By Corrie Teahen, 889 Yoga Teacher

Happy New Year 889! It’s hard to believe another year has passed and 2012 has arrived. It’s such an exciting time for change, new beginnings, creativity and growth! I always find myself, at this time of the year, making numerous lists about courses I want to sign up for, places to travel to and how I can improve myself, with things such as my headstand practice without creating a domino effect in the row I’m practicing in (slow and steady always wins the race… right!).

However, one specific item that I have put at the top of my list this year is to continue to nourish my meditation practice in order to work on quieting my mind with the intention to move through challenging situations and LET GO. Its sounds quite simple when you write it down on the piece of paper.  Continue to quiet the mind and you think to yourself, I can do this! However, at times putting this into practice, especially when you are dealing with an uncomfortable situation, can be a challenge.


In Tibetan Buddhism there is a concept that is known as “Shenpa”, meaning attachment or a place where we get either hooked or stuck. I was first introduced to this concept when I discovered an author named Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, who teaches on this notion.  She describes Shenpa as “an urge comes up we succumb to it, and it becomes stronger.  We reinforce our craving, habits and addictions by giving in to them repeatedly.”  Shenpas can be ruminating thoughts that poke away at the mind and if fed enough become very powerful and dangerous. We have all had those moments of obsessive-compulsive thinking, where you are re-playing an event and every moment you have a chance to mull it over, you cannot resist. The mind will not quiet. The ego begins to take control, you get lost in your own world, you feel the body tighten around the throat, into the chest, your breathing becomes short and shallow, anxiety and depression begins to set in … and you think to yourself, if I could only make it stop.

Mindfulness has been described as the self-regulation of attention and developing an orientation toward your experience in the present moment that is characterized by curiosity, openness and acceptance.  The practice of being curious and open in mindfulness will allow you to be more receptive to an uncomfortable situation and, with acceptance; there is a greater likelihood of changing your emotional perspective towards an experience. The practice of mindfulness can further help to create emotional balance and decrease habitual patterns that can harm your perception and judgment. Mindfulness practice has been linked to decrease worry, rumination, thought control and the habit of relating a negative situation to one’s self worth.

Pema Chodron discusses ways in which you can begin to break your habitual patterns and encounter your naked reality. She defines the Four R’s, which are four simple steps to begin to uncover Shenpa and work with it in an intelligent and compassionate manner.

 The Four R’s

1)    Recognize it: The first step is uncovering you have been hooked and follow your thoughts. Observe what seeds you have planted for yourself that have given birth to the chaos that is going on inside your mind. The teaching of Buddha always works with the mind to dissolve the root of suffering.

2)    Refraining (Meaning: not going down this road): Begin by letting go of the words or the story you are telling yourself, even if the feeling is still there. Anger, Jealousy, Fear etc whatever you are dealing with…Sit with it. Continue to work on moving away from the attachment that is breeding old habitual thoughts for you.  In order to stay present during this time, really be gentle with yourself, find space, compassion.

3)    Relaxation (Ease into the feeling and breath): Begin to use the breath to get unstuck and quiet the mind. There are a number of powerful pranayama exercises that you can incorporate into your meditation practice. Ratio breathing is something simple you can use, once your awareness settles on your breath.  Without judgment, inhale for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 6 and push all the air out and continue this cycle.  If a thought (Vritti) arises, come back to the rhythm of your breath. With mindful breathing you can bring your body and mind together in the present moment.

4)    Resolve- (do this again and again) It’s not an overnight miracle to restore peace within yourself. It’s like building a muscle. You need to be patient, loving, kind and have a willing to be persistant and believe.

So I encourage you to take even 2-5 minutes a day to begin the process of making it a daily habit.  Gradually, you may start to notice how it can add to the quality of you life; being able to be truly present to experience what is unfolding within you. You may develop a sense of your mind being clearer, as less of the chatter will be there if the practice is maintained. By being present and not consumed with the thoughts of the past or future, you will make space to create something new and different-you may be surprised what happens when you let go!

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