“Every action, thought and feeling is motivated by an intention, and that intention is a cause that exists as one with an effect. If we participate in the cause, it is not possible for us not to participate in the effect.”
– Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
– Isaac Newton
I missed the eclipse on Monday. I was irritated at my husband over something and I acted on that irritation and said something to him. This led me to getting more irritated, and saying more things. Which then led to further irritation and by the time the cycle was over, the moon had passed right over the sun and I had missed it. Thanks to me, my husband missed it, too. The eclipse fell on his birthday and he’d been looking forward to it for months. I’ll never forget the way he looked when we realized the moon had passed and I said to him in utter despair: “Oh my God, we missed it.”
We missed it.
We’ve been missing so much.
When I read the words of Zukav, above, I knew I was having my eyes opened to the truth of what Christians refer to as the “law of reciprocity” and others define as “karma.” Put simply: intention (or motivation,) when acted upon, is an energy that will return to us. When we act out of love, love is returned. When we act out of fear, or anger, or irritation, we receive more of those things.
I think this is why so many problems, especially in relationships, seem circular. The more we do to avoid pain, the more pain we ultimately feel; the more we act to alleviate our insecurities, the more insecure we become; the more we work to avoid our fears, the more fearful we will be. In this way, we become our own worst enemy, attracting to ourselves the very thing we wish to avoid. (See example 1)
But this is where it gets good, because if this is true then the opposite is also true:
If we refuse to act on behalf of these unhealthy motivations (generally rooted in fear), we will begin to experience less of these feelings. Conversely, the more often we act on behalf of good motivations (rooted in love,) the more of these feelings we will have. (See example 2)
What’s paradoxically so incredibly easy and so unimaginably difficult about this is that if it’s true then it’s all up to me. I am the only one who can create security, love, peace and joy for myself and I do it not by changing my outward circumstances but by changing my response to them. By controlling my behavior, I ultimately have the ability to change my feelings.
Of course, changing my feelings is what I’ve been trying to do all along, right? But I think this is where I’ve been getting it all wrong: I’ve always thought that the feelings had to change first. I’ve always assumed that the solution was to somehow stop feeling fear, anxiety, pain, etc. and then I’d stop acting on these emotions. So I spent all my time trying figure out a way to change my feelings and although I’d try really really hard for a while, it didn’t take long before I’d be right back in the same spiral again. What I’m just beginning to realize, however, is that it’s not the feelings that need to change (something I don’t always, or even usually, [or even ever ???!] have control over,) but the actions (which I CAN control.) And, paradoxically, the more often I succeed at controlling the action, the less I will experience the feelings.
So when I wake up in the morning and I see the cell phone lying turned on in a central location and everything in me wants to turn it off and hide it (and smash it with a hammer after lighting a fire to it then flushing it down the toilet) to keep my husband from texting all day, I evaluate the motivations behind the action (in this particular case, fear of being neglected and ignored) … and I leave it on. By doing so, I simultaneously refuse to act upon the impure motivation (fear) and act upon another motivation: the desire to love my husband. In this way I not only attract less fear back to myself, but also attract more feelings of love and security.
Simple, but not easy.
It will be 7 years before we get another chance to see an eclipse. I can only pray that things will be different, then.
I can do more than pray.
I will act (or refuse to act, as the case may be.)
I want us to have another chance.
“For whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
– Galatians 6:7
Motivation: Fear of infidelity
Action: Checking your spouse’s cell or social media for signs of infidelity
Result: Feeling MORE afraid he/she will cheat
If you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time and struggled with this particular fear, you’ve seen this principle at work. In the beginning you trusted your partner completely. But then something happened to arouse your suspicions and maybe you checked his email. Over time, you continued these behaviors and now you’re compulsively checking his phone while he sleeps, driving past his work when he’s away, listening in on his conversations and altogether driving yourself mad. This is the law of reciprocity at work.
(By refusing to act on your fears, two motivations, and therefore results, take place simultaneously)
Motivation 1: Fear of infidelity
Action 1: None
Result 1: Feeling LESS fearful of infidelity
Motivation 2: Desire to trust your partner
Action 2: Refusing to check the phone, email, etc.
Result 2: Feeling MORE trustful
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your partner will never cheat on you. But I think what it DOES mean is that if it ever happens it will be easier to recover from because you haven’t spent years worrying about it, dreading it, and seeking to avoid it. Some would even say that the act of seeking to avoid infidelity can actually work to cause infidelity, by attracting it to itself. Although I wouldn’t go that far, I would say that the constant worry over whether your partner will cheat on you can make you just as miserable as if the action had actually happened. So by refusing to participate in this negative cycle, you save yourself what could otherwise be a lifetime of misery.