Tendency begets tendency.
If we have a certain habit, the tendency to think, act, or speak a certain way,
each time we think, act, or speak accordingly, we reinforce that habit/tendency.For instance, we might have the tendency of losing our patience in traffic. When the proper conditions arise i.e. we're in the midst of our rush hour commute, the tendency of reacting impatiently also has the opportunity to arise. When we think, act, or speak out of impatience, we feed that tendency, allowing it to grow deeper roots into the sense of who we think we are and how we behave. We might even say "I'm an impatient person" or "I can't handle being in traffic, it's just the way I am".
Like a bus fare, this misconception of each human being having a fixed personality presents a problem...it doesn't allow for change.
Karma can be easily understood as tendency. We tend to think, act, or speak a certain way, and these thoughts, actions, and words tend to yield a similar result. If we tend to have angry thoughts we tend to speak angry words, and those angry words tend to anger others, who tend to respond angrily...and so on and so on. Karma is a result of repetition; it is strengthened or weakened depending on whether it is repeated or not.
This means that karma can change.
Now if we look at the human personality as a collection of tendencies (karma), we can see that our personality changes dependent on conditions. For instance, how we behave surrounded by our co workers within the work place will differ from how we behave surrounded by our friends at party which will differ from how we behave surrounded by family at dinner. Surely, the tendencies that are repeated with greatest regularity might be expressed in each scenario, but very particular tendencies will rise up dependent on each set of unique circumstances.
In other words,
we are karma chameleons,
interdependent upon our surroundings.
Witness to the reality that a fixed, permanent, immalleable self does not exist, we can then begin to mold our habits/tendencies/karma into the shape of our choosing.
- Through the practice of meditation we become closely acquainted with the current habits of mind (which precede all behavior).
- This familiarity paired with the skill of being able to pause before acting allows one to choose their own actions.
- One by one we abandon old tendencies that lead to suffering and replace them with tendencies that lead to lasting happiness.
Acting intentionally rather than reacting habitually, we free the mind.