Friday, June 10, 2011

A Friday Challenge- Renunciation - what is it?

When we talk about renunciation we may mean many different things. In the strictest sense, it means to give something up - I renounce anything made with flour or sugar! I renounce desire! I formally renounce attachment to the empty ideas of fame and success. In Buddhism it is not a heavy anti-life notion - it is actually an intention to renounce something which doesn't exist at any rate - renouncing the suffering we feel when we don't get what we think we deserve. Renouncing the idea of complete safety, being willing to let go into the great YES - that is renunciation. Renouncing the past and future for the present moment doesn't seem so heavy and difficult does it? OK - it is difficult - I'll give you that.

Here is a quote from a talk that Buddhist teacher, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, gave on renunciation mind:
Renunciation mind is very simple in a way: we have renunciation mind when we realise that all this is not a big deal. Somebody steps on your toe – what’s the big deal? The more we get used to this notion, the more we have renunciation mind. Renunciation somehow has this connotation of giving something up. But it is like the example of the mirage. You can’t give up the water because there is none; it is only a mirage. Moreover, you don’t have to give up a mirage, because what is the point of giving up a mirage? One need simply know that it is a mirage. Such understanding is a big renunciation. The moment you know that it is a mirage, most likely you will not even go there because you know it is fake. Or even if you do go, there is no
disappointment because you already know what is there. At the very least you will only have a little disappointment.

Renunciation mind has nothing to do with sacrificing. When we talk about renunciation, somehow we get all scared because we think that we have to give up some goodies, something valuable, some important things. But there is nothing that is important; there is nothing that is solidly existing. All that you are giving up is actually a vague identity. You realise that this is not true; it’s not the ultimate. This is how and why to develop renunciation.

(From The Dzogchen Primer: An Anthology of Writings by Masters of the Great Perfection, Shambhala Publications, 2002)

Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chödrön has this to say about renunciation in her book, The Wisdom of No Escape -
“When we sit in meditation, we feel our breath as it goes out, and we have some sense of willingness just to be open to the present moment. Then our mind wanders off into all kinds of stories and fabrications and manufactured realities, and we say to ourselves, ‘It’s thinking.’ We say that with a lot of gentleness and a lot of precision. Every time we are willing to let go at the end of the out-breath, that’s fundamentally renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back....
How do we renounce? How do we work with this tendency to block and to freeze and to refuse to take another step toward the unknown? If our edge is like a huge stone wall with a door in it, how do we learn to open that door and step through it again and again, so that life becomes a process of growing up, becoming more and more fearless and flexible, more and more able to play like a raven in the wind.
…Whenever you realize you have met your edge—you’re scared and you’re frozen, and your blocked—you’re able to recognize it because you open enough to see what’s happening. It’s already a sign of your aliveness and that fact that you’ve shed a lot, that you can see so clearly and vividly. Rather than think that you’ve made a mistake, you can acknowledge the present moment and its teaching, or so we are instructed. You can hear the message, which is simply that you are saying, ‘No.’ The instruction isn’t then to ‘smash ahead and karate-chop that whole thing;’ the instruction is to soften, to connect with your heart, and engender a basic attitude of generosity toward yourself, the archetypical coward.
The Challenge: Go to a piece that you are working on - perhaps a place where you feel sad or stuck because it doesn't seem to be working. Remember why you want it to be there in the first place and soften your heart towards it - realizing your fear is the basis of any stuckness. Don't smash through - don't kill your darlings in this case - no, just soften your heart as if this piece of writing was an awkward teenager who was trying to tell his or her truth but was so trapped by their self-awareness as to become a stuttering thing. So soften, love that piece for what it is and then go in and write it again from that place of softness. Of renouncing all ambition for it except that it be the truth.

OK. Meet you back at the ranch later for an analysis of how it went.


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - What an interesting piece on renunciation! It really seems to mean also letting go of one's own assumptions and ideas about what's "supposed to be." That leaves one open to so much more...

Carol Kilgore said...

What a great piece of advice. Just the perfect spot for trying this is in the last remaining stubborn spot on my WIP. I'm giving it a try. Thanks.

KarenG said...

I will be renouncing fat and sugar in a few days as I start on a healthy eating regimine. I plan to add exercise and finish a novel at the same time, to take my mind off my addictions that I'm giving up. I like your challenge.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Wonderful advice which I shall take as I still have some jet lag hanging on.

Enjoy your week-end.

Hart Johnson said...

Such an interesting shift in perspective. I love this idea of letting go of things that aren't there anyway. So liberating. And I think this perspective is really GREAT for a first draft... the gentle, let it do its thing and don't worry. Since I am first drafting, I will definitely give it a whirl.

Eve said...

This is wonderful Jan. I definatley feel as if my life is a constant process of growing up, and lately I do feel more and more like it is 'able to play like a raven in the wind'. I love that description.
I really can relate to where you said to look at your piece of writing like it was 'a teenager....trapped in their self-awareness.' I know that many times it's not just my writing,but me, that's trapped in my much so that I become lost as what to do..
I really appreciate your posts Jan, and I'm going to do this Friday challenge! Peace to you

Anonymous said...

Its great to shake things up a bit and get outside comfort zones. Life is about growing, changing, and standing up to challenges. Thanks for the inspiration!

Jan Morrison said...

Margot- I think that’s it exactly – letting go of conventional mind while being kind with it.

Carol – ah a stubborn spot – I’ve got a huge one of those in my current wip – I don’t want the killer to be the killer. Arggh. But I’m going to use this to see what will come up.

Karen – yep, had fish and chips yesterday and suffered all last night. Oh but I love fish and chips!

Yvonne- jet lag is such a weird thing when you think of it – as if your body knows something you don’t! Well, perhaps it does.

Tartlette – YES! Liberating is exactly the right word. Let me know how it works.

Eve – I love that ‘raven in the wind’ quote too. The abbey where Pema lives is in Cape Breton and it is full of ravens playing in the wild wind. So perfect. Thanks for your encouragement.

Stephen- yep, shaken not stirred in this case. Let me know how it works…

Anonymous said...

Hi Jan
I tried to send an email, but no luck -it was sent back as undeliverable. I found your blog while browsing for Nova Scotia blogs for my dad.Imagine my surprise to see an old photo of you, Jude, Lillian and me!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I like the concept of renunciation and the way we might put it to practical use. I can think of several things (real and imagined) I should renounce. :)

Jude said...

Honora! This is Jude. Great to hear from you (even through Jan). I recently discovered Lillian's web page and was wondering what was happening with you.
Hope all is well.

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Honora! my email is mobudgeATnsDOTsympaticoDOTca - I would love to chat with you!

Hi Patricia - yes, but is less about renouncing our fear of going forward - I think you do pretty well with that!

Jude - hopefully this will work and we'll be in touch with Honora - yay!

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