The prevailing wisdom is that we need to die before we experience karma. When we are reincarnated, the way we led our life this time will be the basis of our next life. However, I believe that we are beginning to experience karma in our own lifetime. We must become conscious of the feedback around us.

Nature has its own version of karma. Nature curbs excess from within a system using feedback loops, which come in two basic forms. One form of feedback is a reinforcing loop. This reinforcement feedback creates more behavior of a similar type. The other feedback form is a balancing or dampening down loop. This diminishes the behavior that is occurring.

A simple example of a reinforcing and balancing feedback loop is found in predator/prey relationships. As the wolf population increases, the deer population decreases. The wolf population then begins to decrease because there isn’t enough deer to sustain their population growth. The wolves die of starvation and then the deer population begins to rise because their main predators are less in number.

Karma is a spiritual feedback loop. Our choices in this lifetime either reinforce the quality of our next life or dampens it down. Karma is shaped as an extended feedback loop. It takes time to come into effect. Nature has long feedback loops and shorter feedback loops. For example, water crashing on granite boulders will take hundreds of years to turn into grains of sand.

I believe that as our world becomes more connected and interdependent, the feedback loops of how humans affect the life of others, nature, and ourselves is speeding up.  

Here are three ways we are beginning to experience karma in our own lifetime:


1. Climate Change

As a human race, we have made decisions that affect the climate of our world. The evidence that we are having a negative impact on the climate is overwhelming. We are seeing this in the increase in hurricanes, deviation from traditional weather patterns, and more extreme weather events leading to increased damage.

During the recovery of Hurricane Sandy, FEMA raised the standard that the reconstruction needed to meet in New York City from a 100-year standard to a 500-year standard. That meant that architects and construction projects had to be designed to withstand any 500-year weather event that occurred within the last 500 years. We are having more 500-year weather events and damage in a much shorter time period. In this way, we are experiencing the results of our choices as a human race and it is now impacting cities and countries with greater frequency in our own lifetime.

2. Decisions that Negatively Impact Others

It used to be that when organizational leaders made decisions that negatively impacted others, it might not become public knowledge until after they left the company, retired, or died. With technology and a dynamic global economy, our decisions have shorter and tighter feedback loops.

For example, the affordable healthcare act used to be something that politicians ran against. In this election cycle, past acts of voting to repeal pre-existing conditions are now a negative feedback loop for a politician. Even if the politician has changed their mind on the importance of pre-existing conditions or affordable healthcare, their past actions are coming back to haunt them. This is another way karma shows up in our own lifetime.

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3. Not Listening to Feedback about How We Relate to Others

On a smaller scale, the way we treat each other is becoming more transparent. As we become more conscious, we notice how our actions shape our future relationships. If we treat our neighbors or family members in negative ways, we eventually lose friendships and hurt family members. If we engage with others in a positive way, we also reap the benefits of loving kindness or receive the care we give to others in mutual relationships that benefit each other.

I work with organizational leaders who are noticing how their past actions and decisions shape their current agenda of problems. This dynamic extends into their future problems. For example, the way these leaders choose to solve current challenges can either increase the reservoir of trust in the organization or diminish it. When organizational leaders consciously understand that their choices in the present have an impact on the agenda of future opportunities and challenges, they bring this awareness to their choices. Once we make this connection of past, present, and future, our decisions and actions become more intentional. We realize that karma also comes in our own lifetime!

Dr. Kathleen E. Allen writes a blog on leadership and organizations that describes a new paradigm of leadership that is based on lessons from nature and living systems. She is the author of Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World (2018) and President of Allen and Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in leadership, innovation, and organizational change. You can sign up for her blog on her website: