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Opossums, Shenpa and Spiritual Delights
Our feelings are God’s way of talking with us.
"John Smith, before casting eyes on Pocahontas notices the Opossum.
He names it and provides the first English language description of it. ... An Opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein shee lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young." -http://www.possumnetwork.com/history.htm
"Shenpa is that feeling of being very uncomfortable and having an immediate desire to get out of it as fast as humanly possible. ... When shenpa is happening, our first instinct is to do something to relieve the discomfort. " - http://38ways.blogspot.com/2011/04/shenpa.html
A few months ago, I dreamt of chasing my pet opossum that burrowed into the wet sand on a beach. I dug into the sand desperately to find it, only to discover three large eggs, as if nested in the wet sand beneath.
I wondered what the dream meant so looked up the two dream symbols at hyperdictionary.com.
For egg, “To find a nest filled with eggs in your dream means some financial gain; the more abundant and bigger the eggs, the more significant the gain.”
For (o)possum, the meaning given was “Seeing a possum in your dream indicates that something may not be what it appears to be. You need to dig deeper and look for the hidden meaning of some situation or circumstance.”
Since I was not familiar with what an opossum looked like, I searched the web for articles. My search led me to realize that the opossum has been considered a pest, just like rodents, in many places in the world.
These information gave me a mixed feeling about what the dream really meant. There was a negative aspect to it, e.g. “pest”, and a positive one, “gain”. It was best to acknowledge the fact that really I do not understand what the dream means.
Coming back to the present, my silent sitting meditation provided an inspiration to write about my experience with shenpa.
My thoughts were really to write a very brief article, to just say:
Shenpa is like an opossum. It can be a pest but when treated with loving kindness it can be a delightful pet.
Sitting with shenpa, as mentioned in Coming Home to Joy, is not a behavior that is easy to follow. It takes discipline and sincere desire to develop the practice of 4Rs and mindfulness into a habit. But the spiritual delights are there for the taking for those who dare follow the narrow path.
In a previous article we have introduced the idea of treating experiences as an Event in its totality, instead of an isolated person, thing, place or time. It has been observed that the said practice disengages the ego-based self and makes it easier to go into acceptance and refrain from judging. We can categorize the practice of 4Rs into two areas:
1. Going About in Ordinary Everyday Life. This includes feelings or emotions that we consider favorable, unfavorable or just-is, as mentioned in The World’s Ugliest Dog. 4Rs with conscious awareness is applied to anything that comes to our attention at all. After religiously practicing, we will notice that just a few seconds of conscious awareness allows us to touch the sacred and perceive spiritual delights.
2. In Silent Sitting Meditation. Similar to number 1. except that we can include thoughts aside from feelings or emotions. The steps in the method mentioned in “Prayer Beyond Thoughts …” call for silently saying “Thinking” whenever thoughts and feelings visit our sitting. Acceptance without judgment, may sometimes lead one to a similar result as in number 1., perceiving delights including gaining spiritual insights.
Shenpa, like a pet opossum, can bring spiritual delights.
Let’s befriend shenpa.
Treat it with openness, reverence and wonder and receive its accompanying spiritual delights: joy, love, peace and affection.
So by this time, everyone has guessed the meaning of my dream with my pet opossum burrowing into the sand, with me finding a treasure of three very large eggs. The opossum represents shenpa and the eggs represent spiritual delights.
As an additional spiritual delight, for dessert, in writing this article, I noticed having been led to another synchronistic event; that of reading about Captain John Smith, the opossum and Pocahontas (http://www.possumnetwork.com/history.htm), having landed on that page instead of some other page offered among the 1.2 M offered by the search engine results.
Aside from being symbolized by the opossum in the dream on the beach, I believe historically, we all also need to first, like John Smith, meet the Beast (opossum) before meeting the Beauty (Pocahontas). Honoring our shenpa (beast), we allow into our awareness Event’s spiritual delights (beauty).
Befriending our shenpa, we can repeatedly experience joy, love and peace.
We become ambassadors of joy, love and peace to a world where these are mostly longed for.
As individuals, it is entirely up to us to decide what shenpa is: pest or friend?