I saw this in a Tricycle Daily Dharma email today, and thought it provided a good example of the feeling you get when your buttons are pushed. I particularly like the word “charge”, because it makes me think of that odd ionic smell and static-y feeling when lightning is close by – and you’d better run because you don’t want to be where the lightning goes.

When you start to recognize this feeling in yourself, you’re halfway to being able to control it. Because once you recognize it, then you can practice throwing that stop sign up in your mind’s eye and catch yourself before you react – before you let loose that bolt of lightning. Eventually it becomes a choice instead of a knee-jerk reaction.

“In Tibetan there is a word that points to the root cause of aggression, the root cause also of craving. It points to a familiar experience that is at the root of all conflict, all cruelty, oppression, and greed. This word is shenpa. The usual translation is “attachment,” but this doesn’t adequately express the full meaning. I think of shenpa as “getting hooked.” Another definition, used by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, is the “charge”—the charge behind our thoughts and words and actions, the charge behind “like” and “don’t like.” Here’s an everyday example: Someone criticizes you. She criticizes your work or your appearance or your child. In moments like that, what is it you feel? It has a familiar taste, a familiar smell. Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever. That sticky feeling is shenpa. And it comes along with a very seductive urge to do something. Somebody says a harsh word and immediately you can feel a shift. There’s a tightening that rapidly spirals into mentally blaming this person, or wanting revenge, or blaming yourself. Then you speak or act. The charge behind the tightening, behind the urge, behind the story line or action is shenpa.”

– Pema Chödrön, “Don’t Bite the Hook” (Summer 2009)

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