Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sit. Stay. Heal.

You’re having lunch with a few acquaintances and the conversation is humming along nicely. Suddenly, someone makes a comment that seems harsh, perhaps personal. You tense up, close down emotionally.

Depending on your wiring, you might withdraw, slip into battle mode, or feel yourself drifting dangerously near a vortex of unworthiness. Whichever way you go, there’s a tendency to unconsciously weave a story line, one that may exist mostly within your own psyche. Or perhaps you simply repress your reaction all together.

In her book, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears*, Buddhist nun Pema Chodron shares the Tibetan word for this phenomenon~~shenpa, which is commonly translated as “attachment”.

Chodron, however, finds this term too abstract and instead prefers the word “hooked”. Shenpa is about the ways we get hooked, caught up in a series of reactions that can lead us far into the brambles, removing us from a true experience of the moment and complicating our interactions with others.

Expressions of shenpa are as varied as we are. “This is very personal,” Chodron writes. “What was said…triggers you. It might not bother someone else at all, but we’re talking about what touches your sore place.”

Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re hooked until we’re well into acting out our reactions in some way. But working with shenpa offers another option. If we can catch our initial response before our unconscious reactions have gathered steam, we have, in Chodron’s words, “the possibility of becoming curious about this urge to do the habitual thing, this urge to strengthen a repetitive pattern.”

We can, instead, simply notice our reaction. Feel it physically. Experience its all too familiar emotional and mental qualities. By not acting and, instead, fully experiencing our responses simply as they are, we allow space for something special to occur.

“Our natural intelligence begins to guide us,” Chodron writes. “We begin to foresee the whole chain reaction and where it will lead. There’s some wisdom that becomes accessible to us.” This wisdom, Chodron continues, is “based on compassion for oneself and others that has nothing to do with ego’s fears. It’s the part of us that knows we can connect and live from our basic goodness, our basic intelligence, openness and warmth.”

Refraining from acting out our shenpa does not mean, however, that we refrain from acting. By slowing down and quieting ourselves, we are able to tap into our inner knowing, that intuitive sense that every one of us was born with. Only then can we determine the best way to proceed. Only then can our feet find the path likely to be the most helpful and effective.

Chodron shares another Tibetan concept inherent in this process. Shenluk translates as “renunciation”, another word with layers of meaning. “Renunciation isn’t about renouncing food or sex or your lifestyle,” Chodron clarifies. “We’re talking about loosening our attachment.” In this context, we renounce that strong push to respond in habitual ways. We recognize that pausing is in everyone’s best interest, including our own.

Chodron tells of a gift she once received~~a bone~shaped piece of jewelry engraved with the words, “Sit. Stay. Heal.” We don’t heal by acting in the same unconscious and unhelpful ways we always have. Chodron encourages us to, “learn to stay with uneasiness…so that the habitual chain reaction doesn’t continue to rule our lives, and the patterns that we consider unhelpful don’t keep getting stronger.”

We are all in training, not just our pooches. By learning to sit and to stay, we open to that which is Sacred, no matter the name or conceptual framework.

We heal a bit more. And in so doing, we welcome that Light more fully into the world.

Shine on!

Loanne Marie

*No, I haven't read this book yet. A lovely excerpt was included in the Winter issue of Sacred Journey, the Journal of Fellowship in Prayer. A special "Thank you!" to dear Bonnie who, in true recycling fashion, always passes this mag on to me when she's finished with it.

I most often write what I need to learn, and it was a discussion with another dear friend (you know who you are!) that prompted me to learn more about shenpa. Thank you as well!


Anonymous said...

WOW! Thank you, Loanne, for giving me another 'gem' to think upon.. Sit. Stay. Heal. I am going to Petsmart today to make myself a necklace to wear with that quote. Very useful. I don't think I'll choose the dog bone shape.. :-)

What I have been thinking about for the past couple days from Lao Tzu is this: A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. Kind of ties in, in a way.

THANKS again for your guidance.

Loanne Marie said...

Oh, I agree wholeheartedly that the Lao Tzu quote is apropos! One of my personal favorite ways of getting hooked is having not only a fixed plan but a time table for arriving as well.

Good luck necklace shopping~~let us know what you find. Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

If only I could learn to live with the uneasiness and not let it ruin my life. Those pesky patterns that are so unhelpful - away with you -
Thanks for some food for thought.

Loanne Marie said...

Loanne Marie said...
More and more I'm finding that living with uneasiness is a large part of the challenge. We'd all prefer to avoid it. And so we try. Unfortunately~~ since, as the Buddha said, suffering is part of life~~our efforts to avoid suffering, and its gentler relative uneasiness, are ineffective. And our understandable tho misguided efforts seem only to bring us more pain. We grow our discomfort, thus using our amazing creative powers to create more.

If we can instead sit and stay~~learning to tolerate unease and ambiguity~~we will at least not add to the suffering. And if we are wise, we just might begin to heal.

So, if you find that magic wand that wipes it all away, please, do share! Otherwise, I'll send you some encouragement and you can send some my way as well. This process is made much easier when we walk through it together.

Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

Petsmart has some nice choices for dog tags... I chose a red heart that is framed in by a pewter type frame; it has hearts on it, too! It is probably 1.5" X 1.5". Watching the laser engraver is neat; both sides of the tag were engraved for the total price of about $9.50. There are less expensive choices, and yes, there are dog bone shaped ones that are kinda cute.
I chose to put "GOD IS LOVE" on one side and "SIT. STAY. HEAL." on the other - I put it on a 99 cent lanyard from Hobby Lobby so now I am good to go!

I really like that Sit Stay Heal idea, it is obvious, now, huh? Thanks again... Peace Out.

Loanne Marie said...

I just love it!!! I didn't know you could get these things custom~made so easily. Or cheaply. What a lovely simple gift, too.

And I love the other side's engraving. "God is Love" is the heart of it, while "Sit Stay Heal" is the how of it.

Wear your dog tag with joy! And thanks for keeping us posted.

rosekraft said...

Another gentle reminder for those of us with "short fuses" that we are not hard-wired, and with some patience and practice, can walk another path.
Loving thoughts to those dealing with such heartache in Japan....

Loanne Marie said...

Yes! We are conscious creatures and we can, at the very least, choose how we express our basic natures.

Oh, and yes, again and again and again, let us send love to those in pain. Right here, right now, in fact. Love, love and more love.

Thanks for writing, Rose.

Anonymous said...

So apropro. Today I got what felt like a zing in the middle of a three way conversation, and though externally nothing changed, I could feel myself withdrawing to lick my wounds and rehearse my defense. Then, fortuitously, a voice said "Ah, we're withdrawing,are we?" and I got to observe my knee-jerk reaction with a bit of remove, with a bit less attachment, and I smelled a whiff of freedom in that. I saw the shenpa, the hook, and decided I didn't really want to play. I'm delighted to have a word for both, shenpa and shenluk. If I had two new puppies, I'd give them these names. So many thanks

Loanne Marie said...

Oh, I LOVE it!!! Two frisky puppies name Shenpa and Shenluk! Those names, and the concepts behind them, had felt rather serious to me before, but from now on I'll see floppy ears and big, clumsy paws~~two bundles of fur tumbling one over the other across a field of long green grass and wild flowers. Thank you for sharing so clearly the process, and the "whiff of freedom" that comes when we remember to consciously choose our response. Way to go!

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Leia Marie