Shenpa ~ What is it?

You know the feeling….that surge of anger,disappointment that arises from deep down when you have felt someone or something has done you wrong?  This surge of emotion often stems from past or present experiences  that  have a negative “feeling tone” associated with it and when not acknowledged pulls us back into our  habitual patterns of anger, conflict and closing down.  This urge or “hooked feeling” is “shenpa”.  If we catch shenpa early and learn how to work with it, compassion love and peace can be cultivated.

For me, and I imagine for others, shenpa manifests as a physical tightening in my chest and then a feeling of being “hooked” that triggers something inside of me that puts me in a bad mood. It has become a lifelong and sometimes daily (in some cases hourly) practice of catching myself at the moment of being “hooked”, pausing, taking a few deep breaths and then allowing myself to open and soften to the experience at hand rather than hardening and shutting down.   A stain on a new sweater, getting honked out for going the speed limit, telemarketing call at dinner time, DMV…bring it on! 🙂

Pema Chödrön, ordained nun, author, and teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and her teachings are largely centered around working with shenpa.  Working with shenpa, Pema reminds us that there is is a key moment when we make the choice between peace and conflict.  In her book “Practicing Peace in Times of War”, she describes basic methods  we can access at that very moment of being “hooked” to bring peace for ourselves, for others, and for the world.

“Practicing Peace in Times of War” is a very easy read and a excellent introduction to Pema’s teachings. I highly recommend all her books including, “When things Fall Apart”  and “The Places that Scare You”.

Learn more about Pema Chodron

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