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Yesterday started out a little cloudy, but manageable, and then I had an encounter with someone who made me cry. It was nothing monumental; he was just not as kind as he could have been, and since I’m raw these days, it doesn’t take much to undo me. It was the culmination of several unmindful things this person has said to me that was my undoing.
My friend witnessed my distress, and told me, “Just because someone hands you a bag of crap it doesn’t mean you have to keep holding it.” The word picture was perfect; I let it go. Because, y’know, gross.
One day later, we talked about the situation, and when she saw I’d taken her advice, she asked me how I was able to let things go because she was still mad at this guy, and then asked if I could just explain the process I go through.
I always think I should say, The Holy Spirit enables me, or it’s all Jesus.
But I believe it all comes down to conscious choice. I choose what I focus on.
I have the Holy Spirit, which gives me peace and guidance, but I have the choice to shut all that out.
I want to be careful here because I am not a mindless automaton, but the Holy Spirit’s power is a real thing in my life.
I guess it’s a matter of surrender and trust. When I choose the higher path, I’m trusting that I don’t need to retaliate or be bitter.
I can’t figure out how exactly God works in us so that forgiveness and grace becomes part of our regular menu, because frankly, I have forgiven some very hard things that I couldn’t have done without the Holy Spirit. But walking gracefully is a choice. (And if you’ve seen me walk, you know this is a figurative statement!)
I promised her I would blog about it, and I half-suspect she’s asked this as a means of getting my mind off my worries about my son. She wants something practical to try for herself; I don’t know if I can do that yet. This will be a process, I think.
First a disclaimer: I have not let everything go.
And my way of doing it is just that: my way of doing it.
Letting go of something is like getting undressed, only your clothes are disposable.
Off comes the shirt(s) over your head, mussing your hair. Hair shirt! Of course. Because you’re the only one suffering when you hold onto a hurt, right? Into the wastebasket.
The shoes and socks and pants–everything, into the bin.
Just like the process of getting undressed is done one thing at a time, so it goes with letting go of what hurts.
You don’t just jump out of your clothes, and it’s rare that you can just shrug a hurt off.
Not only must you take them off, you must choose where to put them. If you put the clothes into the laundry basket, then you obviously expect to put them back on. So: trash.
- Shirt: I take off the first layer by thinking: my stuff or his/hers?
If it’s mine, I own it. (To the best of my ability. Sometimes I get this wrong.)
If it’s the other person’s, I toss it, and move to step 2.
- Pants: I seriously consider the other person. What path is this person walking? What’s going on in his/her life that would prompt what s/he did or said?
- Shoes & socks: I put myself in that person’s shoes. How would I feel in similar circumstances?
- How would I want to be treated? Do I want to be forgiven when I’m a jerk? (yes, please. lol)
Dear beloved friend: if you were trying to get my mind off things, you done good. It worked. Thank you.
And I’m going to take time every day to focus on something I have control over. Thank you for that, too.
I wrote a little about Shenpa in 2012, but I didn’t have a lot to say because, while I recognized it, I didn’t really understand it. I’m not sure I do now, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I’ll share the same quotes:
Shenpa is what Pema Chodron calls the hook. We each have different hooks but we all get hooked by attachment to outcomes, expectations, or regrets. It is emotionally painful and we suffer. Whatever the hook is, I have to let it go. I must remember that 100 years from now when I am dead and gone, it truly won’t matter. It won’t be important because all my actions will be in the past. Just as they are now while I am living, from moment to moment. Why hold on to the negativity? What matters now is being kind, forgiving and loving towards myself and others. ~ Loran Hills ♥
I was just telling myself this yesterday: next year, it will not matter, these hurt feelings. I will be over them because my perspective will have changed. So why not fast-forward through the struggle and forgive NOW? Trust that my perspective will eventually have more understanding, that even if I don’t have it now, it will come, and I will not have caused more damage with resentment and hurt? Why hold on to it? Why am I attached to the hurt?
I don’t know why I’m attached to hurt feelings. I’m less so now than ever, but still. I recognize that staying in that space is a choice, and all I have to do to get out of it is to ask myself how much I want to be happy.
Here is an everyday example of shenpa. 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.
Trying to root out shenpa is like trying to force a paradigm shift. You know you’re in a box, but you can’t find a seam to force your hand through.
It’s an irresistible itch. You get that your partner didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and you get that in the grand scheme of things it’s insignificant, but those hurt feelings…they’re more comfortable than happiness and peace because they’re familiar. You know what to expect, and the hurt fits the paradigm of abandonment and neglect and disillusionment.
Never mind that it’s been YEARS since you were abandoned.
I think shenpa is like the old rusted bike that got leaned against a sapling and was left there for the tree to grow around.
The only way to dislodge that bike is with an axe and chainsaw, and then you destroy the tree.
In dislodging that hooking point, it’s necessary that some part of ourselves is destroyed, but it’s only the part that doesn’t serve for the good.
I became aware of the tightening during my various attempts to quit smoking. I was trying to figure out why I smoked, and I discovered that I did it to shut my mouth. Better to inhale poison than to say what I thought. I was afraid that if I quit smoking, I would offend everyone around me when I said what I thought.
I quit smoking over a year ago, and I’ve offended people and I frequently wish I was more skilled in diplomacy, but I’ve also learned that not speaking is my choice,not something I have to force myself to do.
I’ve given myself the same permission to speak that I gave my children.
You know how in movies when a mother is hiding from the enemy and she has her child tucked tightly against her, and her hand is on his mouth to keep him from crying out? I think that when Mama silenced me when I was little, in some ways it was for my protection. This is how we do things in this family. We do not say what we think because it endangers us because the adults react. The tightening is both taught and embedded in us at an early age.
I will have to come back to this again.
I’m very interested in your thoughts about this shenpa….