Karma, Being Present and the Path to Eternal Happiness

This is a guest post by Lisa Runningbear for Powered by Intuition

Karma is a word that is pretty well known in our culture.

Nouvelles Images, Buddhist Monks, Sri Lanka, sent from Belgium Pictures, Images and PhotosBut, it isn’t well understood in terms of what it really means—that is, what the Buddha understands it to mean.

We think of it in terms of sayings like, “what goes around comes around”, “You get what you give” and “an eye for an eye.”

The truth of karma is about intention, not action

For example, if a woman cuts open a man’s chest and he dies, depending on her intention the karmic consequences will be different. If she is a surgeon and cuts his chest open to repair his heart, that is very different than if she stabbed him in a fit of rage.


As one Buddhist stated, the law of karma is the capacity of intentional action to produce an ethically appropriate result.

If our intention is accompanied by a motivation towards kindness, compassion and generosity, we will be led towards happiness; however, if our intentions are accompanied by motivations of greed, aversion and delusion we will be lead towards suffering.

When you choose your intention, you choose your consequences

The consequences of your karmic intentions can be immediate or they can happen over a lifetime. And although it would be interesting to, it is impossible to track down exactly which karmic intention led to which consequences, good or bad. The web of Karma is just too vast.

The only thing you can do is focus on what your intentions are in the present moment, and ensure that they are good. Our intentions are more apt to be good when we are present. Living in the past and the future tends to put us in a state where we are more prone to react based on the emotion that we are feeling at the time.

The present moment

The present moment is this moment. It is the moment that will have passed by the time you complete this sentence. Everything you do is in the present moment. All of your plans are made in the present moment. Even when you think about your past and future, you think about it in the present moment.

Conditioning and Illusion

Unfortunately, many of us are conditioned to live in the past and the future. The past and the future give us the illusion of safety. We already know what happened in the past and the future hasn’t happened yet. Living in either of these states doesn’t require us to be there.

Have you ever got into your car, driven to work and not remembered the details on you got there?

What traffic was like, what you saw along the way? Then you know what it is to not be present.

Time goes by without you. And if you are living in a painful past or our worrying about a yet to come future, it adds a layer of stress on top of it.

We don’t have control of the thoughts that pop into our heads, but we do have control over what we do with them. You decide whether you are going to relive your thoughts as though they were happening in the present moment or let them go and BE present.

So, be aware of your thoughts. If you are not careful, they can take you out of the present moment and into a fantasy world—a fantasy world where you are not mindful of the karmic intentions you are setting and the unknown consequences that will be sure to follow.

Do you find yourself living in emotions from the past or in the future and reacting in the present? How have reliving these emotions affected your life? What steps are you taking to live in the present moment?

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Lisa H. (aka RunningBear) is the writer behind Getting to Zen, which is dedicated to those in pursuit of authentic happiness through purposeful living. Be sure to sign up for her RSS feed and download her new free eBook Getting to Success.


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  1. Living in the moment is a Divine gift dropped in my lap and usually I miss too many of these moments. I think awareness and meditation help but I’ve got a long way to go.

    On the karma thing someone once said being a twin is a karma thing. I’ve often wondered that about my twins. One lives under the shadow of the other. Or lets say she did until she moved away from the her sister. I think I’m off the subject but that’s what came to mind.
    Tess The Bold Life recently posted…Bold Living…SummertimeMy Profile

    • Hi Tess,
      I didn’t know that about Karma and twins. It’s an interesting thought. I guess it could be?
      Maybe it’s about overcoming competition and learning to accept each other?
      I’d like to find out more.

