On every path of life there can be found traces of karmic footprints.
—DR. CARMEN HARRA AND ALEXANDRA HARRA
CARMEN HARRA, PHD
On the day of my father’s funeral, through my tears and broken spirit, I received a message that would forever change my life. I suddenly saw the spirit of my father standing beside his own grave. “Look at the headstone behind mine,” he told me. “On it is the name of your future husband.”
I was single at the time, a celebrated singer in Romania, and utterly devastated by the recent loss of my beloved father, Victor. He had always been kind, loving, and supportive, even when I insisted that I wanted to be a professional singer in the midst of the communist regime (and he was wise enough to give me his blessings on the condition that I get a college degree as a backup). When I saw the name Virgil imprinted into the gravestone behind his, I committed it to memory. I knew I could trust my father’s guidance and the otherworldly advice that came from loved ones who had crossed over and given me signs and insights about my future. I had been told that someday I—a girl who had spent her early childhood in a one-room house without running water, and grown to adulthood in an Eastern Bloc country where freedom was a tantalizing dream—would go to America and be on television. It was crazy to think this could happen—people said that often enough! But I held on to this beautiful dream with fervent tenacity.
Exactly seven days after my father died and three days after I received the message at his gravesite, I was in America with a touring company of performers. It was a trip I had been looking forward to for many months and an utterly bittersweet moment. I was excited to achieve my dream at last, but deeply saddened about having just lost a parent. How I would have loved to share with my father the story of my adventure in New York City, singing at last in front of an American audience! But my father’s presence, it turns out, was far from gone. He was working in mysterious ways from the other side to forever solidify my fate.
After my performance, an extremely handsome man walked up to me and introduced himself as Virgil, the event coordinator. My jaw dropped as he started to talk about his restaurant and wanting to book me to sing there. I had to sit down, afraid that I would keel over. I knew without a doubt that this was the Virgil my father had prophesied. My mind was suddenly flooded with flashbacks: visions of the lives we had spent together in other times and other lands. I saw it all so clearly. Virgil had died in my arms in Israel, hundreds of years ago, in the midst of a civil uprising. Just as in that lifetime, he was destined to die prematurely once more. I knew it from the moment I saw him. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was our karma. And Virgil was my soul mate.
A few days later, Virgil proposed and three weeks later, we were married. How crazy is that? But he and I shared the most loving, enriching relationship for twenty-seven years. Perhaps it never would have happened if it hadn’t been for my father and his timely guidance from the world beyond our own.
Our meeting was karmic, no doubt. We were meant to spend our lives together, and my father on the other side had known this. I felt it when I met Virgil, and he felt it with me. When two people are meant to be together, that sense of instant connection can be incredibly powerful. It’s almost inexplicable. And our destiny codes—determined by numerology—validated what Virgil and I felt with each other.
Over the years, my husband and I met brutal challenges in our relationship, as all couples do. I married a man with two young daughters who almost overnight had to adjust to having a stepmother. Virgil and I went into business together running another restaurant, and anyone who has mixed business and family knows the problems it can cause! But fortunately, our conflicts weren’t serious enough to threaten the relationship, and we worked through them with mutual effort. The two of us were determined to make our marriage happy and create positive karma together. On the day of his death, Virgil’s last words to me were that he would “see me soon.” I can only hope that in my next life on earth, Virgil and I find each other again as twin souls who search for their missing half.
We knew, as too many don’t, that being honest about our failings and balancing our personal needs with the needs of the other was crucial to our success as a couple. We had excellent role models in our families—again, an advantage many aren’t fortunate enough to have. We kept guard against creating bad karma—saying or doing things to each other we would later regret, for instance. We were also careful not to let other people’s karma influence our relationship. Our families were incredibly important to each of us, but their interference was walled off from our private relationship.
Virgil encouraged me to become a counselor, and for many years I have helped people both in my role as a licensed clinical psychologist and as an intuitive counselor. Because of my own experiences and beliefs, I teach my clients not to end difficult relationships or cut off relatives whose behavior irritates or angers them, except as a last resort. I know that karma will compel them to enter new relationships that will display the same problems that were present in the old relationships. Those with whom we create a rift are likely to show up again in this life or the next, or the next, until our shared karma is resolved (and yes, we share karma with others, as you’ll learn). We may escape this life and its circumstances, even shed our bodies as our souls move from life to life, but there is no escaping our karma.
