Have you ever experienced being so affected by a certain act or object that it completely throws you off your game? You can feel it – whether it is the way that someone looks at you, or a certain song, or just by simply walking into a certain room.
It has nothing to do with the present but it makes you feel uneasy, angry, jealous, and other emotions which lead to words and actions that end up poisoning us. The Tibetan word for this is Shenpa. Shenpa translates to “attachment” or a more descriptive translation might be “hooked”.
Shenpa hooks us by thriving on our underlying insecurities and making us feel restless so we resort to our guilty pleasures like food, alchohol, drugs, sex, work or shopping. In moderation, what we enjoy might be very delightful. We can appreciate its taste and its presence in our life. But when we empower it with the idea that it will bring us comfort, that it will remove our unease, we get hooked. So we could also call shenpa “the urge”—the urge to smoke that cigarette, to overeat, to have another drink, to indulge our addiction whatever it may be. Sometimes shenpa is so strong that we’re willing to die getting this short-term symptomatic relief. The momentum behind the urge is so powerful that we never pull out of the habitual pattern of turning to poison for comfort.
When we talk about refraining from the shenpa, we’re not talking about trying to cast it out; we’re talking about trying to see the shenpa clearly and experiencing it. If we can see shenpa just as we’re starting to close down, when we feel the tightening, there’s the possibility of catching the urge to do the habitual thing, and not doing it. The four R’s could help us from refraining the shenpa and these are:
1. Recognizing the Shenpa
What we really need to do is address things just as they are. Learning to recognize shenpa teaches us the meaning of not being attached to this world. Not being attached has nothing to do with this world.
2. Repress ‘scratching’
Sometimes the urge is so strong, the hook so sharp, the habitual pattern so sticky, that there are times when we can’t do anything about it and meditation is one of the sure fire ways that could help you tolerate these urges.
3. Relaxing into the underlying urge to ‘scratch’
Sitting meditation teaches us how to see the tangent before we go off on it. It basically comes down to the instruction, “label it thinking.” To train in this on the cushion, where it’s relatively easy and pleasant to do, is how we can prepare ourselves to stay when we get all worked up.
4. Resolving to break habits
What do you do when you don’t do the habitual thing? You’re left with your urge. That’s how you become more in touch with the craving and the wanting to move away. You learn to relax with it. Then you resolve to keep practicing this way.