    • Hi Tess,
      That’s interesting. I have a friend who is a twin and it seems that the same thing is going on. Although they were raised by the same parents and had the exact same experiences, they must have interpreted them differently. One is living a happy functional life and the other is stressed out, unhappy and chasing love wherever he can find it.
      Lisa H. recently posted…Are You Listening to Me? 7 Tips to Becoming a Good ListenerMy Profile

  2. When we live in the present and guide our life by our good intentions, our life seems to go in a positive direction. I appreciate your explanation of Karma. There is so much to be said about living in the present. When we have turmoil and stress, it can be a challenge, but with practice it is attainable. Thank you for an interesting post.
    Cathy recently posted…Life Lessons from the HighwayMy Profile

    • Hi Cathy,
      Thank you. When we are present, we are more in a position to think about consequences before acting. Turmoil and stress is about living in the past and the future. It is focusing on something that has already happened or something that is about to happen. We must find out what we need to do now to be at peace and do it.
      Lisa H. recently posted…Are You Listening to Me? 7 Tips to Becoming a Good ListenerMy Profile

  3. Lisa,

    This is an extremely important message about the power of intention and motivation in determining the benefit or harm of an action. You’ve explained it very well.

    However, the truth of karma is not about intention alone to the exclusion of action. If you have a positive intention and commit a negative act, there is still a “negative” karmic consequence, but not as grave as committing a negative act with a negative intention.

    The Sanskrit word “karma” literally means “action”. It is the power latent in our actions and the results our actions bring.

    Karma is inextricably linked – for better and for worse – with intention. I’m happy to see how you have underscored this point.
    Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted…A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Digital OverwhelmMy Profile

  4. Thank you Betsy.
    I appreciate the kind words. I really enjoyed writing this article. Through mindful and caring intention, we can change the world. :-)

    Angela, thanks again for this opportunity.
    Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

    • Lisa,
      It was such a pleasure having having you guest host on PbI
      Please come back and visit us again soon!

  5. Hi Lisa,
    That’s the best definition I’ve read of Karma! I love the idea that karma is connected to intention. I think I’ll have to print this out. And I’m looking forward to checking out your website.

    Thanks so much for a wonderful post from a great guest blogger!

    Betsy recently posted…Laugh And The World Laughs With You…Literally!My Profile

    • Betsy,
      You’re so welcome. It’s always a pleasure having you visit here!

  6. It is a very difficutl thing to do–live in the moment. We are taught to “remember” “never forget” etc. I see so clearly now that I am free of my albatross how healthy it is to let go and enjoy the minute. thanks for this post.

    • Hi Rosemarie,
      You are so right, we are taught to “remember.” However, there is a difference between remembering and clinging to memories. It is ok to remember, but to hold on to a memory for fear that if we don’t we will forget it, keeps us from fully experiencing what is going on in the “now”. We must not be so attached to our memories and experiences that they prevent our evolution.
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

  7. Angela…your articles are always on time!

    Being in the present moment can be so helpful overall. When we find ourselves stuck…we no longer can feel, see, or clearly sense what is really going on in our lives.
    Kenya recently posted…The Cat That Wouldn’t Leave The TentMy Profile

    • Being present is the best place to make sound decisions. When we aren’t present we can be influenced by thoughts and emotions from past experiences which can lead to decisions with consequences we don’t want.

      Not being present is like being in a fog. Thanks for the visit.
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

  8. Your post is quite timely for me. I have been diligently working to create my life through my thoughts. Your take on intention makes a lot of sense to me. I find that focusing on intention helps me to be present in the moment. Plus, it feels good when your intention comes from a positive place! Thanks for the great article. I enjoyed it.

    • Hi Anne,
      Thanks for stopping by.
      The universe has a way of delivering exactly what we need when we need it. As one author, whose name escapes me said “Everything happens twice, first on the inside and then on the outside.” What we think, we become.

      Yes, I find that when my intentions are good, I feel good and when they aren’t I am bestowed with worry and guilt.
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

  9. INTENTION! Yes, so powerful. Thank you for the reminder Angela. Unfortunately, we all slip into the negative pattern of living in the past or future, not realizing that the present is where our power originates. The present is where true transformation begins!


