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Is Your Relationship History Repeating Itself?

Updated: May 3

You may feel as if you’re stuck in some kind of cosmic loop. Somehow all these different people you enter into relationships with end up being the same in the end. Don’t fret, this is good news, the awareness of it anyway. And it really hasn’t actively been your fault, karma just keeps sending you the same invitation in a different envelope. Now that you are aware, you have the power to recognize these patterns and change them.

The purpose of a karmic relationship is to help you release these past patterns that keep attracting the same type of person or situation over and over again. Our job in a karmic relationship then, is to “get” the lesson – either by choosing something different or by releasing the past patterns that cause us to keep hitting the same reset button.

This is a spiritual contract. A spiritual relationship. It’s true any relationship could be considered spiritual, but in this context, it means using the relationship – or a recurring situation – to consciously reveal what is keeping you from being your greatest self; from living your most authentic life. This is an opportunity for great personal growth.

Twin Flames and Soulmates

Is a spiritual relationship the same as soulmate or twin flame? Possibly, but not always. Twin flames and soul mates refer more to an inherent sense of union, oneness and togetherness that extends beyond the mind’s comprehension. It is a connection that doesn’t always make sense. It just IS. Being with your twin flame or soulmate will make it easier to face the karmic aspects or unhelpful patterns which will show up in any relationship. By facing these patterns together, you can individually become more free and become closer to one another -- experiencing greater depth and emotional intimacy within the relationship.

A karmic relationship could be long term like a family member or partner; it could be fleeting, but if the same situation and emotions seem to surface repeatedly even with different people, that is the karmic seed we are working with and that person in front of you is here to help whether you or they know it.

What is Karma anyway?

Karma is a law, much like gravity. At its core it speaks to the universal law of cause and effect. Everything we do, say or think acts as a “cause” which creates “effects” or “karma”. Most of these effects are so subtle we don’t even notice them. We commit neutral karmic acts all day long and we receive neutral feedback. When we’re in a space of loving kindness it seems that synchronicities abound. When we are angry and frustrated, the world seems to reflect back to us.

These would be subtle examples of instant karma or active karma. But what if the results of our actions, thoughts and words aren’t immediately apparent? What if we planted seeds years ago that we forgot all about?

Now we’re talking about dormant karma. We start planting karmic seeds at a very young age when we react to something without understanding it, way before we have context to understand situations, or the emotions attached to those situations. Maybe even before we’re born. Based on these experiences, we form conclusions about life. These conclusions are like tiny little seeds that we are fertilizing and watering daily through our belief in their veracity. We further reinforce these conclusions with choices that validate their truth.

These seed conclusions about life are not always apparent. They are like underground seeds that, with the perfect environmental conditions, will grow. Maybe into flowers, maybe into weeds. We’re taking a closer look at the weeds here.

There are two types of karma: active and dormant and we’ll work through both.

Active: Our known or visible reactions to people or situations. These can present themselves in two ways. We can either withdraw, shut down, avoid, or numb out when faced with an issue we know we need to work through. Or, we can overreact by harshly judging a situation, losing our temper or placing blame. In short, you can recognize active karma in the form of avoidance or overreaction which is out of proportion to the situation at hand.

Dormant: Our habits and decisions are shaped and created by past karma outside of our awareness. These little karmic seeds direct our behavior and reactions without us being truly conscious of them. You know, when someone pushes your buttons, and you react? You may not understand what the button truly is or where it came from, but you know for certain that you are triggered. The good news? It’s your button. The better news? You can dismantle it. With awareness, we have the opportunity to move this karmic reaction into the active category so we can now see it and therefore work with it.

Both types of karma can be present in any relationship, but often it is a close relationship like a relative or a partner that will bring those buttons to your attention.

How do you know if you’re in a karmic relationship?

Here are a few signs:

  1. Constantly triggering and over-reacting to each other.

  2. One partner overreacts to anything the other person does or says.

  3. One or both of you tends to get overly expressive/explosive, reactive or even aggressive.

  4. Blaming, judging, being controlling or defensive – out of proportion to what is happening.

  5. Collapsing/withdrawing.

  6. Avoid, deny, pretend it’s not happening.

  7. Numbing out or distracting oneself.

Now what?