The single greatest positive step you can take toward personal progress is to stop ignoring your karma and start mastering it. Then you can become a karma queen (or king) who no longer lives according to the dictates of karma created long ago.
My Mother, Queen of What?
Growing up, we all have a little bit of trouble understanding our parents: the weird things they do, like file taxes and argue over the phone about their credit card interest rate. But I had particular trouble understanding what exactly my mother did for a living. All I knew was that she saw clients in her office and they always cried because they suddenly understood the meaning of life or their deceased aunt came through via my mom’s mediumship abilities. I was confused, at best. My friends at school would brag about their parents’ jobs (cops and lawyers and presidents of companies) and I would just shrug and say, “Well, my mom’s The Karma Queen.”
“What’s that?” they’d ask.
“I’m still trying to figure it out,” I would respond.
The New York Post bestowed her with the title in 2003. Sixteen at the time and brimming with youthful ignorance, I didn’t yet understand the fact that karma accounted for my attraction to all the bad boys at school, my phobia of big ships, and my lack of self-esteem as a child. Only as the years passed did I inherit the wisdom of The Karma Queen, drop by drop, day by day, until the pieces of the puzzle fell into place with resounding self-awareness. I was finally in possession of my true self, understanding my faults, weaknesses, and tendencies as well as their karmic origins.
I learned what my mom’s unique job title meant through time and daily exposure to the karma of others. I not only learned about her work, I came to revere it. Beginning in my early teenage years, I visited many of my mom’s clients with her and became familiar with their stories. I started to have a strong empathy for people, becoming sensitive to their needs and wants without even realizing it. I would listen, and their words would affect me as if their history were my own. I peered into their lives as a stranger who was filled with curiosity, and often recognized truths they were blind to because of their overwhelming emotion and strong will. It got to the point that when my mom would speak to her clients, I would innocently chime in with my own, somewhat intuitive advice. I may have had chutzpah stepping in that way, but my mother and her clients saw the validity of what I was saying.
So how could all that wisdom come from someone who simultaneously battled her own demons? Well, for one thing, it came from watching my mom work, but my degree in classics also helped—all things repeat in time, so what has happened before is bound to happen again. When you understand this, you can anticipate the outcome to most events. Most important, I recognized that I was an old soul with karma from previous lifetimes and a talent for understanding people. As the saying goes, “It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply.” I’m grateful to be able to feel what others feel—their tumultuous and sometimes terrible thoughts. I’m grateful because I can feel their karma.
By listening to thousands of different cases, I learned that we all walk down the same roads, only we travel at our own pace and leave different footprints behind. The stories of our lives share undeniable similarities, but what makes your life experiences unique to you is your individual karma, the record of your soul’s deeds and debts to the universe. And if you shed your fears and probe into your karmic record, you can find out the reason behind many of your circumstances. As Virgil the Roman poet said, “Happy is he who has been able to learn the causes of things.” What’s more, if you are willing not only to acknowledge your karma but take the extra step and act to resolve it, you can make true progress in every relationship and aspect of life. A karmic cleanse of all those karmic toxins you’ve accumulated will help you move forward.
Having experienced my own glorious karmic coming-of-age, I am ready to take the spiritual baton from my mother and become the next Karma Queen.
What’s in Your Suitcase?
Karma is like a suitcase you carry with you everywhere—only, unlike suitcases you bring to the airport, it never gets lost! That’s not always such a good thing. . . . If you want to lighten your load and experience greater joy, you have to be curious and courageous enough to open that suitcase (painful as that may be), sort through its contents, and get rid of what you don’t need—particularly patterns that will poison your relationships. When you have unresolved karma, you think you’ve left behind your demanding mother, but you marry a demanding man, or find yourself working for a demanding boss. Or one day you are telling your teenager what to do and she shouts, “Mom, you are so demanding!” and you wonder, “What happened to me? I’ve turned into my mother and I always swore I wouldn’t!” What happened is that you thought there was a simple solution to the discomfort of the conflict between you and your mother: avoid her and repress your irritation. Instead, you inadvertently set up complications in future relationships, because they would be affected by past karma that you failed to resolve.
