"I Gots da Cling-ons!" By Shane Hennesey
20 April 2010
Pema Chodron’s latest book, Take the Leap, focuses on the concept of “shenpa” which is a Tibetan word describing the idea of attachment or what she calls “getting hooked.” A better translation for me would be “clinging.” It makes more functional sense to me.
The importance of this concept is that in the teachings of Buddhism, a major cause of suffering in life is caused by inappropriate attachment to things, situations, etc. The reason I prefer the word clinging is because when I attach to something inappropriately, you’re going to find my claw marks in it should I have to let it go. “Clinging,” to me, describes that desperate life or death feeling that comes up when something I have shenpa for is taken away, voluntarily or not. For instance, whether I voluntarily chose to give up my morning coffee or whether someone took it away from me, my concept of morning coffee would have deep gouges in it as I went through the throes of letting it go. I gots a lot o’ shenpa for my coffee, ya’ll.
Shenpa can be inappropriate clinging to anything, so it doesn’t matter if it’s aroused by things that are positive or negative. An example of clinging to what is negative in my own life would be the incredible anger, even hatred, that I had towards my ex and his addictions, and the way our relationship dissolved around those things. For the longest time I felt quite justified in my hanging on to those negative feelings…my shenpa was mighty powerful strong on those items, yessiree. I chewed many a bitter pill and kept myself up nights over it.
Shenpa over positive or neutral things can be seen in the way I overly charged the notion of living in Colorado and being in the mountains and generally out in nature. When I first moved back to Texas, I not only had the clinging to negative things, but I also generated a lot of negative energy for my grief over not living in the mountains anymore. I was awash in comparing how awful Texas was to how wonderful Colorado was. Both versions of clinging were making me quite depressed. I was attached all over the place and it was making me gosh darn miserable…even worse (and here’s the shenpa part), I felt quite justified in all that clinging and that made me cling all the harder.
Anybody ever been all that caught up in something you just could not let it go, whether it was good or bad for you? No, surely not :).
Well, ya’ll, all that clinging just sucked. It burned up a whole lotta energy and made me generally miserable most of the time. Meditation practice, thankfully, helped me de-energize all that craziness. Meditation helped me remember how to slow down and take my Cling-ons and extract the shenpa by letting the craziness come up in my head but choosing not to give any of it extra energy. Well, as the rule of energy and consciousness says: Where attention goes, energy flows…and I stopped giving the Cling-ons any juice to live off of…they sort of shrunk up and fell off.
I’m writing about this because recently, I was back in Colorado and back around my ex, and for him I’ve had mostly neutral feelings (the previously negative cling-on), and for the mountains and rivers and nature in general, I’ve been able to just be in them and with them and just enjoy them as they are, not as my magical cure-alls (the previously positive cling-on).
Frankly, I have shocked myself. If I had planned these things rather than just let them evolve as they organically have, I could not have planned it all out better and more likely would have screwed something up.
Shane Hennesey is a gay man exploring the Dharma of life beyond 40. You can visit his regular writing at www.zenfant.wordpress.com.