Pema Chodron on Shenpa

The second reading in “Hooked” was taken from a Dharma Talk given by Pema Chodron.  It was a great follow-up to Joseph’s work and I continue to be impressed with the editor’s choice/arrangements.

Pema discussed how we get hooked and how we get unhooked by explaining what it means to be “hooked”.  In Tibetan Buddhism it’s called Shenpa – sort of an itch.  It’s translated as attachment but is more closely understood as “the urge (to scratch)”.  According to Pema, shenpa thrives on the underlying insecurity of living in an ever-changing world.  We experience this truth as a backdrop of slight unease or restlessness.  We use food, shopping, alcohol, etc to get relief from this unease and, in moderation, it is delightful (her word not mine). But when we empower this delight with the idea that it will bring comfort and remove our unease – we get hooked.

Pema explained that it is only through the actual seeing of shenpa that we can be liberated from it’s hook.  It’s not easy.  It takes patience,  meditation practice and the willingness learn to recognize its presence. We can tell shenpa is present when we are in the comparing mind of right and wrong,  good vs bad, or we are “caught up” in some thinking,  opinion or view.

Her point throughout the writing is to practice with this.  Learn to recognize the sensation and stay with it.  It is not about whether you spend money or not. It is the “urge” that’s important. Regardless of how or whether we spend money,  we all deal with this urge everyday,  all day.  She suggested we think of the process as Recognizing the presence of shenpa,  Refraining from scratching, Relaxing into the urge to scratch and Resolving to continue to interrupt the habit pattern.

Finally, Pema stressed that this requires lovingkindness, softness and humidity. Not from a depressed place, but a place of simple “willingness”.  The more we are willing to work with this the more wisdom we will realize. Wisdom that, unknowingly to us, is far more powerful than shenpa.

This week try taking a step back and noticing Shenpa – that urge.   It could be to correct, to get, to fix, etc something.  There’s no need to dwell on it or judge it.  See if you can simply recognize it for what it is – human nature.

See you Thursday…

NOTE: We continue to meet downstairs, entrance on the south side of church. AND, if you are interested in participating in a discussion about the Sangha on Saturday, November 8 at 10 AM, please RSVP via the blog announcement.


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