It’s the perfect “set up”!
Today is the day I begin my life coaching classes. I am sitting on a sofa in a noisy lobby in Minneapolis with my computer on my lap. I have 2 hours until registration begins and I have to admit…I am full of contrasts; alternating bouts of apprehension and bubbly excitement. I woke up to a stomach ache (probably the result of nerves and yesterday’s coffee indulgences) and the need to move. I immediately punctuated the day by running a few miles on the treadmill and stretching the kinks and nerves out of my body.
In my spin class, my instructor, Bob, will often coach us through a really challenging set by saying “Come on…push it. You’ll be glad you did. Everything you’re doing right now is preparing you for the next set…Don’t let up. Don’t quit. Your mind wants to quit, but your body can do it!!!!” The set is usually a high resistance, uphill standing climb. The set we are preparing for is usually a “challenging” resistance speed set with alternating standing, sitting, running, and hovering.
Well, yesterday was my really challenging, high resistance, uphill climb set, preparing me for this weekend! It was a really out-of-body kind of day. It began with reading Pema Chodron’s book, Taking the Leap. It is a pretty thin book that I read completely on my 2 hour flight from Ohio to Minneapolis. Pema Chodron, a Buddist nun, talks about the Buddhist concept of shenpa. Shenpa is a Tibetan word meaning “attachment”. Pema, however, describes the word as signifying more than attachment. The word shenpa has an effect on us more on the scale of “How we get hooked” by something. That thing can be a thought and or feeling generated by that thought, or an object and or the feeling generated by the object. According to Pema “Another synonym for shenpa might be that sticky feeling. … shenpa is the itch and it’s the urge to scratch. So, urge is another word. The urge to smoke that cigarette, the urge to overeat, the urge to have one more drink, or whatever it is where your addiction is.”
Initially the Buddhist practice around the concept of shenpa is to just begin to notice when you get “hooked”. Once you begin to notice when you’re in the process of being hooked, you can uncover your patterns and habitual ways of thinking. This recognition can help you discover how your ways of thinking then manifest into habitual actions. Making the connection between “hooked” and “habitual action” is huge! Gradually with practice the tether between hook and habitual action becomes easy to disconnect. It now becomes a choice; the choice to react in your comfortable habitual way, or not. Imagine forging your own path instead of being lead down your path by habitual ways of thinking.
So… yesterday I was faced with many of my shenpas. Interestingly enough all of my situations were “tethered” together. Shenpa #1: I was sitting at an outdoor café eating lunch. A homeless man approaches me asking for change. Normally fear would cause me to say, “sorry…but no!” and then I would pretend to be distracted by something. In an effort not to get hooked by my shenpa, I gave the gentleman all of the change in my wallet. When I gave him change, along with a smile, he began to engage me in a long conversation. So…here is the “hook” that took hold and became action. I was ok up until the conversation. In the course of the conversation I lied to the man…not once, but twice.
Shenpa #2…Take Shenpa # 1 (stranger and converstation totally out of my comfort zone) just change the person, location, and conversation.
Just so you know, I hate lying and believe I never lie. 3 (three) lies in one day. What is up with that?
After Shenpa #2, I was feeling very confused and unworthy (unworthy of what…I don’t know, but unworthy is the word that comes to mind). So… my feeling of vulnerability and determination to not get “hooked” by that shenpa again (which in hindsight, is a shenpa in and of itself), became the catalyst which brought about the “big hook”, shenpa #3.
Shenpa #3: I was feeling guilty and challenged by the realization that fear was causing me to lie and essentially dehumanize certain types of people. Later that evening, when I was entering the hotel restaurant for dinner, (these shenpa’s are all food related?…Hmmmmm?) I began talking with a server. He seemed like a very nice man and we began talking about his “story”. (I love people’s stories!) In the course of the conversation he mentioned that he grew up in Jamaica. I say, “I have never been to Jamaica. It’s on my bucket list.” He responds with, “Oh, you let me know when you go and you can visit my family”. I just smile and acknowledge the statement (I’m keeping appropriate boundaries…). Later I mention I live in Ohio. “Oh I would love to see Ohio. It’s on my bucket list.” He says. Drumroll please… I say, “You should visit me when you’re in Ohio.” (It was kind of a tit for tat…he offered, I offered…) Ughhhhh….how can one sentence create such angst! I knew immediately that I shouldn’t have said that…It just came out. He hands me his phone number under the table and tells me to call him!!!!! I was dumbstruck. What could I do? I did what I do best, and just smiled.
Ohhhh….no wonder I woke up with a stomach ache. I felt trapped. I wanted to pack up and leave the hotel. I was actually worried that the server would find out my room number and knock on my door. I was afraid he thought I was making a pass at him.
The fear of strangers has me hooked and hooked big!
Pema Chodron teaches,“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
I’m writing this as a method to “lean into” the fear rather than back away from it. Ultimately, I want to be respectful and compassionate toward all people and fear is a barrier that I want to remove. Lucky for me, I’m in the right place to learn from my fear and begin to remove barriers. Yesterday’s experiences were the perfect set up for this weekend’s learning and the speed set that follows the climb.
Thank you for being my sounding board and helping me to live my life by choice and not by habit!