Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hooping with Shenpa

On the weekend I was gifted with a spot in a workshop featuring the newest series by Pema Chodron, Shambhala Buddhist Speaker. The topic was "getting unstuck" and how easy it is to keep doing the undesired behavior, (the one we know we want to change,) over and over, whether it's a repetitive thought, reaction, or physical action. The Tibetan word for that moment when we have that uncomfortable feeling is called "Shenpa." Addictions are an example of a Shenpa. It's that unpleasant, tightening feeling that we attempt to cope with, and we form responses that protect us from it. Our bodies have multiple systems doing this precise work for us. Our life experiences and how we respond to them shape who we are. I found myself feeling a lot of compassion for all my "Shenpas". They are there as a result of me trying to navigate my way through Life. The urge to get some relief and fall back from Life's difficulties is natural, but it never resolves the actual issue, and it's not very satisfying over the long term. It always comes back around unless we work with it and ultimately transform it. We might not even have a clear memory of what formed the Shenpa, but we recognize the feeling.
The Buddhist way to work with Shenpa is to be in meditation, and I learned that it can look very different depending on the individual. Some people sit on a cushion, some meditate while walking down the road; the purpose is to stay in the present moment and when you feel that urge rising, whether it's to smoke, or eat something unhealthy, or sink into negative chatter in your mind; whatever YOU have identified as the thing you want to let go of, stay with it and use the four 'R's :
Recognizing: you know that feeling!
Refraining: pause.....not allowing yourself to cave into the urge
Relaxing: breathe, occupy this space with your whole being, and "stay" with it
Resolving: with taking the time to let the urge pass, the pattern is eventually broken, and more insights and options are available to you!

For me, meditation involves connecting my mind and spirit to my body. Unstructured, multi-directional movement has facilitated powerful new neuro-pathways that helped me resolve the chronic pain I had been living with, which I believe was rooted in the emotional centers as well as in old injuries. Shenpas are usually from the past. They're like an inner-child saying, "Hey, I still need some attention!!"
Hoop dance brings my awareness to the present moment instantly. I'm going to pay more attention to what else I notice in observation of my hoop practice. One thing I experienced the other morning was this feeling of a dramatic shift from a "ho-hum- I'm- tired- of -winter" energy to a complete "OH YEEEEEAH!!!" feeling, and my body being primed for the day's tasks. This was from about 10 minutes of hooping.

Add a few more minutes to your hoopy time, breathe deep, and see what happens!!


  1. YES! I am going to post the four R's where I can see them... I have some shenpa that is ready to be free.

  2. That is an excellent idea! Write them down and put them up where you can see them and keep them present. I'm going to do that, too! Thank You!!

  3. I am a hooper who struggles with a lot of anxiety issues and this article was really inspiring. Just what I needed to read. I am also going to try and think of the four R's from now on -

  4. in reading your reflections and poetry I got this visual of you creating a healing vortex with your hoop...integrating wise teachings and your own life experiences into a coherent whole picture of health and vitality! ....so powerful, inspiring and deeply moving! I am excited to hear more as the journey unfolds!