One thing leads to another. Karma is created by a cause and a resulting condition. Experience is met through the 6 senses: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin (sensation) and mind. What the mind does with what is met or experienced is dependent on both what we have experienced in the past, and how aware we are of the associations that each experience brings forward. We can further explore this in the 12 Nidana’s that are the foundation for (the Buddhist philosophy of) dependent origination.

(Here’s Venerable Ajahn Amaro on the subject of dependent origination:

This exploration can lead us to seeing where and just how we cause ourselves mental and emotional pain – a topic that is rich with information, and that we all can relate to wanting to end. It’s in the seeing and recognition of causal events that we have the potential to free ourselves from repeating the same unconscious reactions, and associations.

Ever wonder why something can trigger a response or reaction that is really out of proportion to the actual event? Or, have you suffered greatly from an experience and wondered why you feel it in your body for days, or don’t know why it’s so hard to shake? Chances are that whatever it is has brought along a suitcase of other memories that are unpleasant and even some that you thought you had come to terms with.

When recognizing that we are meeting our present with our past right behind us, begin to separate the associations from the current event or experience. We can pull apart the threads of hurt, confusion, disassociation or trauma collected together and informing us, or dis-informing us as the case may be.

By disentangling, slowly and with care (sometimes appropriately with a therapist) we might have a feeling of oh no, not this again when something arises, but it can be quickly overridden with the ability to release the past and not confuse it with the present. Fortunately, this leads to freedom and a clarity that can refresh the mind and heart and take us towards being settled enough with what is occurring to be able to explore and discuss and take care.

This learned ability to unpack the past so that it isn’t spilling onto the present is developed over time. And even if we just once in a while remind ourselves, or see in the moment that we are being hooked into a past association, we can stave off future anxiety or depression, both of which are built mainly on the past without legs to stand on for the future.

Knowing how our mind works, relaxing the heart whenever we can and acknowledging our humanity are all part of a compassionate way to meet life and whatever it is offering.

This very life is all a continuous experiment in my book. We are doing the best we are able, accumulating wisdom along the way, adding a good dose of forgiveness towards ourselves and others, cutting ourselves some slack with kindness and continuing on with a perspective of curiosity towards this mind, body and heart that we all have.