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shenpa – hooked

You all know how much my local YMCA means to me; my membership there has transformed my life in many ways, and certainly my body. And now, perhaps one day, my mind. This morning I went to a “guided mediation” session with Judy Steed, who’s organized an informal Sunday morning get-together to share what she has learned. She teaches the words of Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun. There were five of us, sitting in a quiet corner of the extremely busy Y; we closed our eyes and relaxed our bodies while Judy talked us through, urging us first to accept and love ourselves, to help find peace within. “It takes a lot of courage to have compassion for ourselves,” she said. Yes indeed.

She spoke about releasing thought, “the monkey mind,” as they call it, trying just to stay in the moment, this very moment, nothing else exists but the breath of this moment. She spoke of taking something that’s bothering us or producing pain, “sit beside it, release the story, the details. Take it into yourself, and feel it transform, flower into something beautiful. We do not need to fear or fight our pain.”
She took us up into the right brain, to a place of peace and transformation – all your favourite people and things are there, she said, and I nearly cried, seeing the faces of family and friends in a serene room, even – perhaps especially – friends and family I have lost. It was a profound connection. “I take myself up there whenever I need to during the day,” Judy said later.
Wow. I’ve wanted to meditate for a long time, I the speediest, most impatient of souls. I often suffer from insomnia in wintertime, the lack of light and air, I’m sure. This winter has been especially gruelling – almost every night, for months, I’ve been awake from 3 or 4 a.m. on, for hours, making lists, tossing about with my monkey mind stuck in high speed. Perhaps I can take all the stories I tell myself at 4 a.m. and turn them into something beautiful. Certainly worth a try.
On Friday, another gift from the Y – my friend Debra brought me a few pairs of a new kind of sublime, very stretchy jeans from the store where she works, so I tried them on there in the change room, all the semi-naked women walking by adding their comments. And bought a pair, right there. And then went upstairs to class with a packet containing all my income tax material, to give to John, the accountant friend who does my taxes and takes the Friday runfit class. So I shopped for my trip and got my income tax taken care of during my Friday visit to the Y. The most useful place. If I find inner peace there too … I may just have to move in.
The past two days, savage rain, brutal cold grey days, days to just curl up and drink hot beverages until it’s time to drink alcoholic ones. I went to bed last night listening to, yet again, the rhythm of the pouring rain. Then at 5 a.m., I heard the snowplow next door doing its work. “What the hell is he doing?” I thought. “Shovelling rain?” And looked out the window. What a shock – somehow, in a few hours, the rain had turned into many inches of snow. It’s very pretty. It’s more than enough. Let’s move right along.
Below is a quote from Pema Chodron, from Wikipedia. What she’s talking about is another, more peaceful version of the “relaxing into the punch,” that I was musing about last month. The concept of not being hooked – vital, for someone who has spent her life trolling for hooks. Onward.

A central theme of Pema Chödrön’s teachings is the Tibetan word shenpa,[10] or how we get hooked.

Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens — that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place — that’s a shenpa. Someone criticizes you — they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child — and, shenpa: almost co-arising.[13]



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I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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