What does “getting hooked” mean anyway?
Let me put it this way: Is there something that you think, feel, do, say, eat, choose or (fill in the blank) that you can’t quite control or that you feel may sometimes control you?
Well this is what we call ‘getting hooked’.
In the Dharma (which is a Buddhist philosophy), getting hooked is called ‘Shen Pa’ and it refers to anything that can seemingly take over our thoughts, feelings and actions, without our full consciousness. It can be anything from reoccurring or obsessive thoughts, feeling over-emotional, addictive behaviours or any actions that we can feel like we have no control over.
Let’s look a little deeper into the things that can hook us. Addictions of any type are a big one that a lot of people deal with every day and can include;
- Food, caffeine, sugar
- Drugs – prescription or recreational, alcohol, cigarettes
- Technology, social media
- Thoughts, feelings, emotions, people, relationships
- Work, play, sport, physical activity, exercise….
Hmmm as you can see, addictions are limitless! We might also get overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, anger, happiness, fear, worry, anxiety, panic and depression.
The freedom to choose whether we get hooked or not can seem impossible at times, and let’s face it, when we are in the midst of being hooked, it can feel impossible to get out of!
Why do we get hooked and most importantly what can we do about it?
It’s important to remember that it is a condition of being human that we get ‘hooked’ from time to time. There is nothing wrong with you if you are getting hooked or if you are feeling a bit trapped by it. However we need to develop awareness around this phenomenon of ‘getting hooked’, so that we know when it is happening and then ‘catch’ it before it gets out of our control.
The best news is that with awareness alone, over 50% of any problem is already solved. So it is important to rejoice in even recognising that you are getting hooked in the first place & that often all that is needed from us in these situations is to simply just be aware & observe our ‘hook’ without judging the hook or the self as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, just simply be willing to ‘see’ it.
The next step is to remember is that if we want to make changes, then we need to practice cultivating new neuro-pathways to encourage new habits & change. It’s like learning to ride a bike or play the guitar… we learn the techniques and then we just keep practising, until it becomes like a second nature (new habit). To do this effectively we need to ‘value’ this practice as an essential part of our day to day lives, right up there next to cleaning our teeth (something that we hopefully don’t forget to do day-to-day), and not just use it as a nice idea to try when we are in the thick of the hook!
How can I catch the ‘Shen Pa’, before getting hooked?
There’s another piece from the Dharma that I’d like to share with you, which is the word “Chitta”. This word literally means “Heart Mind” meaning that the heart and the mind are seen as the same thing with equal power, strength, wisdom and importance. They work together: they are one and the same. When we are getting hooked, we are usually working from the Mind-Ego part of the self. If we can recognise this with awareness, we then have the opportunity to direct our focus into the heart space and subsequently hear the wisdom of truth that resides there by simply being silent & still.
When you feel like you are getting hooked, try to stay calm and know that just by noticing the hook, you are doing really well. Then you can offer the self some stillness & silence to focus on the heart space by gently breathing into it. Consciously empty your mind, you might even like to say the word “empty” if it feels like it will help.
The heart has the capacity to endure all things that it must: hardships, pain, grief, sadness, joy, bliss… no matter how massive they appear to be. What the heart requires is focused energy and intention to help cultivate its strength and exercise its muscle, so that we can hear the wisdom of love, kindness, compassion & peace that resides within it, which we can then consciously choose to act on, rather than unconsciously play out the ‘hook’.
The following steps may help to cultivate the balance of the Heart Mind;
- Recognise the hook
- Offer the self love, kindness & compassion for getting hooked
- Use the discipline of the Mind-Ego to choose something different, by practising to put the thought/feeling/addiction down and simply refuse to feed it
- Direct the energy of the hook into the heart space with breath & allow time for silence & stillness to hear the wisdom of the heart (and if you can’t hear anything, just relax into the stillness & let your mind have a rest)
- Lovingly forgive the self and others (this can take practice so even if you can’t forgive right in that moment, simply focus on the intention of forgiveness)
Cultivation of awareness and the subsequent expansion of the Heart Mind is pretty powerful stuff, so what can we do to cultivate our Heart Mind further?
Here are 6 easy tips that you can try today
- Daily Meditation – it doesn’t matter what style you choose, the benefits come from being consistent at your practice. Cultivating awareness with meditation takes time & practice, so experiment with different styles of meditation like guided meditations, integrative restoration (irest), kundalini dance/yoga/meditation, laughing, walking, silent or group meditations, movement meditations like yoga/qi gong/tai chi, time in nature– or whatever feels best for you.
- Deep Breathing – not only does it rest and rebalance the nervous system, but it allows you to become aware of your body & thoughts, helping to direct your attention and energy evenly throughout the body.
- Mindfulness Activities Daily – even when you are washing the dishes or cleaning your teeth, answering the phone, talking to your children. Put down any distractions and give yourself permission to be fully present with the moment, even if you think it might be boring (you might just be surprised!).
- Connect with like-minded people. Consider joining group activities or classes in areas you are interested in.
- Speak to Someone – health care professionals are awesome at this kind of support: psychologists, counsellors, dharma practitioners, naturopaths and GPs that specialise in mood disorders, mental health and addictions can really help to guide you along, help to find solutions and answer tricky questions.
- Silence and Stillness – take time away from technology, people, demands, music and noise, allow time in nature to recharge in peace without the demands of technology.
Why would we choose to do this, what are the benefits?
- To cultivate freedom and liberation of the Heart-Mind
- To be able to choose how we want to behave, rather than be controlled by our thoughts/feelings/actions/addictions
- Cultivate more peace, internally as well as in the external world.
- Enjoy more joy & bliss on a regular basis
- Reduce stress levels
- Reduce fears and cease to operate from a place of fear that may be limiting you from reaching your fullest potential
- Rest your body and allow for recovery & deep healing
- Build resilience mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually
- Regulate your hormones & balance moods
Here is a little piece I once read from a beautiful book called “Journey of the Heart” by John Welwood. I feel he sums this topic all up pretty nicely;
“Sitting in meditation,
Slowing down and simply being present,
We tap into the nourishing depth of our being.
When we come from this ground of well-being,
Then oppositional struggles –
Fighting with or clinging to others, to make ourselves feel better,
We tap into the vastness,
The greater possibilities within us,
That lead us to venture beyond,
Where we have already been..”
I am a passionate meditation student & teacher and love inquiring into the Dharma philosophies. I love helping to teach others how to meditate and help them to learn how to ‘watch’ their ‘Shen Pa’ (getting hooked). Upon learning this, we can then cultivate freedom and liberation of the Heart Mind, which can be valued as an essential component of living a joyful life.
Please contact me for your one-on-one session or if you would like to join a group session.
With loving freedom & liberation of the Heart Mind