For me a spiritual practice, one that’s consistent and on going thru my ups and downs and the craziness of this life, is essential.
I try to remember what my life was life before; it’s hard to even imagine.
Where did all these crazy thoughts go, how did I get the swirl of emotion out and when it came out, what shrapnel was created? Where and what did I turn to for a roadmap?
Holy crap. Complete Insanity.
I can’t even begin to create any opinion or judgment about how people find a practice, or solace or manage thru their days and this life.. I need every ounce of focus I got keeping myself aware and awake and walking my own path, sweeping my side of the street.
My practice is consistent.. I know what matters to me, what I need to do to remain moving and alive and awake and kind and centered and connected.
I’m reckless and wild and a mess in lots of areas but this isn’t one of them.. It’s about as important and sacred to me as my breath and I don’t let much get in the way, or stop me, ever. I’m hell bent and singularly focused on what keeps me most alive.
But it is a path.. which means I’m always exploring, broadening, learning, deepening… open to more and more and more… So, I’m continuing a study on The Ten Perfections, ((what I would describe as the qualities that lead to sustained happiness…. )) and taking it one word at a time, getting intimate and really trying to understand it in the way that it sticks with me and becomes ingrained in my daily life.
((Virtue, Renunciation, Discernment, Equanimity, Patience, Persistence, Truth, Determination, loving-kindness and Good Will.))
First was Virtue… read that essay here.
The second is Renunciation.
Whenever I come across this word, I typically just pass over it. I’m a firm believer in taking what you need and leaving the rest.. I’ve left this one a number of times…. But I as I focus in, I’d like to understand it and see if I can take something from it and use it to deepen my practice because it’s central to almost every spiritual teacher and teaching I’ve ever come across so it must have some value.
At first I immediately associate renunciation with those people who give up sex, who go sit in a cave or against a tree and self inflict ridiculous pain and suffering upon themselves. Or I think of people who walk away from family and friends and basically surrender to a total life of spiritual thought. (( basically, the judgmental parts of me says its people hiding out from reality )) I am not interested in any of this.
So once again I turn to the ultimate authority on all things, Google:
In religion, renunciation often indicates an abandonment of pursuit of material comforts, in the interests of achieving spiritual enlightenment. In Hinduism, the renounced order of life is sannyāsa; in Buddhism, the Pali word for “renunciation” is nekkhamma, conveying more specifically “giving up the world and leading a holy life” or “freedom from lust, craving and desires.”
Hmmm. That all sounds rather enlightened and noble, but… yeah. Not super practical or desirable for a guy with a family and businesses and a larger than life sorta life.
I have numerous friends who have taken vows, I know priests and nuns, monks, people who’ve chosen to use renunciation to completely focus on their holy pursuits, to not have the concerns of lay folks, a family, kids, spouses… and I see how it works and doesn’t work for them up close. I really do get it, it’s an enormous sacrifice but I do understand why many of the religious teachings instruct their messengers to practice renunciation, so they can focus in and touch as many lives as possible without distraction.
It’s not that different from a guy like Steve Jobs, like inventors or other incredibly brilliant and wildly ambitious people who’ve “made a dent in the universe” by being so singularly focused that nothing else mattered, no matter what side effects were created as a result of the singular devotion to a cause or idea.
But I’m after being awake and as kind and in service and happy as possible without having to do extremes (( I am a die hard devotee of the middle path in all things )) … so I look a little deeper:
Renunciation is the act of renouncing or rejecting something as invalid, especially if it is something that the renouncer has previously enjoyed or endorsed.
Ok, so now I have to give up coffee? Not a chance.
However… I’m starting to get somewhere here… I’ve found as I walk this path many of the things that feel good in the moment, that provide a more immediate gratification don’t necessarily bring me long term happiness.
And, very often, short term “renunciation” has brought me long-term happiness as a result…. Giving up sitting on the couch and watching TV is not enjoyable while Law & Order is on, however the result of the hour meditation or workout or walk in the evening breeze that took it’s place is drastically more rewarding and absolutely helps make a dent in my personal universe.
It is not enjoyable to be at a dinner party and be the only person within 1700 miles not drinking. However the next morning, I wake up with clarity, sense of purpose and no lingering regret about my behavior.
On Saturday mornings, nothing is better than my local farmers market and our little town square with live music and amazing food vendors and everyone I know and love randomly showing up on every street corner…There is nothing I would rather do than hang out there all morning drinking coffee and feeling the vibe. However.. if I don’t carve out an hour and go to the Temple and meditate with my spiritual community, I can’t cultivate the gratitude to even see those beautiful things or enjoy the present moment.
I have a huge business. Part of that success comes from things I absolutely HATE. But I have come to know that the input of those hateful things creates the output I’m after and the result is extraordinary, far exceeding my momentary misery.
To do the things that generate results I want, I give up, set aside or delay things I love.
Even today, it’s insanely beautiful and I could be in a million cool places having wild fun… however I’m here, writing and pondering what I have to do to get what I want most, setting aside something to make room for something far more impactful.
So, my new friend, renunciation, the second of the Ten Perfections, I get it now. I must embrace you because it’s clear if I keep setting you aside I will loose a valuable lesson in my walk to sustainable happiness.
I am happier when I lean into what matters most, even when it’s not necessarily the easiest or funniest or sexiest thing in the world.
Turns out Renunciation is not just for folks in robes; it works for all of us.
Time to chop wood and carry water.
((( stay tuned for the remaining 8 perfections, I’m on a mission to understand them all! ))