This week’s Thursday Tidbits considers “shenpa…the all-worked-up feeling of…getting hooked on a negative emotion” such as pain (Pema Chödrön). In order to unhook ourselves from shenpa, we must give our full attention to our pain and that includes physical discomfort as well. We must immerse ourselves in our pain in order to release it.
In giving our full attention to our pain, we open up to the experience of it and not the drama or storyline we have told ourselves about our pain. Our storyline is what hooks us until we sit down in the middle of what is hurting us, forsaking its interpretation for its reality.
Anyone who has ever experienced chronic pain—physical, emotional or both–knows that this kind of shenpa can easily become the only story we ever live. Yet, when we give chronic pain our full attention, we change the idea of our pain. We are no longer content to live its story.
Unhooking ourselves from shenpa does not mean that we will be completely pain-free but it does mean we give our full attention to living the lives we have as the beings we are. Being in our pain completely is where all healing begins.
Essential to all life is water, and it has more than one form, yet it is either flowing or frozen. Mark Nepo suggests that how we deal with our pain resembles the form water takes. “For when trees fall into the ice, the river shatters. But when a large limb falls into the flowing water, the river embraces the weight and floats around it” (Book of Awakening).
If we view our pain as ice, jagged and hard, we risk living shattered lives of fear and worry, holding our shenpa close. But if we give our pain our full attention and release it branch by branch into the river of life, it becomes a burden we can bear.
We release the idea of our pain and experience it as is, moment by moment, within our flow in our own time. “Once given full attention, you will come back—one drop at a time— into the tide of the living” (Nepo).
Like the river’s path, our lives wend in ways we never imagine. It is life’s way, and pain is only one part, although it can last a lifetime. It is up to us whether pain remains sharp or a bubble in our daily flow.
We have to show up for every moment of our lives, pain or no, giving our full attention to life, trusting that we will absorb our pain and not be shattered by it.
For the people of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for the people of West and the state of Texas, we open ourselves to each and every one of you—victims and family members—for as long as it takes to absorb the pain. There is no limit on your courage or on our love.
Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.