Friday, March 24, 2006

Pema Chodron: On Renunciation


Trungpa Rinpoche once said, "Renunciation is realizing that
nostalgia for samsara is full of shit." Renunciation is realizing that our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane. Once you begin to get the feeling of how big the world is and how vast our potential for experiencing life is, then you really begin to understand renunciation. 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 minds wander 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 the story
line go, and 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.
-Awakening Loving-Kindness

When I moved to the desert, I saw the choice as an act of renunciation -- giving up the comfortable life I had in Seattle -- comfortable and boring, and keeping me rooted in the stories I was telling myself about who I was. They were small stories. I was not a central character.

I saw renunciation as giving up something -- as a kind of asceticism. It was a deprivation to give up the rain and fog that I cherished, the coffee, the crows who were objective correlative to my inner world. It was an act of submission to move to the heat and permanent sunlight of the desert.

In giving up my need to be in a rut, to be comfortable and unchallenged, I embraced a relationship that continually keeps me unbalanced, a life that has opened in ways I never could have imagined, and a desert that offers lessons in quietude and death.

Allowing renunciation into my life teaches me about death, about allowing the ego to die little by little -- never really dead, of course, but less in control. When I meditate, I try to allow all the mess swirling in my head to go with the exhalation, and in that quiet pause before the inhalation, I feel the freedom that I imagine I might feel in the causal state.

Hopefully, if I continue to practice, year after year, that little pause between breaths might grow to become a state of consciousness rather than a brief taste. True or not, that is what I tell myself.
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