It can only be what it is...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The hook of suffering and how to wiggle off it

Suffering, we all  experience it.
Sometimes it is as obvious as the nose on your face. At times it can be a little more subtle, but it's there none the less. I have been reading about shenpa lately. A Tibetan term that Pema Chodron describes as hook, or attachment. I like hook better than attachment if only for the visual of a giant hook grabbing me up.
"Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens — that's the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we're talking about where it touches that sore place — that's a shenpa. Someone criticizes you — they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child — and, shenpa: almost co-arising"-Pema Chodron

I think we have all been there, and I see it everyday within and around me. I think that we can never rid ourselves of shenpa, it will always be there, lurking, ready to hook us into some action that undoubtedly we'll regret, begetting even more shenpa and trapping us in the vicious circle that this engenders.

The way off the hook as I understand it is to gently wiggle off the hook. By that I mean whenever we realize this feeling of shenpa, (usually accompanied by tensing up, constriction, feelings of anger and fear etc.) take a second to recognize that feeling, and as Pema says "lean into it".Examine it, become acquainted, it can be uncomfortable to be sure. Often these "hooks" are deep and the result of years of habit. ( Also it's ok to not always stop it before it happens, it's sneaky that way. As long as you do at some point and try to counter it)

Knowing it and taking some time to breathe, and acknowledging it, is surprisingly effective. I have been trying this myself and have to say it has a struck a chord. Perhaps over time the number of hooks will reduce, but if not, at least I have found a way of dealing with them and gently disengaging them.

The final challenge in this is as I see it , is being gentle with ourselves. Allowing ourselves to have compassion towards ourselves.
Extending the same love and compassion to ourselves as we endeavor to send to others -not always easy but there's the rub. I leave you with this quote from Rumi :

"if you are irritated with every rub, how will be be polished"-Rumi

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Sanity is permanent,neurosis is temporary. -Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche