The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance."
- Alan Watts
Pema Chödrön promotes shenpa, which is Tibetan for “biting the hook” with our habitual reactions. Shenpa thrives on the insecurity of living in a world of constant change.
Tibetans call shenpa, "that sticky feeling." We feel a tightening, a tensing, a sense of closing down. Then we experience a withdrawing. The tight feeling has the power to hook us into self-denigration, blame, anger, and jealousy. Emotions lead to words and actions that do not serve us well.
Chödrön writes, "When someone criticizes us, our work, or leaves us, we may bite the hook of grasping. When something unfair happens, we may bite the hook of rage. When we are disappointed, we may bite the hook of numbness."
What would it look like not to bite the hook in an action of non-shenpa?
Chödrön's philosophy involves how to grow and learn from experiences. She advises not to waste time berating oneself for supposed sins. Learn and move on.
If we cultivate clear sight, which Tibetan Buddhists call prajna, we view our life without deceiving ourselves. Once we observe the self clearly, we grow and gain strength for the next encounters. Consider how you talk to yourself concerning unhappiness. Do you malign and denigrate yourself to induce a wave of guilt that proves you are unworthy?
"At moments like that, what is it you feel? It has a familiar taste in your mouth, it has a familiar smell. Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever," Chödrön says. She continues, "All we're trying to do is not to feel our uneasiness. But when we do this we never get to the root of practice. The root is experiencing the itch as well as the urge to scratch, and then not acting it out." Learn to recognize when you get hooked in your experiences. Realize you have the wisdom to see your frustrations for what they are. The more you practice that realization the less control outside forces have on you. When negative feelings intrude, focus on the breath. Stay in the moment. Relinquish the need to react.
You'll benefit by not biting the hook. Feelings of freedom will take over.