Renunciation: What Do I Need to Give Up?

October 4, 2015


One who does all work
As an offering to the Lord
Abandoning attachment to the results
Is as untouched by sin
As the lotus flower is to water
-  The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 5, The Yoga of Renunciation of Action

At my first Yoga Teacher Training weekend, I met a teacher who is a renunciant: she makes her home in a ashram with limited possessions, lives by the yamas and niyamas,  has taken a vow of celibacy.

Now, while I'm certain hers is not the path I'm called to follow in full, I've been thinking about how renunciation might actually serve me.

What does it mean to renounce something?

To give up or put aside voluntarily
To refuse to recognize or abide by any longer
To declare that one will no longer engage in or support



My six year old daughter often plays a game she calls "Word of the Day."  To play, she chooses a word that sound interesting or grown up or silly -- and then she repeats it incessantly, for days on end!  Fun times, right? Ah, the joys of a verbal child.

Recently the Word of the Day was linger.

As I was sharing with her what the word meant, I was struck by how rare and precious lingering is in my life - and in hers.During the week, we infrequently linger or saunter or loiter or lollygag.  We plan.  We go.   We do. We act.  We work.Increasingly, though, our family has focused on adding more linger to our weekends.  We rest.  We wait.  We watch.  We dabble. We wander.

When I linger, I renounce my attachment to expectations, to specific outcomes, to the future state. Instead, I'm here. Right Now.That present moment mindfulness is my favorite part of yoga. And yet, plenty gets in the way of me maintaining that peace.

So, what might I need to renounce - to set aside,  to let go of, to no longer engage in -  in order to cultivate that mindfulness more and more regularly?

- Busyness
- Need for praise, acceptance
- Seeking worthiness through achievement
- Privileging action over contemplation

While the notion of radical simplification, giving up all of my worldly possessions, living exclusively by a strict code,and meditating for hours every day is alluring - especially on those days when I've over scheduled and under planned,  I know at my core that I'm called to be of the world, to serve here.  And yet, I'm learning that the lessons of renunciation might serve me too.



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