Friday, November 1, 2013

Hooked? How to get unhooked (Pema Chodron)

Some people like attachment or are very comforted by their shenpa and suffering.

(SoundsTrue) Pema Chödrön talks about suffering, its causes, and one antidote applicable in daily life. There is a simple meditation practice known as tonglen that can serve as medicine for "ordinary people like ourselves." We use life's difficulties as a way to befriend ourselves, accept the past we have rejected, and widen our circle of compassion. From Good Medicine.
Shenpa [Tibetan, "sticky attachment"] is the urge, the hook, that triggers our habitual tendency to close down. We get hooked in that moment of tightening when we reach for relief. To get unhooked we begin by recognizing that moment of unease and learn to relax in that moment.
You're trying to make a point with a coworker or your partner. At one moment her face is open and she's listening, and at the next, her eyes cloud over or her jaw tenses. What is it that you're seeing?

Someone criticizes you. They criticize your work or your appearance or your child. At moments like that, what is it you feel? It has a familiar taste in your mouth, it has a familiar smell. Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever.

Taste of shenpa: "Ashes in Your Mouth" (Megadeth): "Now that we've rewritten
history, the one thing we've found out, sweet taste of vindication, it turns to
ashes in your mouth!" Something worse than shenpa? Songs about shenpa.
The scandal-ridden Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
The Tibetan Buddhist word for this is shenpa. It is usually translated "attachment," but a more descriptive translation might be "hooked." When shenpa hooks us, we're likely to get stuck. We could call shenpa "that sticky feeling." It's an everyday experience. Even a spot on your new sweater can take you there.
At the subtlest level, we feel a tightening, a tensing, a sense of closing down. Then we feel a sense of withdrawing, not wanting to be where we are. That's the hooked quality. That tight feeling has the power to hook us into self-denigration, blame, anger, jealousy, and other emotions leading to words/actions that end up poisoning us.

Remember the fairy tale in which toads hop out of the princess's mouth whenever she starts to say mean words? That's how being hooked can feel. Yet we don't stop -- we can't stop -- because we're in the habit of associating whatever we're doing with relief from our own discomfort.

This is The Shenpa Syndrome. The word "attachment" doesn't quite translate what's happening. It's a quality of experience that's not easy to describe but which everyone knows well. Shenpa is usually involuntary, and it gets right to the root of why we suffer.
30 Years of Buddhism in America
Someone looks at us in a certain way, or we hear a certain song, we smell a certain smell, we walk into a certain room, and boom. The feeling has nothing to do with the present and, nevertheless, there it is. When we were practicing recognizing shenpa at Gampo Abbey [Nova Scotia], we discovered that some of us could feel it even when a particular person simply sat down next to us at the dining table.
Shenpa thrives on the underlying insecurity of living in a world that is always changing. We experience this insecurity as a background of slight unease or restlessness. We all want some kind of relief from that unease, so we turn to what we enjoy -- food, alcohol, drugs, sex, work, or shopping.
In moderation what we enjoy might be very delightful. We can appreciate its taste and its presence in our life. But when we empower it with the idea that it will bring us comfort, that it will remove our unease, we get hooked. More

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