And you aren’t the only one who brings a suitcase of karma into any particular relationship. It was no accident that you were attracted to a spouse who asks for too much, or the job with the demanding boss. They, too, had karma that attracted them to you so that you and they could cooperate and work to resolve the outstanding karma and generate new, more positive karma. And your child or children were born to you knowing your karma before they ever entered into this world, and wanting to resolve karma of their own carried over from a past life. It’s all outlined in our karmic contract, which we sign as souls on the other side before reentering the physical world. We forget this contract once our soul enters a body and must rediscover its contents the harder way, through experience.
Unlike breaking a contract with a dealership or mortgage company, breaking a karmic contract has greater repercussions than just monetary penalties. Failing to resolve your unique karma as stated in your soul contract means not learning the lessons you were put on earth to learn. And that means you don’t become fulfilled, your life stagnates, and you have to come back to this physical life over and over until you finally finish what you came to do. To triumph over your karma is a challenge, yes, but then again, what is more rewarding than conquering a personal challenge?
My daughter Alexandra had a karmic relationship with her ex-boyfriend (she’s rolling her eyes right now). They were together for five painstaking years (painstaking for her, joyful for him). Because their relationship was karmic (you’ll learn more about that type of relationship later), it was intense. Alexandra shifted between being protective of her boyfriend and being demanding of him, and would explain to me, “Mom, he and I have a karmic connection. In a past life, he was my servant, I was wealthy, and I was very cruel to him. Now I feel like I owe him.” She was trying to work with him through that karmic dynamic in this life, and I’m glad she was committed to doing that.
I am not glad, however, to remember the amount of money it cost us.
Yes, I know that what I’m describing is not your typical mother-daughter conversation about boyfriends, but that’s the way Alexandra and I talk to each other. We’re kindred spirits as much as mother and daughter. She has learned a lot from me. Ever since she was a little girl, she has been very observant of people. But she also has a gift for insight that is karmic.
Alexandra knew that her relationship was a karmic one and that she had to be mindful of her behavior patterns and dedicated to changing them. It also meant I had to deal with her and her ex-boyfriend’s dramas playing out in front of me in our home, and hold back from giving her—and him—advice. This was especially difficult considering that as a licensed clinical psychologist, I could easily see the mistakes they were making—and as a metaphysical intuitive, I knew the relationship wasn’t going to last. Yet I had to respect their choice to be in the relationship, working to detangle their karma.
Working through karma can be very onerous. Clearing old karma can take a long time. Think about clearing the contents of a very old house in which you’ve lived your entire life—there will be ancient stashes of stuff you long forgot you even had. But coming across old photographs and clothes and trinkets will bring back submerged memories and an understanding of how far you’ve come since then. That’s what digging through your karmic suitcase does: it makes you aware of what you’ve worked on and what still requires work. Patience with the process is essential. If you give up quickly out of frustration, you’re just going to end up dealing with the same issues, only in a different relationship. But when you push through and make progress, ah! Then you feel yourself being liberated. You feel yourself mastering your karma, and there is no more powerful feeling than knowing you are in control.
By resolving your karma, by bringing love and patience into the situation and acting from your highest, most evolved and spiritual self, you end the cycle of going from one similar relationship to another and repeating the old patterns that bring you and others pain. You open yourself up to attract new people into your life—a romantic partner, a new group of friends, a business or creative partner who complements you perfectly, or a neighbor who makes life much more pleasant. Resolving your karma and becoming a master over it involves some discomfort. You’re going to have to look at yourself honestly with all your flaws, and address your behaviors and your hidden thoughts that drive them. The payoff is that you will become much happier and more at peace with yourself and your relationships.
Relationships are the ground on which we resolve our old karma, because they are the way through which karma manifests itself. They make us into karma queens if we don’t run from the work that relationships require. Whether they are with someone we love or someone we can’t stand but can’t avoid, relationships cause us simultaneous pain and joy. Our patterns depend on what is in our karmic luggage.
