The usual translation of the word shenpa is attachment. If you were to look it up in a Tibetan dictionary, you would find that the definition was attachment. But the word “attachment” absolutely doesn’t get at what it is. Dzigar Kongtrul said not to use that translation because it’s incomplete, and it doesn’t touch the magnitude of shenpa and the effect that it has on us.
If I were translating shenpa it would be very hard to find a word, but I’m going to give you a few. One word might be hooked. How we get hooked.
Another synonym for shenpa might be that sticky feeling. In terms of last night’s analogy about having scabies, that itch that goes along with that and scratching it, shenpa is the itch and it’s the urge to scratch. So, urge is another word. The urge to smoke that cigarette, the urge to overeat, the urge to have one more drink, or whatever it is where your addiction is.
Well, as I have been absorbing these teachings and working with shenpa, strange and marvelous things have been happening, as if orchestrated by the universe to teach me some powerful lessons. For example, I spent the last five days of 2011 sharing a lovely house with a stranger who turned out to be adorable and amazing. (We were placed in the house together by mutual friends.) This occurred at the mystical Lake Atitlán, which happens to be my favorite place in Guatemala. It was intense and euphoric. We found ourselves thrust into a honeymoon without having had the relationship, engagement or wedding.
I would read, write, stretch, and bask in the warmth of the stone porch overlooking the lake and volcanoes; he would make breakfast and do the dishes and make jewelry and speak to me in Spanish. We played house, and it was delightful. All the while, I was reading Pema’s book and consciously working with the intention to unhook. It was easy to be present that week; I was on vacation mode, the whole scene was surreally romantic and near perfect. The trouble is, hooking up whilst also simultaneously unhooking is not so easy.
I wrote about similar topics in one of my first posts for Elephant Journal, back in 2010. The guy at the lake is a traveler. Just passing through. (Then again, aren’t we all?) I’ve been striving to avoid my normal traditions of daydreaming, fantasizing, ruminating and otherwise falling in love with the storyline. Last weekend, he told me he just wants to be friends. The painful emotional reaction I felt at that proclamation showed me just how very hooked I was, just how miserably I’d failed at dropping the storyline and living presently.
Step One. Acknowledge that you’re hooked.
Step Two. Pause, take three conscious breaths and lean in. Lean into the energy. Abide with it. Experience it fully. Taste it. Touch it. Smell it. Get curious about it…
Step Three. Then relax and move on.
Step one. Check. All too acknowledged. Step two. Okay. Leaning in to the insecurity, jealousy, heartache, rejection, tenderness, vulnerability. Ouch. Curious… Step three. Breathe. Let. Go. Inhale “Let”; Exhale “Go.”
Moment to moment, we relinquish the precious thoughts, opinions, beliefs and ideas we hold so dear. By leaning into experiences of intensity, we can face reality, then let go and move on. And slowly but surely, with patience and persistance…