There is a lot of misunderstanding around this word. Karma simply means action. Every action has consequences. Conscious choice making is the most effective way of creating future consequences of karma. Karma creates the future, but it is also an echo from the past. Karma conditions our soul through memory, desire and imagination. Most people are prisoners of Karma, because it becomes a conditioned reflex and produces predictable outcomes in their lives. The goal of enlightenment is to break the in shackles of Karma.
Karma is not physical, it is spiritual, and we carry karma forward through time within a given lifetime or, as some believe, from one lifetime until the next. Once accrued, the balancing action of karma plays out on the stage of our everyday lives through our bodies, thoughts, feelings, relationships, circumstances, and experiences. The name of the game of life is to pay off our karmic debts rather than accruing new ones.
Just as gravity is a law of the physical world, so is karma a law of the spiritual world. We are held responsible for our actions and, more precisely, for the intention of our actions. Spiritually, as well as physically, the type and quality of seeds one plants will determine the quality of the crop to be harvested.
If we have imbalances in our consciousness (known as karmic debts), we either find ourselves presented with the same lesson again and again within one lifetime until we gain the wisdom and value of the lesson being presented, or we re-embody, carrying the karma over from one lifetime till the next. Spirit is forever patient with our process of learning.
Karma is not about retribution, vengeance, punishment or reward, but a reaping of the harvest we ourselves have planted. Through our thoughts and behaviors, we sow seeds that are later harvested.
When karma comes present in our lives, it is because we are being given the opportunity to reap our harvest. There is no such thing as a good harvest or a bad harvest. It is just our harvest. It is our opportunity to make different choices in life than those that caused our karmic accrual in the first place. Karma is at once the consequence of past actions and the opportunity for healing and balancing in the present. It is a balancing action that offers us chances through life circumstances, situations, and relationships to learn important spiritual lessons.