Understanding karma gives us both flexibility and acceptance. Everything arises from the coming together of causes and conditions; Nagarjuna says that when all the causes and conditions are assembled, nothing can prevent the effect from arising. So, there is no point fighting against the way things are.
An example that we can all relate to: on your commute to work, you keep getting stuck in traffic at the same place. So, you look for a clever alternate route to avoid the traffic … and get stuck in a traffic jam in a different place instead. Your karma has ripened; you can’t avoid it. If you accept that is the way it is, you can at least be happy while you sit in traffic!
Isn’t that a bit defeatist or fatalistic? Not at all, because causes and conditions are constantly changing, so in the next moment everything could be different. In fact, patiently accepting things will help them change for the better. One of the factors in our karma ripening is our state of mind: if we have a positive mind, then negative potentials can’t ripen. Patience both purifies our karma, and obstructs bad imprints from ripening.
I think this is important to recognise, because it is easy to get patience a bit wrong: when we think ‘this is the way it is,’ we kind-of translate that into ‘this is the way it always will be’ and instead of feeling truly at peace with the situation we feel resigned and a bit discouraged. There is never any need to feel discouraged by negative karma ripening: by experiencing it, we are purifying it, and by practising patience we are creating the causes of future happiness.
So, in each moment, we can be openheartedly accepting the way things are, without wishing for things to be different; but at the same time have the flexibility to see that everything could change in the next moment.