Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Because of my love of irony, I am now going to just dip briefly in to a concept I came across courtesy of Pema Chodron's website, where she teaches about many things.
I make no excuse, as it isn't hero worship. She simply makes sense for now, and when it no longer makes sense I will move on. But for now, the most beautiful thing has happened... I have become an example of my own words. Or rather, I have had to go back over something that I seemed to exort definitively and tweak it humbly under the eyes of the universe to say "well, and this too..." which I find funny. Really I just wait for it these days.
So... shenpa. As best described, it is a "hook". It gets in there, twists around, and eventually you realize that your normally peaceful demeanor was shattered by the mere utterance of a single phrase, a single look, or a single event. Things spiral from there and now the world is a giant negative lump and you're struggling for your peace and ahimsa to go back in to place. VERY hard to do when you just want to punch people out.
Now, I will readily cop to the fact that I learned of shenpa from the book-worshipers who declared everything could be solved by reading Pema Chodron's work. As such, I took it with a grain of salt and read what I could just to get an understanding of what it was about. I went no further, as I wanted to search out for myself where it would be in my life and what triggered it. I also wanted to search out what disarmed the "hook" on my own. So my understanding is incomplete and I embrace this.
For me, things can snowball very, very quickly. All it takes is someone implying that I have not done my job OR that they think I am dumber than them in some capacity, and I explode. Lesser instances are where I am yelled at without explanation or means to redress what led to the yelling, and also just plain being stonewalled. If you yell at me that I was too stupid to finish a job, then won't tell me how to fix it or LET me fix it.... ooo... grounds for a nuclear blast of my wrath. And in hindsight its all very ridiculous. After all, it's pretty common for most people to think they're smarter than others whether they are or not because they lack the ability to view others with perspective - just because you can do everything in your life well doesn't mean you could handle everything in another's life well. It isn't stupidity so much as a lack of information and there is a HUGE difference between actually being unable to comprehend something versus never being given the opportunity to learn it.
This is actually why I don't talk with human beings online often unless I've known them in person first. This major source of shenpa comes up for me so often online with individuals who simply declare others to "be an idiot" that I have actively avoided messaging boards. I even avoid blogging in places where people could read what I say and declare it to be stupid for this very reason. Which, really, is simply hiding from the cause of the problem and not fixing it. I know the fury with which I explode when confronted with certain things, and avoidance seemed to be most healthy for myself. It isn't a long term solution, though. Ideally I will eventually figure out how to get around the anger that comes with being told I'm an idiot and blow it off. That day will not be today, however.
Over the course of the last several weeks I have been miserable in my current class. The teacher proved to be terrible and was not actually teaching. She kept redirecting students to the reading, which is not what a teacher does. She was so set on making us learn for ourselves that we couldn't even talk about problems we were having; if it did occur, she threatened us with discipline. In the end, the entire class dropped some $1200 to read the dross she fed us that DIDN'T explain what she wanted clearly, then proceed to go out and get our own resources so we COULD learn and pass the class. She was vague, she failed everyone on a homework assignment that she didn't actually assign us and generally displayed all the habits of a schizophrenic... I'm being overly harsh because my $1200 in government loan money that I'll be paying interest on is included with the group. But as I pointed out in the complaint I ended up filing against the professor, had a student acted this way they would've been dropped from the class.
The actions of this teacher really got to me. Because of her and my fixation on it I had a very negative mindset when working with my teammates and concerning anything else that just added to my irritation. It snowballed to the point that I blew up at my team over what I originally thought was a request to double-check my work because they didn't think I would do it as well as they had. I was incorrect. In fact, I received a phone call to outline this detail so that I would understand where they were really coming from, and they gave several compliments regarding my work. But I was so caught up in the frustration and negativity that I could actually no longer perceive what was going on. That's some pretty big shenpa.
I don't know how to talk myself out of being this way, and I know that up until I logged in to class this morning and discovered the teacher had been magically relieved of her duties and another put in her place that I was on the warpath. At that point I felt as if a huge weight had come off me and I could move forward. There was still uncertainty about what was going to happen, and if I was going to pass, but the main cause of the problem seemed to be gone. However, what if that hadn't happened? I would still be caught in the middle of the misery I had generated. And I have no idea how I would've gotten out. I would've harbored a grudge for a long time about it, as well, occasionally getting mad about it at random points in the future because I had to deal with it (I know myself well.)
Upon realizing how artificial the resolution was that had come from the professor's "retirement", I realized I couldn't continue like this. I let the negativity get in too far and hook in too deep. I let them twist inside and focus on things that are cranky and angsty. Even now I know it won't take much for them to get inside and tear up my serenity.
From this I have decided to take a phrase that struck me very deeply the other day. A documentary on the Buddha had many poets and saints and monks espousing the beliefs of the Buddha, talking about his journey and what it meant for humanity after he'd gone on it. At one point an American Roshi talked about a famous parable where one might admire a beautifully cut crystal glass. It holds the liquid well, reflects well in the light, he said. But by admiring that there was the fear of breaking it, either by dropping it or knocking it off the shelf. So even as you enjoyed it, there was the fear of it being gone from your life and this colored one's perceptions.
What he said next was like a stone thrown through a window (to go with the breaking glass theme we have going) complete with the jarring noise and the bouncing of shards off the earth. The glass, he said, was already broken. By knowing this, knowing that it was both whole and destroyed at the same time, you freed yourself from the fear of worrying about it happening. You could also fully appreciate the beauty of what you were seeing in front of you.
My loved ones are already dead, I have already failed every class. My life has ended, and I was never born. With these things in my mind, if I can hold them there, nothing touches me. It has already happened and I am simply seeing it once more. It even goes beyond accepting that everyone and everything is a part of me, it touches on the knowing of the inevitable that happens in every life everywhere. It is accepting the sheer normalcy that is even found in death and smiling when something bad arrives. This, it seems to me, is the only weapon against shenpa. In fact, there is no weapon to be had against it, because the hooks do not exist. Everything simply is. That is the truth to hold on to when suffering arises.

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