Over the last few days things have been pretty challenging as I hurtled towards the final weekend of my 1-year Hypnotherapy studies. Not only was I struggling physically but there was also some mental discomfort going on about some fairly big decisions I need to be making soon. This was causing my mind to not be in the right place for studying and finishing my actual work. I had to go through and type up approximately 12,000+ words from notes and Hypnotherapy sessions containing 3 case studies focusing on stress management, self-confidence and sports performance in just 2 days. Let me tell you I have absolutely LOVED the actual practice and learning of Hypnotherapy and although case studies and sticking to all the rigid rules of submission are a necessarily evil, I pretty much suck at getting started. I should have had most of this all nailed down before this weekend and I put myself under unnecessary pressure, or did I? Maybe that is just how I function best to have that pressure applied and to recognise that I need to throw myself into something just to get it done, or is that an excuse for poor planning and laziness – haha, who knows? It's a subject that fascinates me regarding habits and requires further exploration at some point in the future but at this point I managed to complete all the case studies and have a fantastic meal with my fellow students below to celebrate the completion of our 1 year studies.
SIT WITH DISCOMFORT
What got me started this week was the fact that I have been reading an excellent couple of non-Hypnotherapy books lately but still related to Habits. The first is “The Power of Habit – why we do what we do and how to change” by Charles Duhigg which was quite a tough read for me initially, thankfully it does have some pictures which helps break up some of the more scientific research and keep me interested! The other book which I am totally loving is called “Taking The Leap – Freeing ourselves from Old Habits and Fears” by Pema Chodron.
In this easy to read 100'ish page book Pema relates a lot to meditation and what can happen during the process that leads to old habits and fears but a fascinating topic for me was the concept of Shenpa, a Tibetan word translated as “attachment”. Pema prefers to use the word “hooked” in terms of the fact that we can get hooked whenever there is discomfort, boredom, restlessness or insecurity of any type. It's that tightening feeling you get when someone perhaps says something hurtful, whether intentional or not, or perhaps questions your views and opinions on anything. It's a real art to recognise Shenpa when it arises before your thoughts go off on a tangent, down a rabbit hole. It can mean attachment to our ego, our identity, our possessions – whenever any of these are threatened, shenpa automatically rises and then breeds thoughts and emotions. It takes a lot of practice to recognise it, it's more of a sense of the anticipation of the reaction. If we can place a pause just after we sense Shenpa and sit with it, whether we are suffering discomfort or any other kind of thoughts or emotions, we can often heal ourselves and prevent ourselves from going down roads that lead us to old habits.
I began to recognise and believe this weekend that perhaps I don't need to wait till the last minute to finish projects, tests or any other kind of work that I need to complete. If I can just sit with that emotion that starts to rise whenever I feel like running away, delaying or procrastinating, then perhaps I can learn just to get started at that moment and just take baby steps towards work, studies, projects or planning that I need to get on with. I did that this weekend and realised it was the enormity of the entire project that perhaps daunted me and it's a switch in mindset to just get started. Funnily enough, I have noticed the exact same thing with this Blog Challenge that I have been doing. Of course it's been tough with some personal circumstances and the studying but I am pleased that I have managed to stick to the 2 posts per week schedule, even though my final post is still due with 1 few hours to spare on this week! Again, an example of me leaving things till the last minute but also more evidence that I need to work on this.
I had thought about Shenpa during meditation also. I have been meditating and practicing mindfulness for quite some time and often felt myself trying to still my mind, a thought or feeling would come in and rather than sit with it I would try to push it away and escape so I could return to stillness. I have had many really good meditation sessions where I have been just so chilled with very few thoughts, just focusing on the breath and then trying to ‘hold' onto that feeling for future sessions but when that stillness doesn't occur I sense that Shenpa rising, some mild frustration and then before I know it I am thinking about what I might be having for dinner later that night and it's totally counter-productive. It's not about having a ‘perfect' meditation but just being open to whatever happens and to sit with it, observe it, feel it and then return to the breath whenever you feel the roller-coaster starting to move. Since realising this over the last week or so I have had a much better meditative experience, not perfect, not imperfect but it has just been what it has been and I have been totally fine with that. I've stopped basically trying to escape from a lack of what I had perceived as perfection within my practice and it's led me to be much more chilled and relaxed as a result outside of my practice.