That urge to do something I have been resisting is called “shenpa.” It is that basic addictive feeling of needing to something, anything, to get rid of that feeling of “unsatisfactoriness” known as dukkha. Pema Chodron says,

“The Tibetan word for this is shenpa. It is usually translated “attachment,” but a more descriptive translation might be “hooked.” When shenpa hooks us, we’re likely to get stuck. We could call shenpa “that sticky feeling.” It’s an everyday experience. Even a spot on your new sweater can take you there. At the subtlest level, we feel a tightening, a tensing, a sense of closing down. Then we feel a sense of withdrawing, not wanting to be where we are. That’s the hooked quality. That tight feeling has the power to hook us into self-denigration, blame, anger, jealousy and other emotions which lead to words and actions that end up poisoning us.” (“How We Get Hooked and How We Get Unhooked”, Shambhala Sun online)


Here is a subtlety of understanding that I haven’t found in the Christian world. “When shenpa hooks us, we are likely to get stuck.” I’m sure some of the disgraced preachers would give a hearty amen to that. I have spent most of my life feeling stuck and not knowing what to do about it. Now I know what the problem is: attachment. Attachment to pleasure, objects, avoiding pain, relationships, organizations, and all else. It is so clear now. Whatever I hold onto keeps me stuck with it. Life is about flow and change. To hold onto anything not moving is a form of death.

Signs of life are movement and response. If you see an animal lying on the ground and you want to know if it’s alive, what do you do? Perhaps poke it with a stick to see if it moves or reacts. If that doesn’t succeed, then you check for a pulse. I’ve belonged to many organizations that weren’t going anywhere. Regardless of how the world around it changed, it kept doing the same things that no longer worked. Most of those organizations haven’t survived to this day. They did not change in a changing world and got left behind.

Sometimes the challenge is to not react, to feel the feeling and let it go. Let people think you are dead while you feel the habitual feelings and choose deliberately not to react to them (the people or the feelings). They will know something is up. They haven’t manipulated you again. Once you stop playing along with their denial, beware. The next stage of the acceptance process is anger and you will likely get their full wrath. They might get ugly, but that is on them, not you.

Responding peacefully to wrath is the beginning of peacemaking, but be prepared to get crucified on the Internet or in public. Whoever is trying to manipulate you likely has a following and you will lose those friendships as well. Of course, their friendship with you was only based on being mutually manipulated by the same person. To let go of the manipulator’s schemes is to let go of all the manipulator’s allies simultaneously. Once you reclaim your human dignity, everyone that had something to gain from manipulating you will let you go. It can be painful to lose one’s friends and social circle, but if it was only based on manipulation, having it vanish can be immensely freeing.

This is where meditation comes in. Pema continues:

“Without meditation practice, this is almost impossible to do. Generally speaking, we don’t catch the tightening until we’ve indulged the urge to scratch our itch in some habitual way. And unless we equate refraining with loving-kindness and friendliness towards ourselves, refraining feels like putting on a straitjacket. We struggle against it. The Tibetan word for renunciation is shenlok, which means turning shenpa upside-down, shaking it up.”

 There is no need to berate anyone, including ourselves. The whole idea is to be kind to all, including ourselves. Are we ready for a life of that?

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About cdhoagpurple

I live in Michigan. I was Greek Orthodox (and previously Protestant), but now am more Buddhist than anything. I am single now (through the till-death-do-you-part clause of the marriage contract). My husband Barry was a good man and celebrated 30 years in AA. I am overly educated, with an MBA. My life felt terminally in-limbo while caring for a sick husband, but I am free now. I see all things as being in transition. Impermanence is the ultimate fact of life. Nothing remains the same, good or bad.

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