Monday, December 5, 2011


A few weeks back, just as I was getting into a routine of teaching yoga full-time, a water disaster in my home rendered it temporarily uninhabitable and all of my feelings of insecurity, groundlessness, and fear surfaced. My yoga practice, my yoga community, my family, and my friends have been my refuge during this trying time. Really, everything has worked out quite well. Tomorrow, I can move back in to a home with new flooring in every room. Lots of stuff was destroyed, but I feel a sense of freedom when I have fewer physical possessions to care for. I'd been wanting to declutter for some time, and now I must. It feels like a fresh start, and I really love fresh starts.
That's not what this post is really about, though. I've noticed that every time a crisis arises in my life, I turn to the teachings of Pema Chodron for solace, specifically her teachings on shenpa or being "hooked". My copy of When Things Fall Apart is there waiting for me each time a romantic relationship dissolves, a family drama ensues, or my house floods. As I was feeling the stress of trying to move out of my temporary housing, clean my home (covered in sawdust from the laying of the new subfloor) and move back into my home in just two days, along with teaching four yoga classes in those same two days, I started listening (again) to Pema's audio book, Getting Unstuck: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Encountering Naked Reality.
Since becoming a yoga teacher, I look for potential themes for classes or lesson plans in my everyday experience. My teacher, Allison, teaches from a place of personal experience, and I believe that's one of the reasons she is so effective as a teacher. If she's teaching about contentment, she's going to tell a personal story about how she's had to practice contentment. I aspire to emulate her in that way, and I think I've had some success with that so far.
I noticed today, as I was listening to Pema Chodron's teachings on shenpa, that I am only really interested in breaking some of the emotional patterns that aren't serving me well when they really aren't serving me well. The rest of the time, I basically just pretend they don't exist. Shenpa is something like attachment, so is related to the yogic goal of vairagya, non-attachment, but shenpa as interpreted by Pema Chodron is a noticing of a sort of tightening up or "hooked" feeling (the feeling--and the habitual response to it--is the shenpa). Shenpa is pre-verbal, before thoughts, so it's easy to overlook it unless you're really practicing staying in the present moment and really being honest with yourself about how you react to situations as they arise. So, my practice this week is to stay really, really present as shenpa arises even in the more mundane moments. And, I have a lesson plan for my next class. :-)

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