Opening and Offering, in Spite of Everything

Chris posted this from Pema Chodron, which I like so much that I’m reposting the whole of it. In terms of Open Space Practices, Chris links it to the Offering/Holding Practice. You’ll see that Pema also makes reference to open-hearted.

“Here is an everyday example of shenpa. Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens— that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place— that’s a shenpa. Someone criticizes you—they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child— and, shenpa: almost co-arising.

At Gampo Abbey it’s a small community. We’re thirty monks and nuns there. You have a pretty intimate relationship there, living in community. People were finding that in the dining room, someone would come and sit down next to them and they could feel the shenpa just because this person sat down next to them, because they had some kind of thing going about this person. Then they feel this closing down and they’re hooked.

If you catch it at that level, it’s very workable. And you have the possibility, you have this enormous curiosity about sitting still right there at the table with this urge to do the habitual thing, to strengthen the habituation, you can feel it, and it’s never new. It always has a familiar taste in the mouth. It has a familiar smell. When you begin to get the hang of it, you feel like this has been happening forever.

Generally speaking, however, we don’t catch it at that level of just open space closing down. You’re open-hearted, open-minded, and then… erkk. Right along with the hooked quality, or the tension, or the shutting down, whatever… I experience it, at the most subtle level, as a sort of tensing. Then you can feel yourself sort of withdrawing and actually not wanting to be in that place.

This reminds me that our work around the quadrants is a pulsation from Open-Hearted (inside, individually), then doing our best to maintain our opening even as we are seeing and hearing (and ultimately saying) things in the organizational world, then bringing those things out as organizational openings (space for others, offered and held), which we try to sustain even as we take specific actions. So we are ultimately practicing open-hearted offering, even as we are seeing, hearing, and doing things in the world. It makes for a full day.