Shenpa

Shenpa is a Buddhist concept  that I’ve been spending a lot of time studying and contemplating recently.  I study mostly Pema Chodron’s teachings and this is a big construct for her.  Shenpa really causes us great pain and makes us continue to reach for ground.  The Tibetan translation is “attachment”, but the construct is much more.  It is about the sticky, clinging, distracting reactions that we are so hardwired to have to both external and internal thoughts, feelings, and actions.  I felt this was a good analogy of what shenpa is:

Here is an everyday example of shenpa. 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.

I struggle with this a great deal… the experience of someone (even myself) saying/doing something mean or hurtful and the following spiraling down of low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness that happen after.

One of the interesting things is shenpa’s relationship to meditation.  One of the goals of meditation is to learn to stay with feelings that we normally pull away from and to work to see our true minds and self.  Quite often during meditation we will have to face insights into ourselves and these insights are often of things that we might label “bad” or “wrong” even though it is never a good practice to label things as “good” or “bad” in general.  They just are.  So, ironically, the more insight we have into ourselves, the greater potential for shenpa to take hold and to bring us down.  It is a balancing act…awareness and acceptance without judgment.  Very difficult.

~AA

Complexity

Life is complex, but I assume that you are completely aware of this.  My Buddhist studies are in full swing right now.  I seem to obsessively write/talk about it (ad nauseam), but  it truly helps me become a more compassionate and accepting person.  Perhaps this is why we are giving these piercing opportunities to feel pain and the end of our story line.  It was time to rediscover myself and to recommit to my practice.

I am grateful for these experiences; although sometimes it takes me a while to remember that I am.

Hopelessness

Today has been better than the last few days.  I feel a bit more stable, like things are evening out a bit.  Hopefully this will last, but I’m not naive.  Life is an interesting beast and I’m just trying to manage.  Perhaps I’m approaching the stage of “acceptance”.  I have a feeling that I might be.  This was, I suppose, an inevitable conclusion to our relationship; I just hope it isn’t the end of our friendship.  The last thing I want to do is to cause further harm…. to anyone involved.  Thus, I submit to hopelessness.

Hopelessness is not a bad thing.  It just means that I’m not going to try to hold on to things that naturally change.  I don’t believe that anything is permanent…relationships change, people change, the world changes, our needs change.  This loss is simply a change.  It also doesn’t preclude me from being able to look forward to future changes and future things that will come that I am unaware of.

Hopelessness is another Buddhist construct that I need to remind myself to embrace.  I tend to forget.  It is the desire to hold on to things, people and events that cause so much pain.

Fear

I have been a teacher in higher education for more than 7 years now.  It is something that I love doing.  I love teaching curious students and even working with difficult students who want to fight you at every turn.  This recent change (the loss of something that I loved) has made it a bit difficult for me to really focus on what I enjoy doing and what I do for a living.  I just don’t feel motivated to do much more than the necessary motions of the day.  Getting back into a good routine, however, is really helpful for me.  I’ve been blessed with the ability to keep pushing myself when I want to give up and I’ve been relying on that instinct to work through all of this.  I just have to remain vigilant about moving forward and allowing myself the possibility of falling back.

I’ve studied Buddhism for a number of years and always become much more studious about my reading when I am in a personal transition.  I have my favorite Pema Chodron book, When Things Fall Apart, with me almost all the time…reading the same healing passages over and over.  There is a story in one of my books that talks about fear and I’d like to share it with you (I’m paraphrasing).

Once there was a young warrior who was sent to do battle with Fear.  Fear had been running ramped throughout the village and people were terrified that their village would be destroyed.  The young warrior was very young indeed, but took this honor to heart and set off to find Fear.  As she came upon Fear, she began to question her ability but moved forward with steadfast courage to face Fear head on.  In an act of respect, the young warrior asked Fear if she could do battle with him.  Fear pondered her and said, “yes”.  Moments passed with neither side making a move.  Finally, the young warrior said, “Fear, may I ask you a question?”  To which Fear replied, “yes”.  “How can I defeat you?”, said the young warrior.  Fear inhaled deeply and stared the young warrior in the eyes, studying her.  Finally, Fear said, “Well, I fight with words and speed.  I talk really fast and I get in your face and I paralyze you into submission; but if you don’t listen to me, I have no power.” And, thus, the young warrior learned how to defeat Fear.   

I love this story because I feel that it captures exactly what happens in my head when I am scared, lonely, insecure, sad, etc.  Fear is also the reason why we resist change.  I know that I am terribly guilty of being fearful about change, particularly in relationships. Voices are constantly shouting at us, screaming conflicting directions.  I have to remember to tune them out.  For whatever reason, we are so unkind to ourselves, the ones that we should be most compassionate with.  Truth be told, I’m scared that I will never have a connection with another person like the one I had with C.  I’ve been around for 31 years and it has only happened once.  But, even if that ends up being the case, I’m still very grateful to have experienced such beauty in another person.