First, is this relationship unsafe – physically, mentally, or emotionally? Then this is not the place to get the lesson. Unless the lesson is to recognize when to leave. If entering into these types of relationships is a repeating pattern, then understanding when to leave is likely the lesson.

This is about YOU freeing yourself from your own karmic patterns that keep you stuck in cycles of unhelpful behaviors or decisions; that prevent you from living your authentic life. This is not an invitation to place blame on yourself or anyone else, but a summons to look inside, to explore what unhelpful habit or way of being you are bringing to the relationship that is creating this outcome. When you shift how you are within the relationship, it will change the dynamic of the relationship. Either the relationship will move forward in a healthier, more balanced way, or the two of you will naturally part ways.

Working with Active Karma

Think of a yoga pose. Everything in life is a yoga pose. Practicing postures on the mat, working through frustration and elation on that little rectangle, is preparation for facing our karma off the mat. This is one way to work with active karma, using the yoga posture to reveal those hidden seeds. It’s unlikely that you love every posture, and it may be fair to say you even avoid certain ones, but they are all here for you to learn to sit with what is. There are many parts of life that yoga postures reflect and placing them in two separate categories may help to understand their purpose. And these will be different for everyone. An inversion posture may be a delight to someone and the enemy of another. Child’s pose may feel amazing to one practitioner and torture to someone else. These are personal reactions, just like your karma.

If we dissect these further, we can call them Because poses and Despite poses. Both have equal weight, both are teachers, the difference is in your reactions and preferences, and they can change day to day.

  1. A Because posture is one that feels good, you can’t wait to do it, it’s easy, there is flow.

  2. A Despite posture is one that feels like deliberate, external pressure, it may bring up struggle, comparison or self-judgment.

Karma asks, “Can you sit with both of these as they are without succumbing to your reaction?” Can you choose a different response to either pole of reactivity and settle somewhere in the middle? Can you enjoy the easy postures without attaching to them and accept the difficult postures without reacting to them? That’s the real practice of yoga.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states: Practice is effort toward steadiness of mind. He does not ask us to perfect Warrior 3. It is the intention behind the practice that moves us forward. Practice, then becomes a metaphor for life. Life is effort toward steadiness of mind. Life gives us the opportunity to be with what is. Life and all its karmas are telling us that whatever we’re reacting to is not happening TO us as much as it is happening FOR us. In each uncomfortable situation, what if this thought was the first thing that came to mind: What am I to learn from this? It’s not always possible in every circumstance and often it is in the postmortem of a relationship or argument that we can see clearly what the lesson was, but what if you could soften enough to witness this as it is occurring? What if, eventually, all reaction to the situation is gone?

This self-study can only happen if you are in a safe space that allows for self-inquiry without judgment. It is said that karmic patterns reside in the heart, the more present and at ease you feel, the less resistance you’ll have to allowing your heart to open enough to begin this work. In this safe space, notice if the tendency in this situation is to shut down. Can the urge to shut down and also sit with it live together? Recognizing a reaction, even if the reaction doesn’t change it is a huge step in healing this particular karmic seed.

As time goes on and you’re offered this same reaction over and over, your awareness of it will grow and likely your reaction will diminish. Each time you catch yourself, stop yourself, and sit with it. The reaction itself and the amount of time in resistance will lead you to the ability to simply let go. When you no longer react as you once did, you have healed this particular karmic pattern and possibly opened up new pathways of communication in your relationship with the person who brought this karmic seed to your awareness.

It's not them, it’s you.

Or more directly, your karma. Much like forgiveness – it’s about letting go of the anger, sadness, hurt you’re holding onto in order to move on, not condoning the behavior of the other – this practice is focused inward. It’s YOUR karmic patterns you are working to resolve, they are simply showing you where your work is. Did you have a reaction to that last sentence? If you became defensive while reading it, maybe you are over your edge, maybe this situation you’re in, this relationship you’d like to heal, is not ready. Often, we take whatever we’ve learned and apply it to the biggest, hairiest beast in the room because it’s important enough for us to want to fix it. However, if your reactions are strong and seem to be guiding you - rather than you controlling them - maybe begin by practicing these techniques in another relationship or situation that holds less of a charge and may have less fall out or unforeseen consequences.


