Saturday, August 14, 2010

Don't Eat the Bait

There is a Tibetan term called shenpa, which I came across when reading the teachings of Ani Pema Chodrön. I have since reflected upon the term and Ani Pema's teachings pretty constantly. You'll have to read Ani Pema's teachings to learn how she teaches on shenpa. Here is my understanding.

In a sentence, for me, the essence of shenpa is "If you don't want to get hooked, don't eat the bait." Shenpa is the root of all of my misunderstandings in relationships with anyone, whether it's a boss, colleague, parent, lover, child or friend. Shenpa is the root of my addictions, whether it's chocolate, sugar and overeating, or feelings of anger, guilt and resentment.

The things that hook me are many. They can cause me to feel defensive and to want to prove someone else wrong. I have to ask myself, "Why do I feel the need to be right?" They can cause me to feel resentful and to want to disengage or to do something spiteful. I have to ask myself, "Where does this desire to do violence to myself and to others come from?"

Ultimately, I think it's about equating feeling loved with feeling justified. It's about not feeling worthy of love, as if love is something that is earned rather than a gift from the Ultimate Source. It is the hole in the human soul that we spend our lifetimes trying to fill up with all manner of stuff. Not eating the bait is about just being.


Deborah Sampson said...

Fr. Ed Hays, In his book "Ethiopian Tattoo Shop," includes a story about a Folgers' coffee can. The first person who finds it keeps trying to fill it up and no amount of success will fill the can. Finally, in frustration, he throws it out the window. A child finds it, notes that it has no bottom and uses it as a marvelous way of looking at the world. This is a very abbreviated version that does not do justice. I whole-heartedly recommend the book!


Thanks, Deborah, for the recommendation. I am very fond of Ed Hays'+ meditations, especially his thoughts about pilgrimage.