Shenpa: That which hooks you in and ensnares you

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 had the sense that Shenpa might be more complex than “hook,” so I Googled it and found this article by Pema Chodron.  I was right–it is complicated.

The way I see it, the hook is actually about attachment, but in a deeper sense: more like addiction.  You’re attached to cigarettes, or food, or Farmville.  Shenpa is that indefinable itch you absolutely must scratch.  Chodron writes,

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. 

It’s at the point of tightening that we must be aware.  This is the time to stop it.

I am continually aware of this tightening because I quit smoking and a few times a day I sooo want to scratch my itch.  It truly is a tightening, too—I feel it between my shoulder blades, and I must consciously exhale my surrender and my recognition.

Chodron further writes,

What’s very interesting is you begin to notice it really quickly in other people. You’re having a conversation at work with somebody. Their face is sort of open and they’re listening, and you say something—you’re not quite sure what it is you just said, or maybe you know what it is you just said, it doesn’t necessarily have to be mean, or anything— but you see their eyes cloud over. Or you see their jaw tense. Or you can feel them… you know, you touched something. You’re seeing their shenpa, and they may not be aware of it at all. From your side, you can, at that point, just keep going and get into it with them, but with a kind of prajna, this clear seeing of what’s really happening, not involved with your story line and trying to get ground under your feet. You see that happening to them.

I have witnessed this many times, but this is the first time I’ve ever read anything about the concept.  One must step back and give space to the other because when shenpa kicks in, it’s like talking to a steel wall.

Go check out the entire article.  You’ll find it’s well worth your time.


We’re all just little icons
little you
and little I

I am seduced by the vacuum-cleaner dance.

One Commentto Shenpa: That which hooks you in and ensnares you

  1. […] 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 […]

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