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Are You Hooked?

October 3rd, 2018


written by Kristina Renée



“We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering, we are being kind to ourselves. The truth is we only become more fearful, more hardened and more alienated...curiously enough, if we primarily try to shield ourselves from discomfort, we suffer. Yet, when we don't close off, when we let our hearts break, we discover our kinship with all beings”
— Pema Chodron



There is a Tibetan word, Shenpa, that can most readily be translated as "attachments" or in a better sense it is when we are "hooked" in the cognition on a story, reaction, emotion, past narrative or future planning taking us away from the moment at present. This often is very unconscious. Shenpa is the hook of not being in the present momentYou are there, but your mind is not. It is also known as that "sticky feeling" where we sense we are stuck with the cyclical thought, one we probably know well and one that is probably very unconscious if we are not practicing. Yoga teaches us the art of how to return home, to remember our center, to practice being back in the immediacy of our experience, in the body and with the breath. 

You have experienced Shenpa in your own life and body as well as with others. It tends to look like this: you are having a conversation with someone at work and it is going well. You are trying to make a point and then the person you are speaking with goes from attentive and involved to a hazy look on their eyes and distraction. Where did they go?  It also looks like this: someone says something that awakens your inner critic about you or your family member and you become offended and now you are no longer listening to them or notice how the conversation has shifted. This is all Shenpa. 

As a space holder, working with individuals to heal and move from suffering into liberation {which, by the way, is a constant lifelong practice for us all}, Shenpa serves as a beautiful entry point or portal to understand the root of our suffering, the core wound if you will. We can practice using Shenpa in meditation and we can use it in daily life. 

To create space from cognition as consciousness and move towards the present moment takes practice and the willingness to name Shenpa when it happens. This is done with the ability to notice where we are and more accurately when we aren't in the moment of presence. First, we can begin by naming Shenpa to ourselves. Simply pausing when we sense ourselves no longer present. Finding our breath is key. Taking deeper breaths allows us to drop from our cognition and down into our chest and our belly, sensing and feeling our lungs and also our hearts. This is such a simple and valuable practice because it invites us to realize when we are closing off from the world around us and from our own discomfort within.

I am reminded by my teachers in the Tibetan Buddhist traditions how all spiritual gurus and guides from Buddha, to Ghandi, Shantideva, and Jesus continued to show up living their practice and putting it into their daily actions -- that in the practice the patterns changed, the awareness and the ability to move into the pain transmuted the suffering. Our task then as practitioners of mindfulness is to continue along the road of compassionate curiosity, one conscious step at a time. These steps are imperative for our healing. 
One breath. One step. 
One breath. One step. 

We are spiritual beings, indeed and we are also having a human experience.

In the Way of the Bodhisattva, Shantideva shares in 3.6: 

"I join my hands beseeching the enlightened ones who wish to pass into nirvana; do not leave us wandering in blindness, stay among us for unnumbered ages!" 

What he means to say is, those guiding the mindfulness course can easily leave this human experience like that of a monk finding himself in a cave for many long years away from community, from the pains of humanity;  but to stay present in this human form, feeling all the pain of others and the pain of all beings, that is the work in action; that is the way of the Bodhisattva. We are only as awake as all beings are awake. As we awaken, lean into our pain to eliminate our suffering, we grow such an immeasurable love within our hearts that cannot help but transcend out for all beings.
This is the Universal Sangha, if you will. 

So often though, we don't know where to begin or how exactly to do this. We feel overwhelming daily life and the idea of starting something new can be daunting. We can start by simply saying, "I am ready to begin living a more mindful life." As we announce this to ourselves, we put this energy into the world. There are signs all around us, when we see them; when we start waking up to them.


"So many of us start along the spiritual path because we are suffering. But you must realize that for real healing to occur, there must first be deep compassion for yourself, especially the part of yourself you dislike or consider ugly"

- Pema Chodron


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