Working with Karma

The first few paragraphs of this post are my attempt to wind through the mental and emotional knots of how the three poisons work to create karma. For a real life, non conceptual reflection on work ing with karma skip right down to Chuck Fondue’s story. 

Karma is the activity, experienced and observed, of the perpetual engine of cause and effect. Karma is not the cause of suffering. Suffering manifests as a result of how I relate to karma. Release from suffering is not an effect of karma. Release of suffering comes about as a result of how I relate to karma.

Karma is the beginningless activity of cause and effect. Being beginningless it is also endless. Being endless it is beginingless. Mental and emotional suffering and release from this suffering are effects and causes in the infinite expanse of karma. The effects of grasping clinging, lust, and greed of passion that come about are effects.  These effects are caused by the conceptualizing mind wanting to hold fast to, or make definitive, to know for sure, an ultimate cause of karma. Aversion, hatred and violence as expressions of aggression are the effects of the mind wanting to push away anything that reminds me of the reality that the causes and effects of karma are unknowable. These passions and aggressions are the effects of the ignorance of the true nature of Karma as being beginingless, endless and empty of true nature. 

In the cases when I experience suffering as aggression, I am relating to karma by trying to avoid, push away, destroy; i.e. act aggressively toward karmic activity that I believe threatens my well being and/or survival. It is also when who and what I think myself to be, or what I want to be, is brought into question. 

In cases when I experience the suffering of passion I am relating to karmic activity by trying to grasp and cling to, the experience of freedom from suffering. It is the suffering of the mind trying to make something permanent.

The suffering of ignorance manifests when I forget that the activity of the karma that I experience is merely a perpetual engine of cause and effect.  This engine of activity has no intrinsic nature and no form. It is a habit of a conditioned mind and therefore cannot be pushed away or clung to. Ignorance is when I believe that karma, its activity, and the resulting suffering is the absolute nature of reality; when I believe that Karma is more than merely habitual, conditioned activity in the infinite field of beingness. 

The suffering of ignorance arises when my habits of thinking and conditioned reactivity to karma draw my perception of reality away from the experiential knowledge of the true nature of being. This true nature arises to awareness when I experience a pause in the mind’s incessant activity and see reality just as it is: unconditional, universal goodness.

So how is it possible to work with something so omnipresent and and intrinsically non-existent?

From Chuck Fondse.

First things first: I am writing down my experience with mindful concern. Writing it down gives is a permanence that is not part of the experience. In fact, after I share my experience, I will tell the “rest of the story” that shows just how impermanent it was. 

November 11 to 14, 2022 

My surgery for a right knee replacement is scheduled for Monday morning, early. Arrival time is to be 6:15am at the surgery center. Today is Saturday. I have spent the past days on the beach in Oregon with my spouse. Today we spent the windy, chilly, mostly cloudy day on the beach with my children and grandchildren, with a photographer capturing the day for photos to be shared at Christmas and beyond. We are having a laughing good time. If I shared photos, you could see it. My granddaughter Alice is an angel, and Marjke is being her normal naughty self. 

Jan and I leave to pack up our room and meet the rest at a breakfast place that Alice is so excited about. The food is good, I have Buckwheat pancakes, a treat I can rarely find. Then, my body starts to cramp and off to the restroom I go. I have a history of such stomach occurrences ever since my extreme dysentery incident in the 70’s in the middle east. I have learned to live with it and for the most part control it. What happened next took me by surprise. I had extreme vertigo. Jan needed to help me to the car. I rested for the rest of the afternoon, and it seemed to go away. 

Sunday was spent at home relaxing, getting the house ready for my recuperation. Sunday evening we ordered our favorite Chinese food and I was wolfing it down as usual. And then it hit again. The whole world started to spin. I was scared. I closed my eyes, opened them and still the same. I am worried about not being able to do the surgery. After an hour, it subsides a bit and I do my pre-surgery shower and sleep in a bed with clean linens on them, following instructions of the surgery center. 

Monday morning alarm goes off at 5:15am. I get up thankful that the vertigo was gone. We were heading for the door when I almost fell. It hit again, powerfully telling me that I was not in control. I had to use my walker, intended for post surgery, to get to the car. As Jan drove me in the dark rainy morning, it did not get better. I hobbled into the center to the reception desk and was checked in. The nurse comes to get me and helps me to my room. The world is still spinning. I tell her about it. She asks me to stand before she leaves me to change into those wonderful challenging hospital robes with no back. I almost fall. She is alarmed, tells me to sit and leaves to consult with the anethesiologist. I beg her to let me be for a bit but she is not going to just let me into surgery. She leaves. I look for a spot in the floor that can stop spinning and bow my head. 

Suddenly I feel a cry come from my gut, tears flowing from my eyes and I say, from the gut I—Am— SCARRED. I AM REALLY SCARED. There is no one in the room to comfort me with “It will be ok Chuck. Don’t worry.” No I sit with my fear, tasting it, seeing it, embracing it as I had just learned to do in our Sangha. William had been helping us just sit with our discomfort we SAW in each of our own versions of the three poisons. And as I sat with it, the power of the spinning dissipated. It did not go away but I could stand and function without falling. No one was in the room yet. Then the Dr and nurses and administrator come in to “talk to me.” I was more afraid of postponing the surgery than of having it at that moment, but I was also SEEing that my body had memory that I was not aware of from the last knee surgery. That one went poorly. I was in the hospital for 3 nights and went home in extreme pain. 

As the doctor talked to me about why we should not proceed and the risks of ambulances and emergency rooms in these COVID/FLU times I forcefully asked him to be quiet and let me do their pre-op proof of walking with my walker all through the hallways, the prescribed test they gave me. I passed with flying colors. Yes, I was still not cognitively “all there” but the debilitating vertigo was gone. 

Surgery went very well. Only 1 ½ hours for a total knee replacement. Post surgery went very well and I have been walking from the first day out. Today, I can walk without a cane but use one for safety and stability. I am about 1 to 2 weeks ahead of the schedule that I was on with my last knee. 

Why do I share this? 

1. I realize that my body had a memory that I had pushed down below cognizant awareness. It was not letting it go until I heard it. 

2. I learned to embrace the fear, truly embrace it, and in so doing, the fear became manageable and my body responded. 

3. This would not have been possible had I not been practicing. Practice is what we do each morning we gather and the in between times when we “remember.” 

4. SO, thank you to the Sangh of the Pandemic. 

The rest of the story: I have had several major vertigo incidents since surgery, the last one being after our wonderful Thanksgiving meal at our house. I almost fell in the bathroom. This one has not left me 3 days later. I can function, sometimes slow the spinning down, but it is still there. I see my PCP on Friday to see if we can find out why. I grieve the impermanence of the solution that appeared to find me in the surgery center. I am scared that this might last and define my life going on. I am mad. I am trying to embrace each of those. IMPERMENANCE sucks. BUT, permanence is hell, the hell of expectations of perfection, happiness, the way it is supposed to be. 

So there you have it. Today I can write on the computer, I can read for short periods of time. I can do my exercises, I am much more pain free than the last knee, and I may even be able to play with my model trains. My greatest attachment is to my biking. That is one of my greatest fears, to lose that. This vertigo thing is a teacher that I did not ask for. NOT IN THE LEAST!!!! My oh my. What will a person do? – Chuck Fondse


These words are dedicated to all wisdom elders and wisdom teachings and to bringing about the end of suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

May it be so.



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