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In Sanskrit, karma literally means “action.” According to experts, there are often misconceptions about what karma really is and how it applies to our lives.

This article will help shed light on what karma is, the philosophy behind it, and its core principles, known as the 12 laws of karma.

The true definition of karma can vary depending on who you ask. Some people adhere to the traditional meaning grounded in Eastern religions, while others interpret it from more of a Western view of good and bad. As a result, this can lead to different views on how karma applies to life.

For example, the Georgetown University Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs says karma is the Hindu view of causality in which good thoughts, deeds, and words, may lead to beneficial effects, while bad thoughts, deeds, and words, may lead to harmful effects.

However, many experts like to look at karma as more than just “good” or “bad.”

According to Dr. Jennifer Rhodes, a licensed psychologist, karma is simply those situations or interactions that help us navigate our path toward our higher purpose.

“We are often easily distracted and miss messages which make us believe we have a lot of ‘bad’ karma. But those situations are simply signs for us to course-correct and move forward toward our higher purpose,” Rhodes explains.

“The journey is not about being perfect, it’s about undoing what is not us and becoming who we really are,” she adds.

Tejal Patel, a meditation and mindfulness expert, looks at karma as a cycle of cause and effect that’s about action, not result.

“Karma is a philosophy of how to live our lives so we can truly become the best version of ourselves and live the most fulfilling life we desire,” she says.

And since the future isn’t set in stone, Patel says we can change the path of our life by the choices, thoughts, and deeds we choose right now.

Everything is energy, including your thoughts and emotions, which are energy in motion. So, in essence, everything you do creates a corresponding energy that comes back to you in some form, Patel explains.

“Simply, everything you do creates either a positive or negative consequence,” she says.

Using karma as a set of powerful guidelines for your life can incentivize you to be more mindful of your thoughts, actions, and deeds before you make decisions.

With that in mind, think of the laws of karma as guidelines to follow as you go through daily life. The 12 laws of karma can help you understand how karma really works and how to create good karma in your life.

Let’s look at each of these laws in more detail.

When most people talk about karma, they’re likely referring to the great law of cause and effect, Patel says.

According to this law, whatever thoughts or energy you put out, you get back — good or bad. In order to get what you want, you have to embody and be worthy of those things. It’s the concept of what you reap, you sow.

“For example, if you want love in your life, be loving to yourself,” she says.

The law of creation underscores the importance that life doesn’t just happen to us. To make things happen in your life, you need to take action, instead of waiting for something to magically come your way.

“You are the co-creator of making what you want, based on your intentions,” Patel says.

She recommends asking yourself what you need to release so you can create space for the thing you desire to show up.

Also consider how you can use your skills, talents, and strengths to create something that not only benefits you but others, too.

According to Paul Harrison, creator of The Daily Meditation, the law of humility is based on the principle that you must be humble enough to accept that your current reality is the result of your past actions.

For example, if you’re blaming your colleagues for your poor performance at work, Harrison says you must accept that you created this reality by not performing as well as you could have.

Growth starts within us. To positively shape the world, you need to start with yourself. That’s because real change or personal growth begins with what you have control over, which is yourself, not others.

The law of growth also looks at the things you can’t control and how you deal with accepting this fate. Ultimately, your focus should be on you, not trying to control the people or things around you.

Alex Tran, a yoga instructor based in Seattle, Washington, says the law of responsibility is her favorite law to teach in class.

“It’s a reminder that you own what happens to you in life. It’s a great reminder that what happens to you is because of you. This eliminates the opportunity for you to look outward to find the cause of your problems,” Tran explains.

She likes to use this to describe the karma law of responsibility: “You are the product of the choices you make.”

This law is based on the principle that everything in your life, including your past, present, and future, are connected.

“Who you are today is the result of your previous actions,” Harrisons says.

And who you will be tomorrow will be the result of your actions today.

Focusing on too many things at once can slow you down and lead to frustration and negativity. That’s why the law of focus encourages you to concentrate on one thing at a time.

“If you focus on higher values like love and peace, then you’re less likely to be distracted by heavy feelings of resentment, greed, or anger,” Patel says.

You must give to the things you believe in. This law helps you understand the importance of your actions, reflecting your deeper beliefs.

For example, if you want to live in a peaceful world, you need to focus on cultivating peace for others, Harrison explains.

To experience peace of mind, you have to embrace the present. This can only happen when you let go of negative thoughts or behaviors from your past.

If you get too focused on past events, you’ll keep reliving them. One exercise Patel recommends to get in touch with the here and now is to get rooted into your senses.

“Look around the room you are in, focus your eyes on something, blink, and say ‘I am here,’” she says.

According to this principle, history will continue to repeat itself until you learn from the experience and take steps to do something differently to stop the cycle.

Change gives you a new path so that you can create a new future and a better version of yourself, free from the patterns of the past.

To generate change in the future, Harrison says we must be consistent in our karmic deeds today.

“It’s no good living healthily for one day and then sabotaging it in the next,” he says.

Be consistent in your goals, and they will come to fruition.

We all play a part and have something to contribute to this world. What we share may sometimes seem small to us but can make an enormous difference in someone else’s life.

Patel says the law of significance and inspiration is a great law to focus on when you need a motivational boost or begin to feel like you don’t have a purpose or matter.

According to this law, every contribution you make will affect the world. You have been born with a specific gift, mission, and purpose that only you can bring into the world with your uniqueness. Authentically sharing your skills and gifts is why you’re here.

The 12 laws of karma can serve as a guideline or road map to follow as you go through your daily life. These laws can help you understand how karma really works, and the effect that your thoughts and actions can have on you and the world around you.

Using karma as a set of guidelines in your life can incentivize you to be more mindful of your thoughts, actions, and deeds before you make a decision.