In Hindu and Buddhist tradition, karma is the cumulative effect of past circumstances on the present moment. We may extend the concept to include one’s behavior, environment, genetic inheritance (or the traditional “past lives”), culture, upbringing, personality, beliefs, experiences, and responses. Karma is the momentum of being, at least being a product of time and circumstance.

In describing karma, one strains to avoid speaking in terms of good or bad effects, though our lives are filled with what we inevitably call good or bad, either morally or psychologically. And this inevitable judging of experiences and influences we quietly and without question ascribe to the world of nature around us: in terms of weather, for example, we have good days (sunny, warm, bright) versus bad days (stormy, angry, wicked). No wonder we pit our personal vision of karma against the cumulative circumstances that have brought us to this point in our lives and wonder: good? bad? … And how useful, after all, is rolling it all into a ball and labeling it with one or two words?

The traditions say that we can break the hold of karma in a single moment, in the flash of a lightning bolt. But psychology and culture don’t tend to confirm that. It’s never that easy. But it is true enough that karma is transformed for the “better” when we just get rid of it, forget it. That is the therapeutic function of solitude: to disengage us from pitting self against karma (society, culture, contrivance, foibles, nightmares) and instead reconciling us with the universe: the stars, the flowers, the forest, all of which have no karma.