The Tibetan Buddhist Concept of Being Hooked

Have you ever been hooked by a negative narrative? Someone says something and your mind goes into a tailspin of destructive thoughts.

Let’s say your neighbor says, “That’s an interesting choice.” And he points to your newly planted flowers. You smile, not quite knowing what he means and you go inside your house. You sit down on the couch and start channel surfing, but you can’t seem to let go of his comment. What did he mean? Was he making fun of me? Why wouldn’t he like my flowers?

Soon, you’ve built up a whole story in your head. You remember the time your neighbor rolled his eyes when you walked by his house and all the times he complained about your barking dog.

“That judgmental prick!” you think to yourself. He’s always targeting me. It’s not like he’s all that great. His flowers aren’t that wonderful! And your mind goes around and around and around spinning a web of thoughts.

In Tibetan Buddhism this negative thought pattern is known as “Shempa”. It’s something that gets under your skin, that works its way into your mind and you can’t stop thinking about it. Once you’re on a role, letting it go is difficult. Shempas are little annoyances that work away at the mind. They can, if nourished, become very strong and powerful. It’s an addiction to a way of thinking – a (seemingly) justified projection – that threatens to weaken your sense of mindfulness and destroy your peace of mind.

Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron suggests catching yourself in these negative thought patterns as soon as you feel yourself being sucked into the downward spiral. Focus on your breath, take a walk, listen to some music and try to pry your mind away.


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mail-chimp-squareby Laura A. Roser
CEO and Founder of Paragon Road
#1 Expert in Meaning Legacy Planning