Karma is a way of helping our souls to grow over consecutive incarnations but is not solely a punitive system that some may interpret it as. We will inevitably accrue a karmic debt as our souls learn and grow and this debt will be repaid, in part, as we live consecutive lifetimes. The rest will be repaid when we reach a high level of spiritual excellence. In some lifetimes we may incur a greater net karmic debt than in others and in some lifetimes we may earn net karmic credit. Our karmic debts are accrued from actions (thoughts, words and deeds at every level of our consciousness) that cause pain or suffering to living things and karmic credit is accrued from actions that create love, happiness or harmony in living things. Unwise actions may arise from our fear or pain and wise actions from our love and wisdom but the karmic results of actions can be difficult for us to work out and it is not we who are the judges.

Take, for example the case of a parent who smacks their child as a punishment for wrongdoing. Does the smacking result from the parent's love and wisdom or from their fear and pain? What if this smacking results in the child being somewhat reformed and, as a result, doing wiser things in the future? What if, as a result of the smacking, the child incurs less karmic debt in the future? What if it exacerbates a deep fear within them and tips them over the edge into a downward spiral of poor behaviour?

We are only aware of a very small proportion of our behaviour. Our soul’s consciousness may be in a constant power struggle with a soul that we know. We may have inappropriate sexual relationships on the astral planes of consciousness (related to the sacral chakra) with someone with whom we would consider such behaviour outrageous. We may be having a balanced and loving relationship with someone we haven't physically met in this life yet. And even a seemingly wonderful, balanced, loving relationship may have aspects that we are not aware of that are challenging fears that we don’t even know we have. All of our actions have karmic consequences.

Karmic debt repayment is required when it serves a purpose to help people to learn, grow, heal, love, find balance or otherwise do something positive. It is in this way that our misguided actions can ultimately serve as learning experiences and development opportunities so that our souls can grow and evolve. A karmic debt is not necessarily to a particular soul and we may repay our debt to anyone and in a multitude of ways - by our suffering and by good actions.

The greater the journey, the more debt that may be incorporated into it and the greater the rewards may be. I often think of the great Nelson Mandela who suffered for a great cause that brought about truth and reconciliation to help heal the wounds of a nation. I have no doubt that his pain and suffering was a part of a journey to a greater love that triumphed over fear.

Whether we realise it or not, every time we think, say or do something negative it causes us pain. We will feel that pain, whether or not we realise that it is a consequence of that particular thought, word or deed. We feel an immediate effect since it lowers our energy in some way and it also may have a negative effect outside us – on something or someone else. We may consciously learn through experience that these things cause us pain - we learn that lies escalate and that malicious thoughts just deplete us and that violence causes us suffering. And this conscious learning is to our minds what karma is to our souls. Karma is a way of giving a learning experience to our consecutive lifetimes so that our souls have a long-term way of gauging experiences and learning through them. Karma helps our souls to realise that good thoughts, words and deeds lead to happiness and vice versa. Without karma our souls may get stuck in a mode of painful existence lifetime after lifetime without ever getting out. But we should realise that our lifetimes are planned so that we have learning opportunities within each lifetime as well. And often the short-term learning opportunities mirror the long-term learning opportunities, in other words the lessons that we can consciously learn in a single lifetime may be the same lessons that our soul has been learning over many lifetimes.

When we have a painful experience we should look at the immediate lesson that we can learn and treat it as an opportunity for growth and know that the wisdom that is gained will be embedded in our souls for future lifetimes. It is not necessary to try to establish the karmic causes of our experiences because, as I have already written, they are always connected with a current imbalance in the soul that needs to be fixed. The lesson helps our souls to recognise the inner fear and pain which draws to us a similar fear or pain from another. I have learned that the way in which our souls learn and grow over many lifetimes is varied and tremendously complex and mostly beyond our recognition or understanding within a single lifetime. But with a more conscious life we may be able to see the hurtful actions of others not as injustices but as opportunities to reflect on our own issues. Likewise we can be happier knowing that our wise and loving actions create better future lives for ourselves and other people and that such merit comes from consciously engaging with the best parts of ourselves and others.