Is this relationship more than I can handle? Am I always on edge? Are we always reacting to and being triggered by one another? Challenges and difficult periods in a relationship are normal, but in general, the way you relate to one another should be easier rather than harder. If you are consistently shut down, protective or taking a defensive stance, that is a sign that you are beyond your edge. If you are beyond your edge, you are so busy tolerating the relationship that there is no room to get the lesson and make the shift. This is a sign that this may not the best place to be working with your karmic patterns.

Have I done all that I can? Have I faced myself and broken my old habitual ways of being? Have I asked for what I need without blame or desperation? What were the results? You cannot expect the other to give you what you need, but you can use what they do or don’t do as information that will shape your next steps.

Does it feel complete? Perhaps over a period of time you’ve been doing your own work. After a while you see the relationship for the reality of what it is, you accept it for what it is, but you also see that it no longer serves you. When it feels complete in your mind and heart, the person or situation is settled. You just know “I’m done.” That is when the karma in the relationship has run its course and it is perhaps time to move on.

Working with Dormant Karma

Enter our tried-and-true friend, Yoga Nidra. If you are unfamiliar with Yoga Nidra, it is a receptive meditative practice. It is a form of guided meditation that uses energetic words and phrases in a specific order to allow the body and mind to enter into the biological relaxation state of sleep brain waves. It is observation and witnessing your true nature without forcing anything to happen. It is a non-doing practice. Unlike mindfulness meditation – which can also be helpful – Yoga Nidra is usually done lying down so there is no stress on the body, fewer opportunities for distractions from the body, and there is no need to do anything.  

According to Vedic astrologers and ancient sacred texts, the only way to work through dormant karma is through some form of meditation. There is a Yoga Sutra that states,”The impressions which normally arise are made to disappear by the appearance of suppressive efforts, which in turn create new mental modifications.” Translated this means: Through meditation we are able to suppress the distractions and stories of the mind and witness our own true nature as abiding consciousness, and that impression will wipe out all other impressions, also known as samskaras or karma. Meditation can be a karma eraser.

When you catch a glimpse of your own true nature through Yoga Nidra you begin to understand your own sky-like nature. Your capacity to heal grows as you release your identification with these age-old karmic conclusions, whether you know what they are or not. With enough practice, you may notice your reactions disappearing, triggers that once set you off no longer hold a charge, and your ability to abide in an open and loving heart space expands. You begin to rest into an internal peace as you begin to free yourself of these karmic patterns.

The Work

Remember, this is YOUR karma you’re working with, you are not trying to change the other person. Although, when we change our way of being it often allows a safe space for others to open more. As you embark on this karmic mission, ask yourself a few questions about each relationship you’re endeavoring to heal or transform:

  1. Is this a safe relationship to work within?

  2. Does this relationship fall more toward the Because posture side or Despite posture side of the scale? A rich, rewarding relationship will often embody a balance between the two. A strong and loving relationship will continue to help us grow and learn about ourselves and sometimes that feels like it’s not working or weighted too heavily on the Despite side, when it may really be working harder than you realize.

  3. Am I able to use this relationship in a way that is helping me to grow and clear old karmic patterns?

How do you know if a familiar pattern has resolved itself? If you can see the reality and accept the reality and accept that the reaction no longer serves you, it is settled. At this point you’re ready to move on or shift the relationship. If you’re unsure, perhaps there is more healing to uncover. Ask yourself, “What karmic lesson am I supposed to learn and have I learned it?” or “What am I being asked to learn?” Maybe ask these questions as you enter into Yoga Nidra and see what is revealed.

You will also know when a karmic pattern is healed, when you no longer attract the same circumstances to you. You’ll find yourself able to see new opportunities that might have always been present. You just didn’t have the eyes to see them. You’ll be able make different choices and thereby create different outcomes for yourself.

As you clear some of these karmic patterns your capacity to love and accept will begin to expand. The change may be subtle but can be truly transformative in your life and all relationships.


Life Lessons Love Lessons by Kamini Desai

FREE Self Mastery Series (Including the module, “Relationships as a Yogic Practice”)

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