    • Hi Dominic.,
      All of our power is in the present. All of our decisions are made in the present. With each new present moment we can change the direction of our lives. The more we practice being in the present and seeing how good it feels, the less we will slip into the past.
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

  10. Hi Lisa and Angela,

    I have a post it up on my monitor (one of several, these are things I want to keep in mind at all times) that says: “Be Present in the Moment”. It’s a reminder to stop several times a day, whenever my eyes hit that spot, which they do frequently, and just Be Here Now. It’s worked wonders. Sometimes it’s simply taking a moment to appreciate my smoothie, instead of gulping it down while reading and working. I often start my day on the terrace, before it gets too hot, and just take a moment to sit quietly, listening to the city come alive and appreciating this moment, right now. Thanks for the powerful reminder (there can never be too many). Time to go sit in the terrace for a bit! :)

    Melody recently posted…How to Love Your Sucky JobMy Profile

    • Hi Melody,
      What a great idea. A visual reminder does work wonders! I also find that slowing down also helps. In fact, I don’t know if I have ever been in the present moment while rushing around. :-)
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

  11. Hi Lisa & Angela
    I have definitely spent many years fretting over the past or worrying about the future.

    I still do this occasionally now but the difference is that I am consciously aware when I am doing it and can bring my attention back to the present moment.
    Justin recently posted…Find Your Passion By Following What Excites YouMy Profile

    • Hi Justin,
      Fretting, past and future all distract us from being in the present moment. We must become aware of where are minds are before we can shift focus. Sometimes I am aware of when I am in these states quicker than others. The key is to quickly recognize it and get out. Thanks for the visit.
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

  12. “When you choose your intention, you choose your consequences” Pretty powerful! It often amazes me how challenging it can be to be in the present. Meditation is great entry way – and sometimes I can hold on to the present state a while afterwards and other times not. It’s a process worth pursuing!
    Aileen recently posted…How One Small Shift Can Change Your ExperienceMy Profile

    • Hi Aileen,
      Thank you. Yes, that amazes me too. What I have learned is that there are different degrees of presence, if you will, or it may be better said different degrees of alertness. For example, if I am at home relaxing, the presence there feels very different from the presence I have when meeting with my boss versus the presence I would have if someone yelled fire. I guess depending on the situation, my light of presence may not shine as brightly. :-)

      I do find meditation great for entering in the present moment. I like to do it at the beginning of the day so that I can set my intention before I begin my activities.
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

    • Hi Kala.
      Thank you. I am deeply inspired by the wisdom in Asian traditions. Over the past year I have been listing to various talks by Buddhist monks. I am in a bit of a transformation–working on forgiveness and acceptance in the way that the Buddha means it.

      I have to give credit for the image selection to Angela. Thank you Angela for selecting such a wonderful image. Elephants are one of my favorite animals. So much symbolism.
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

  13. I have often wondered about the nature of karma.

    Before getting into spirituality, karma just seemed silly. I mean, just because you kick your dog or something else mean doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you – or so I thought.

    I’m still not completely sure about karma, but it’s beginning to make more sense. It’s not something we can intellectually fathom. I suppose we just have to learn to intuitively understand it through meditation.

    Great article. :-)
    Fred Tracy recently posted…Review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Voice Recognition SoftwareMy Profile

    • Hi Fred,
      Karma pays you back based on your intentions. Put good out into the world and your will receive it. Put negativity out into the world and you will receive that. Who knows when you will get your karmic consequences. It could be right after you set your intention, it could be in this lifetime or it could be in another lifetime. You never know when you will be paid back. So, if you want a good life, set good intentions. :-)
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile

  14. I’ve heard it said that you literally are only able to concentrate on one thing at a time in your mind – so you have that power to kick something out of your mind if you want. I think that’s rather powerful if you let it sink deep into your life.

    Let go of those thoughts that pop into your mind that are negative – and produce better intentions!
    Christian Hollingsworth recently posted…Why Building A Blogging Community Is More ImportantMy Profile

    • Well said. That is so true. We have to let go of what we are currently thinking about in order to think about something new. Whereas material possessions and memories we can collect and hold on to for as long as we want; However,the more of them we collect, the more stuck we become.

      Think of shifting your focus like flipping a switch. Sometimes when I find myself in a negative thought pattern, I will say quietly out loud, “I am not going to think about that right now” and purposeful think about something else. This has been a very effective way for me to get back to creating good intention.

      Thank you for stopping by. :-)
      Lisa H. recently posted…The World Doesn’t Owe You AnythingMy Profile



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