Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Day 258

I had a very comfortable, flowing practice sans DVD this morning. It's good that I'm feeling easy about not using a DVD this week because, as of tonight, I will be computer-less for two days. My MacBook, Sitatara, is going in for some repairs. I've been frantically catching up on computer-related tasks in preparation for this.

My transition back to a regular diet after the fast has been smooth. I relaunched my diet at a lower calorie level geared toward weight-loss. But to be honest, I'm nearly back to my regular weight. After I've stabilised my weight, I'm going to add some healthy carbohydrates back into my diet. I'm trying mightily not to fall back into that same unhealthy pattern that got me in this fix to begin with.

The other day, Annabella posted a link to this wonderful article by Pema Chodron. It couldn't have been more timely (Thanks Ann!). The idea of 'shenpa' deeply resonated with me on so many levels.

Lately, I've been feeling and struggling to identify this emotion. Shenpa is a tightening, tensing and shutting down/out that arises when we're faced with change or insecurity of any kind. This feeling of unease causes us to seek comfort in anything that can cloak the feeling of painful restlessness. Chodron says that “we're in the habit of associating whatever we're doing with relief from our own discomfort.” Avoidance of difficult emotions becomes a pattern, a habit.

I recognise shenpa as the feeling that causes me to eat to fill the void, surf the Internet for no reason, obsessively check email, pace the apartment, project, create imaginary scenarios in my mind and generally go into emotional overdrive. I also think shenpa causes me to avoid meditation and yoga practice.

Chodron recommends the 'four Rs' for working with shenpa as a spiritual practice:
RECOGNIZING
REFRAINING
RELAXING
RESOLVING

The ideal place to recognize shenpa is in meditation. Each time it came up for me yesterday, I raced to the zafu and sat with it. What a horrible, squirmy feeling it is! It wasn't comfortable, but with practise, the feeling eventually dissipated as I brought myself back into the present moment. By facing the feeling head-on, I was able to refrain from my habitual response and relax into it.

Relaxing into the feeling can lead to its resolution. With practice, prajna kicks in. According to Chodron, prajna is “wisdom found in basic goodness, openness, equanimity—which cuts through self-absorption” With prajna, it's possible to open up the empty space instead of trying to fill it, finding the essential wholeness of the moment.

In the coming week, I'm going to work on each of the 'Four Rs' in my meditation practice and daily life. I'll keep you all updated on my experience with this.

Please note: I will be offline until Thursday or Friday but will try to update via borrowed computer sometime on Thursday.

3 comments:

teacupdiaries said...

I've been working my way through your archives, and wanted to say how inspiring I find your blog! Your dedication prompted me to upgrade my own home practice, and I've really been noticing the difference. :)

Your post on Shenpa really struck a nerve with me today. I recognised myself in it straight away. It's something I'm going to have to think about.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts on Shenpa...much needed here!

Kaivalya said...

Teacupdiaries: Thanks for commenting! It's meaningful to me that my blog has inspired you to deepen your practice. I had very few expectations when I started this blog, but being able to help other people has been the biggest surprise and one of the most wonderful outcomes.

anonymous: In talking to friends and students, I'm beginning to see that shenpa is a universal human experience ;-) I'll blog about my experience more in the coming days.