Guidelines for the “Cause & Effect” Reflection Process
Before engaging in the process of applying a cause-and-effect analysis to your experiences, it is important to understand how this will help you evolve into a more enlightened state of being. At first, this whole practice of reflecting appears to be a trip into the past which some may feel is opening up old wounds or digging through old storage which has already been boxed up. Some schools of thought prefer to leave the past behind with the justification that “The past is gone, the present moment is now, and the future is ahead.” It is my belief that, while we do not want to dwell on the past, and we most certainly want to live in the present moment, the past may hold the keys to our greater happiness now and going forward. Sometimes it’s better to open up an old wound if it has become infected because it never really healed properly to begin with. This way, we can treat it with the proper cleansing so that it heals perfectly and then we can forget about it. This time it may not even leave a scar! By looking through old storage, often times, people find real gems that they want to save and cherish. Upon discovering it, they realize that it has significant benefit for them right her and now in the present moment. So instead of a rehashing of past events, this is simply a cleansing, so that we can move forward free of scars! At the same time, we can discover and savor the gems that were hidden in storage all this time!
By bringing our consciousness into these past events, we are bringing them into the light and out of the darkness. In Eckhart Tolle’s book, “The Power of Now”, he quotes St. Paul as saying, “Everything is shown by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light.” From this, we can see that just by shining a light on important events in our past, we can transmute the energy they carry. We can transform negative into positive by shedding light on the darkness! What we will discover is that the real gems within these reflections are the life lessons we came here to learn. That’s what we are really in search of.
By understanding the cause-and-effect relationships within the details of our past, we can identify these lessons. We can stand outside of ourselves and witness the events in a more objective way by applying a contemplative analysis to them. This is an excellent way to develop our ability to become the “observer”. This perspective allows us to evaluate our thoughts, words and actions more subjectively and thereby separate virtuous from non-virtuous ones. Now we are getting somewhere! This is how we become more enlightened in the present by highlighting the past! If we can uncover the motivation behind our actions in the past and attach these to positive and/or negative outcomes, we can attain the highest benefit from the cause-and-effect practice.
Karma has been described as a Sanskrit term meaning “action”. Through the actions that we perform, we produce effects which bring us either happiness or suffering. The effects of positive actions bring us happiness and the effects of negative actions cause us suffering. So what we are seeking is to identify the relationship between the causes and effects so that we can apply this greater understanding to our life today. In this way, we will achieve a more enlightened state of being here and now.
Let’s take a look at Robert Thurman’s book, “Jewel Tree of Tibet”, and see what he has to say about “The Practice of Mind Reform” because that’s really what we’re talking about here. By reforming our mind, we are demonstrating an effort to consciously evolve. This will motivate us to create only the best experiences by applying the highest thoughts, words and actions. Under the chapter, “Mind Reform”, Robert gives us the following advice. He credits Geshe Chekawa for offering these “commitments.
Be consistent, carefully mindful, and impartial.
Use force (of intention) to abandon addictions and develop virtues
Overcome excuses for self-preoccupation
Consciously prepare for difficulties
Don’t rely on extraneous coincidences
Change your attitude but remain natural in behavior
Don’t criticize the faults of others
Don’t meddle in others business
Don’t expect rewards
Avoid toxic food
Don’t spoil practices was selfish motivations
Be critical of yourself, and don’t stubbornly hold grudges
Don’t tease people maliciously
Don’t wait in ambush
Don’t go for the jugular
Don’t overload or jeopardize others
Don’t always try to, and don’t exploit the Dharma teachings
Don’t turn God into a demon by being spiritually so preoccupied
And finally: Don’t seek happiness through others suffering! 
It becomes increasingly apparent that we must take full advantage of this precious lifetime to apply mindfulness and practice virtue in all of our thoughts, words and actions. We can start by understanding our tendencies, personality characteristics and motivations better through this process of “Reflection”. Getting to know ourselves in this way will help us work on those behaviors that do not represent the highest virtues and embrace those that do. Now that we have outlined some of the virtuous and non-virtuous mindsets and behaviors, let’s take a closer look at some of them. Most of us can probably identify our behavior in the past (and maybe even in the present) with some of the “non-virtues” even if it is to a small degree. When I began this study Buddhism, one of the things that appealed to me was that your bad behavior wasn’t seen as punishable by a judgmental deity. Instead, it just became your ‘karma’ – something you have to live with and either benefit or suffer from as a result. My mother told me that, growing up, she was always afraid of the big man in the sky who was judging everything she did. She said that this made her feel guilty about even the slightest things. Of course, this would then lead to the fear of being punished which led to resentment toward this judgmental onlooker. I prefer this concept of being ‘accountable’ for our own thoughts, words and actions by understanding that we are only benefiting or harming ourselves. There are some similarities when it comes to confession however. I am not familiar with the Christian view of repentance or confessing to an authority of the church so I will not discuss it. I am somewhat familiar however with the Buddhist concept of confession so let’s take a look at that.
My sister gave me a little book called, “The Bodhisattva’s Confession of Moral Downfalls”. When she first gave it to me, I thought, “Wow, she must think I have some bad stuff to confess! I wonder what she knows!” Ultimately, I admitted to myself that I did have some stuff to confess and as painful as it might be, that it would surely do me good.” So I did and it was painful but it also very good for me! The most amazing benefit was that I stopped dwelling on the bad things from the past that had been haunting me. Even bad dreams that would bring up past people and events (that I would rather forget) started to dissipate! It worked! Then when I started to understand more about karmic cause-and-effect and was able to reconcile these relationships, I came to the understanding that it all had a greater purpose: To teach me the lessons that I needed to learn in order to progress on my path. These are the things that motivate me to write this book. As a witness to the value of spending time in contemplative thought (and even in confession), I know that these practices lead to a more enlightened mind – one that harbors less suffering and experiences more joy. This is my most sincere desire for you, the reader, and for all living beings.
This karmic cause and effect analysis will shine a light on the past by bringing it out of the darkness. Through this process, you will learn how to transmute negative energy and thereby dissipate its future effect. This is called “aligning” your karma. This analysis will also uncover the little gems that are hidden in our past. These valuable jewels are the lessons that, upon being learned, lead to our soul’s evolution. With that being our highest purpose in this lifetime, it is well worth the time and effort to engage in this process of finding them!
Note: I have provided lined pages for you to use as a journal however, I recommend that you also have one of your own handy in case there’s not enough room to express all of your thoughts and feelings. I do not want you to feel limited in your expression by the lack of space available! Please take advantage of those times when your thoughts are flowing to write as much as you can. This is very cathartic and of course, that is the whole purpose for this practice.