February 3, 2016

Shenpa: Embracing Impermanence & Getting Unhooked.

Andrew E. Russel/Flickr

The other morning, I nailed a job interview with a wellness company. It went so well, and I felt the tingle of happiness all over my body as I came to and realized that I’d been dreaming.

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, took a breath in and let it out. I had recently applied for a writing gig with someone I truly admire in the wellness sector.

Even though I work on non-attachment, I’m hooked on the idea of writing for this entity. I have no idea if they’ll ever hire me, but my heart wants the gig. I find myself checking my email (and junk folder) several times a day, hoping for some contact. Or, more honestly, a letter saying how much they’d love to pay me to work with them.

That morning, the universe had other plans for me. Upon checking my email, I found out that a company I currently write for needed to make cuts due to budget restrictions. I was advised that I’d be paid for only two articles per week, as opposed to the six to which I’d become accustomed.

I pride myself on the fact that I pay my bills with income generated from writing and teaching on the road. I read the email again to make sure that I understood.

Then, I began to cry. The ugly, messy kind. I worried, “What about my bills?”

Suddenly, I stopped and the word “shenpa” came to mind.

Pema Chödrön says, “Shenpa is the urge, the hook, that triggers our habitual tendency to close down.”

That feeling, you know the one I mean—an idea or feeling pops up, and you gasp. Pema calls it, “a little teeny spark.” A thought, conversation or idea we have about how things should or should not be arises.

Out of habit, we add kerosene to these little sparks and create more suffering for ourselves. We turn the spark into a blazing fire that’s out of control because we fuel it with thoughts.

For example, I’m hooked on the idea of the new potential writing gig. I could just set that idea aside and see what transpires. Trust me, I’m trying.

I had also become hooked on the stability of my existing gig. I now have to connect with the idea of “positive groundlessness.”

Getting unhooked means embracing the fact that we are in no way fixed or static. It means changing our stagnant patterns—the ones that make us miserable.

Our natural state is open, fluid, and we are continually in process. Working with shenpa means that we notice when we’re hooked or frozen, then allow ourselves to return to a flowing, open way of being that is never permanent.

We work with shenpa to say to ourselves, “This is impermanent. If I don’t feed it, it will go away.”

It’s not ignoring our feeling; it’s simply setting it aside, not picking at it like a scab or constantly touching it the way you’d press your tongue into a loose tooth as a child.

Here’s a big secret from Pema Chodron: Pause.

Create space. Breathe in and out, consciously. Pause and relax as you keep letting your thoughts go. Come back to your physical body. Press your hands to the earth, wiggle your toes, shake your arms and legs.

Don’t feed it. Be with your feelings—just don’t fuel the fire.

You are not good or bad. You are not wrong or right. Everything is constantly in flux, shifting, moving, melting, burning up. Let it be that way.

The more we grit our teeth, the more we bear down and try to control things, the more the train goes off the tracks.

Pause and go beneath your thoughts; don’t follow your habitual chain reaction. Remember that any state of mind will be of short duration without the kerosene of our incessant thoughts.

Today, I will send a follow up email about the new writing job, then release it. I’m also working with my existing employer to grow their readership, so that I may be of service.

I don’t want to sit around fueling my worries of joblessness and homelessness. I want to be unhooked.

How do you cope with getting caught up in reactiveness? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.


Relephant Read:

Are You Hooked?


Author: Anna Maria Giambanco

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Michael Pardo/Flickr // Andrew E. Russel/Flickr


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