enlightenment. In one revelatory instant there was no more need for anger, no more cause for resentment. The only emotion that remained in this vast, cool clarity was compassion. The only attitude was understanding. The only thought was thankfulness that I was still well enough to help her, in whatever way I could.

Each of us must figure out our own personal dharma. We have been assigned different roles to play in the cosmic drama, often contrary to what we might have chosen for ourselves. But even when our roles seem opposed, or boringly unimportant, they have all been written to contribute equally to the story. Sometimes we have to wait till the last chapter, to find out how.

So, each of us must figure out what OUR best attitude is; what the best action, the best philosophy, is for US. Not for our father or mother, not for our best friend; not even for the person from history who shines as our greatest hero. Know thyself, dude. What works best for you?

 

 

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A student of esoteric traditions since the age of 16, Ted Czukor (Theo the Green) taught Yoga for 37 years until retiring in 2013. For 26 years he was adjunct faculty for the Maricopa, AZ Community Colleges, teaching Gentle Yoga and Meditation & Wellness. Raised in the Methodist Church but drawn to Rosicrucianism, Hinduism and Buddhist philosophy, he is a devotee of the Goddess in all Her forms. Ted has been a Shakespearean actor, a Masonic ritualist and an Interfaith wedding officiant. He is the author of several books, none of which made any money and two of which are available as .pdf files. He lives with his wife Ravyn-Morgayne in Sun City, Arizona. Their shared dream is to someday relocate to Glastonbury, England. theoczukor@cox.net.

Comments

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Friday, 28 December 2018

    Thank you, Ted, for sharing your (very) hard-earned wisdom and compassion. Your post moved me greatly.
    Anne

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 30 December 2018

    Bless you, Anne, for understanding where I was coming from. I value our literary friendship so much. Thank you - and Happy New Year.

  • Kathy Crabbe
    Kathy Crabbe Saturday, 29 December 2018

    I really enjoyed your discussion about karma in reference to what your wife's Dr. said - very enlightening and i sent it to my own mom. Thank you.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 30 December 2018

    Kathy - I'm glad that wisdom given to me by another soul has been able to help others, along the line! We're both lucky that my wife has a Hindu doc!

  • Archer
    Archer Friday, 04 January 2019

    Wow, this was so insightful, inspiring and consoling Ted. I'm so glad I checked it out. I will be reading it more than once I think...so helpful, especially the bit about karma, and about the gods as well.

  • Jennifer
    Jennifer Monday, 14 January 2019

    Ted thank you for sharing this...it meant a lot to me.

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