Renounce and enjoy.
Isn't that brutal? Let go of it all, and experience joy. The gospel was about the young person who wanted to know the secret to inheriting eternal life. Renounce and enjoy... Really? Is there no other way?
Well, I got a fresh, and even more challenging, take on renunciation while reading Pema Chödrön's, The Wisdom of No Escape.
"Renunciation does not have to be regarded as negative. I was taught that it has to do with letting go of holding back. What one is renouncing is closing down and shutting off from life. You could say that renunciation is the same thing as opening to the teachings of the present moment.
"It's probably good to think of the ground of renunciation as being our good old selves, our basic decency and sense of humor. [...] It's as if everyone who has ever been born has the same birthright, which is enormous potential of warm heart and clear mind. The ground of renunciation is realizing that we already have exactly what we need, that what we have already is good. Every moment of time has enormous energy in it, and we could connect with that."
Renunciation is not just about giving up my possessions; it's about giving up anything that takes me out of the present moment. For me, that usually has something to do with giving up my ego and my anxieties and embracing my conceited, worried self just as it is. It means, after the awareness comes, trying to move away from the conceit and anxiety without beating myself up, but rather laughing at myself for falling into the traps of the ego, yet again, for the hundredth (thousandth?!) time that day. Renunciation is about giving up anything that takes me away from being who I am, where I am—so that I can be open, honest, and light-hearted about who I am, where I am.
Well, I'd rather renounce my extra winter coat.
(But it doesn't hurt to do that, too.)
I think, or at least hope, we've all had some taste of it—letting go of our agendas, letting go of our desire to live somewhere other than reality, letting go of our idea of the right way to do something, letting go of wanting to be something other than who we are—and tasting the joy that comes from just being. It's the call of meditation, as Pema would remind us. Let go. Breathe. Be. Renounce. Enjoy.
Yes, it's harder than giving away our coats, but there is indeed so much joy waiting for us there.
At the start of the chapter on renunciation from Pema, she writes that when people enter the Buddhist faith, they receive a title. People aren't too happy when they receive the title "Renunciation." No wonder.
We, too, in our community receive a title at profession. My title is "Of Mary, Joyful Bearer of the Word."
It's hard to joyfully bear much of anything when I am caught up in myself. No wonder I needed a reminder to "renounce" if I was going to "enjoy."
I am so, so grateful to all those who journey on the path of renunciation with me. I am grateful to community, friends, family, guests of Emmaus, our volunteers, and so many more who come into my life with a reminder that the work of renunciation is worth it for the joy it bears in our lives.
Joyful Thanksgiving to you all!
Let us walk in the holy presence.