If you want to stop suffering and heal your relationships so that they are supportive, loving, and nurturing, you must stop focusing on the problems other people cause you and start looking at yourself. What is the only common element in every relationship you have? You! You’re in every relationship, and you bring to it a suitcase full of karma that you, and only you, can sort through. If you do so, your relationships will be less complicated and much more rewarding.
The lesson is that you must stop trying to change others’ karma. Change your own instead!
And once you find the courage to look at your role in all your relationships, and you see what you need to change, you have to follow through on working on your karma at every opportunity. You must remain honest with yourself and take time to reflect. Throughout this book, you’ll find exercises and activities that can help you with this process.
The Karmic Cure
In addition to the mental, emotional, and practical work you need to do within your relationships to resolve karma, you must do energy work. You must use the energy of love—the karmic cure for your relationships.
Love is the most powerful force in the universe. You must love others, of course, but never forget that you must love yourself also. Otherwise, you won’t find the courage to keep working on your issues. As Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” However, this won’t work unless you love yourself first. As the Bible also says, “Remove the plank in your own eye before trying to remove the speck in your neighbor’s.” Resolve your own karma and you will much more easily affect other people’s behavior. You can’t force others to change, but by changing yourself, you transform your relationship dynamics. That’s the beginning of becoming a karma queen who reigns over her karma.
To master your karma, you have to start with yourself and your issues—and even if your main concern is your romantic relationship, you have to look at the full spectrum of your relationships and your part in them. You also have to consider the karmic and energetic influences on your relationships—all of which you will learn about in these chapters. You will hear from both me and Alexandra in our own words and in our combined voice at times. We really do finish each other’s sentences, and we’re very much in agreement on most everything (just not men, spending habits, or hair color). So the advice here comes from two souls profoundly in sync who want to offer you the greatest range of guidance.
As the stars of our own reality television series appropriately titled Karma Queens, we found this to be the perfect time to share our combined knowledge of karma and relationships. We want to help you understand your bonds from a completely new perspective—a karmic one. Through our separate voices, bridging the generation gap, and accepting and integrating each other’s different ideas, we feel we can advise you on how to cultivate relationships that fill your spirit with joy, just as they were meant to.
Every relationship in your life will present dilemmas and conflicts. You can deny the problems, or get into arguments or battles with others and try to dominate or conquer them, or you can apply the karmic cure of love and modify your thoughts and actions. If you choose the karmic cure, your relationships will enhance your life. Studies show that a strong social circle leads to better health and greater longevity. As a child of God, you deserve to be loved, cherished, and cared for by others just as you are loved, cherished, and cared for by God. We were meant to extend the infinite love we receive from the Divine to each other.
We hope this book, written from our hearts, helps you to master your karma—to become queens (or kings) of your karma—and to receive the unconditional love that is your unwavering birthright.
(Mastering Your Karma So Your Relationships Don’t Drive You Crazy)
Mastering your karma is mastering your life.
—DR. CARMEN HARRA
The Origin of the Karma Queens
My grandmother passed while giving birth to my mother, Alexandrina (after whom Alexandra is named). Sanda, as we called her for short, was then raised by her father, sisters, and brothers, and never felt that one-of-a-kind love from a mother. In turn, when she had my younger sister and me, Sanda wasn’t sure how to balance being too protective with being too permissive. The karma she experienced by never having a mother figure led her to develop a strong fear of losing us. She acted on this fear by being extremely protective and possessive. No matter what friends or, later, boyfriends we brought home, Sanda disliked them all. My mom had to accompany us everywhere, far beyond our teenage years.
I remember being twenty-four years old, a famous singer in Romania on tour with my band . . . and also my mother, who had to come along to make sure no one harmed me in any way (she would give all men my age the old evil eye so that no one dared approach me). As I was a normal young woman with a desire for a relationship, this made me miserable. But I don’t fault her for her behavior—it was all Sanda knew. My mother never addressed the karmic issues created by not having had a motherly role model to learn from. This is what happens when we don’t take an honest look at our karma and act to resolve it—we repeat it, and not just in our own lives. We transfer it to others, affecting their lives, too.
