Spring is a time of cleansing and renewal. Nature reveals itself in its simplest slate—the snow melts, while the plants are not yet sprung. The ground seems to swell with potential but restrain from bursting into life until the weather warms.
People, too, tend to ritualistically simplify during this time. Spring cleaning of your home is a common practice, while you may simplify your diet to shed winter layers and prepare for “swimsuit season.”
This tendency to disburden has been made popular recently by Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and host of a popular television show which holds people accountable to simplifying their belongings. While Kondo sites Japanese tradition for her principles, several other philosophies share the same sentiment.
You’ve no doubt heard discussion of “karma” in your yoga classes. However, this idea stems from tradition far beyond the yoga mat. In both Hinduism and Buddhism, the term karma is used to describe the sum of your actions in this and previous lifetimes. The sum total of accumulated karma is thought to decide your fate in future existences.
In Jainism, karma is believed to be an actual sticky substance that attaches to a person. Karma particles are attracted to you based on your actions. Quite literally, karma becomes the “stuff” that binds you.
While karma accumulates day to day, it can also be shed. One way to burn karma, Jainists believe, is through performing focused work, or kriya. The word “kriya” is derived from the Sanskrit root “kri,” meaning “to do.” Kriya can be any action or ritual that is performed consciously. Repetitive action, or kriya, not only burns through heavy karma, but also helps to develop tapas (self-discipline) which limits the future accumulation of karma.
How to Burn Karma
Have you ever noticed the way clutter makes you feel, compared to simplicity and order? Imagine the way you feel coming home to a house that is cluttered with laundry on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink. Maybe the air in your home smells stale. Now, compare this feeling to the way you feel when opening your door to a clean home: the floors are clear for walking, the sink is empty and ready for washing, and the air smells crisp and clean.
You probably notice the difference, both now—in imagination—and in real time. This clutter is a very real manifestation of karma. It becomes sticky, heavy, and dispiriting. It is nearly impossible to access your true spirit—light and free—when surrounded by the karma of clutter.
So, what to do? You guessed it: utilize a little kriya! If kriya, or focused attention, helps to burn karma, then the choice is easy. Focused and conscientious cleaning helps cut through the muddy karma of accumulated “stuff”—both dirt and possessions.
What’s Karma and Kriya Got to Do with Marie Kondo?
So now that the relationship between karma and kriya has been established, what does that have to do with Marie Kondo?
Marie Kondo utilizes this principle, whether calling it kriya or just “decluttering.” In her television show, she coaches individuals to not only “clean out,” but to do so with attention and gratitude. Rather than hastily folding a pile of clothes, she shows them how to carefully fold each item into a perfect shape, all the while giving thanks for the opportunity to fold your possessions. When it comes to clearing out clutter, she again encourages individuals to touch each item and give it thanks for the purpose that it served, prior to placing it into the “to-dispose-of” bin. Through teaching both attention as well as work, she is coaching others through the practice of kriya.
Here are five techniques to burn karma through kriya.
1. Limit Your Possessions
Set aside a day to clear out your drawers, pantry, dishes, refrigerator, closet, shoes ... you get the idea. Be honest with yourself about whether or not your current volume of possessions serves you and let go of the excess.
2. Stick to a Schedule
The fine-tuning tasks of dusting, vacuuming, mopping, folding, etc., can quickly become overwhelming. Draw up a weekly schedule to assign these tasks to each individual day of the week. Then hold yourself accountable! Three to four daily chores are much more enjoyable than a catchup day of 20 chores.
3. Simplify Where You Can
One of my most recent revelations came from my husband. He buys only the same black, crew-cut socks, over and over. Why? Because this saves him the chore of pairing socks. When all his socks are the same, he can grab any two he desires. This idea at first seemed absurd to me, and then genius. This can be applied to so many areas—do you really need all those dishes? Both china and daily wear? An entire drawer of Tupperware? Simplify, simplify, simplify.
4. Commit to Doing Dishes and Laundry Daily
Often times, it may seem like you need those extra dishes and clothes because you only do the wash once or twice weekly. This creates excess—you have to buy more due to washing everything less. You also have excess clutter! Rather than washing and putting away items daily for reuse, they sit around, dirty—in the sink or in a hamper. Commit to washing dishes and a load of laundry daily—you will see that you probably need fewer clothes and dishes than you think!
5. Reframe Your Perspective
I read an article a while back from a woman whose young husband passed away unexpectedly. She wrote a testimonial to others reminding them to acknowledge the opportunity they have, each day, to do simple tasks for loved ones. In her honest recollection, she stated that she regretted each of the days that she begrudgingly picked up clutter from her husband, and admitted that, following his passing, she would give almost anything for the chance to have him around again, making clutter—for her to be able to touch his laundry each day and fold it.
This is not to say that decluttering is a woman’s job—absolutely not! Kriya is for everyone, as karma does not discriminate by gender. The job of simplifying and decluttering belongs to everybody in the home. However, this is a great example of how reframing—seeing the same chore in a different light—can create an attitude of opportunity and gratefulness, rather than despair.
If karma is all about accumulating experiences and goods that weigh you down, then kriya is all about how to shed the muck and remain buoyant. Life provides unlimited opportunities for both accumulation and subsequent shedding. Your home is maybe one of the easiest opportunities to hone the principle of staying “light,” as this is the place in which you spend the most time and therefore tend to accumulate.
This spring, take an honest look at the clutter—the karma—residing in your home. Using the five tips above, start the process of shedding and simplifying. Your inner light—and your home—will be shining more brightly by summer!