I admit that even I acted on the karma between my mother and me in my treatment of my youngest daughter, Alexandra, except I verged on the other extreme. I was afraid that Alexandra would grow to resent me if I was too controlling of her as my mother had been of me. So I became a lenient parent . . . so lenient that I took Alexandra to get her first tattoo at age fourteen. Yes, I know, how could I have done that? I didn’t recognize my karma in time! If I had, I probably would have made a different decision and changed the pattern of letting my daughter have too much freedom at such a young age. I had learned much about karma and karmic relationships, but I still had to overcome the karma I had inherited from my own mother.
Luckily for Alexandra and me, we realized that we are different people and that there’s no need to play on each other’s weaknesses or act out our personal insecurities. On the contrary, we work best as a team, so together, we’re working to master the hefty mother-daughter karma in our family line (we’ve been working on this for quite a while now, so Alexandra stopped getting tattoos and I stopped letting her). I’ve learned to be tougher on her and she’s learned to be less of a rebel. There’s no need to let the old karma of my mother, or her mother before her, or my former mistakes as a mother, get between Alexandra and me. We are committed to cooperating with each other and lifting each other up. In this way, we heal and resolve the old karma, mastering its lessons instead of letting its lessons master us.
I have been dubbed The Karma Queen because this concept of karma is central to my work as a licensed clinical psychologist and intuitive advisor and coach. It is also central to my books, and even to the jewelry I design. It was karma that led me to become a singer, which turned out to be my ticket to freedom from the communist regime I lived under in my younger years. And now my daughter, Alexandra, is becoming a karma queen. She has learned that if you don’t preside over your karma, it will dominate most aspects of your life.
As I said, my own mother was very possessive of my sister, Mona, and me. Mona is a lesbian (sexuality has karmic roots, too!), but our mother’s behavior toward us is key to why Mona decided not to have children or adopt: she held resentment against her mother for her choice of parenting and this discouraged her from wanting to become a parent herself. I was affected in the way that I verged on the opposite extreme and let my daughter, Alexandra, get away with most anything. Now, Alexandra and I have worked out our karma very well, though she doesn’t have children yet, so I can’t say what her mothering approach will be!
The much-needed balance in parent-child dynamics came into our family through my two stepdaughters, Carmen and Florina. Each has two children, a total of two boys and two girls, and in studying their treatment of their children, I can say I’ve seen truly balanced mothering in action—they are neither too strict nor too lenient. This is what I dream of for Alexandra and her children, if and when she becomes a mother. Though they are much younger than me, Carmen and Florina taught me a lesson I couldn’t have learned elsewhere—the lesson of how to discipline your children and protect them without going overboard and becoming domineering. You see, it is one thing to learn discipline in books and coursework as a therapist. It is another thing to experience the idea of balanced discipline by observing it expressed again and again. I now have internalized a more balanced approach to interacting with my own daughter. When I look at my stepdaughters with their children, I see their sons and daughters clinging to them and relying on them, and at the same time showing respect and not rebelling against them for no reason but ego and will.
Such balance was something I had to work hard through many years to achieve with Alexandra because I had no example of it, only an idea of balance as something for which to strive. Our family’s story of mothers and daughters shows that the effects of shared karma are both real and profound.
If you’re not aware of your karma and how it affects all the relationships in your life . . . well, let me explain how it all works.
The True Nature of Karma
Long before we are born, we begin to create relationships and, consequently, karmic ties. You are karmically linked to your mother, of course, who gave birth to you, and to your father because you are his product. To a lesser degree, you are karmically linked to the doctor who delivered you, the kindergarten teacher who scolded you, your first boyfriend or girlfriend who broke your heart (or whose heart you broke), and so on. You go through life creating karma, resolving it, creating it, resolving it, until your body is ready to expire and your soul ascends to the higher realm. The hope is that by then, all of your karma will have been healed and rectified. But because we are not aware of our true karmic nature, this is rarely the case. And so our soul returns in the flesh once more in its next life on earth. And what has remained unchecked on the karmic to-do list is picked up again. This brings you to here and now. Do you know what’s on your soul’s to-do list?
Karma is a much-misunderstood concept. It’s not quite as simple as “what goes around comes around” or “how you treat others is how they will treat you.” The Sanskrit word karma means the force of thoughts and deeds. This energy manifests as beliefs, emotions, and actions. The energy of karma becomes woven into your personal energy field, or consciousness. It gets attached to the soul and remains there lifetime after lifetime until it is resolved. In a way, it’s like a tattoo that can’t be removed without a lot of work (something Alexandra has come to appreciate and abhor . . . ). Action creates memory, and karma is the memory of the soul.
The doors of infinite possibilities open when you acknowledge your karma and heal or resolve it. You must accept three truths about karma: that it is the accumulation of every thought, intention, and action from this and prior lifetimes, that it can always be healed, and that healing requires action.
The First Truth about Karma: Karma Is the Accumulation of Every Thought, Intention, and Action from This and Prior Lifetimes
Whatever actions you take have lasting effects because everything in the universe is energy, and everything is connected in the field of energy. It’s like what happens when you drop a stone into a pool of still water: ripples emanate. You can watch them move outward, rocking a small stick on the water’s surface and changing the reflection of the sky on the water. All of your actions send waves of energy outward, affecting others in ways greater than you can imagine. Some actions create bad karma because you are hurting others, whether you know it or not. But if your actions are loving and kind—and make others feel happy, at peace, loved, and valued—then you are generating excellent karma. Having a clean karmic record frees your spirit.
You can’t always see the far-reaching, long-lasting effects of the karma you’ve generated, but the memory becomes part of the consciousness of the individuals involved as well as part of the collective consciousness of the universe that our individual minds are connected to. The parent who couldn’t express unconditional love to you when you were a baby created bad karma, which was stored in you as a memory that may have been forgotten by your conscious mind but was held in your unconscious mind and your body’s energy field, and even etched into your brain. This subconscious memory can resurface at any given moment if the right situation presents itself.
You see, each time you experience a thought or emotion, neurons in your brain fire off electrical impulses that create or reinforce dendrites, or arms, that reach from one neuron to another. You reuse this neural network or path because it’s easier than creating a new one. But if the old path is the path of jealousy, vindictiveness, distrust, or anxiety, you’ll habitually experience those feelings—and thoughts that support them—unless you forge a new path. Bridges must be burned to erect new ones.
Sometimes when you are driving, you can find you’re headed home when you meant to go to the store. When you get distracted, your mind can go on autopilot. It will efficiently send you onto the road to your home without your realizing it because you’re not paying attention. The same thing happens in your relationships: you stumble down the same road. You find yourself not speaking up when you’re feeling disrespected, or you start arguments about something inconsequential to avoid talking about what’s really bothering you. The karma you create by not being honest with yourself and your partner, and by not working through the real problems, accumulates. Again and again, you find yourself being uncomfortable and challenged to resolve your karma. And if you continue to operate on “autopilot” in these uncomfortable situations, you will continue to meet the same uncomfortable results.
The Second Truth about Karma: Karma Can Always Be Healed
Changing your karma is far easier and more sensible than trying to change other people. Transforming karma is difficult and requires much time and effort. First, however, you have to become aware of it. That means allowing yourself to feel embarrassed or even ashamed and defensive. Your ego will try to keep you from admitting that you play a role in all your problems. It’s easier to blame your spouse, your daughter, your parent, or your coworker. Deep down, perhaps you will feel a twinge of guilt when you vent about someone who upset you. Pay attention to that feeling and listen to that voice inside that says, “Yes, but what about what you did?” It is impossible to control what others do, but if you master your karma, you can control how you feel, act, and think. This, in turn, will affect how others behave toward you.
And second, you have to remain aware of your karma, or you will find yourself on the wrong road, thinking, “How did I get here? I meant to go somewhere else!” You must develop the habit of being both mindful and reflective. If you are constantly thinking about tomorrow or last week, or what happened ten years ago, or what might happen “if only that person would change,” you’re not being mindful of how you are perpetuating your karma.
Third, you have to understand your karma’s nature and origins. In this way, you can appreciate why it’s so powerful and become more accepting of yourself and others. It is not easy to change karma, so don’t harshly judge yourself or the people you care about. As you’ll learn, your karma may have been created in a previous lifetime and carried over to this one—it may even be so strong that you’ve held on to it for several lifetimes with little or no awareness.