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. One you begin to get the feeling of how big the world is and how vast our potential for realizing life is, then you really begin to understand renunciation.” Pema Chodron – The Wisdom of No Escape.
Pema Chodron on “Renunciation” from 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.
The river flows rapidly down the mountain, and then all of a sudden it gets blocked with big boulders and lots of trees. The water can’t go any farther, even though it has tremendous force and forward energy. It just gets block there. That’s what happens with us too; we get blocked like that. Letting go at the end of the out-breath, letting the thoughts go, is like moving one of those boulders away so that the water can keep flowing, so that our energy and our life force can keep evolving and moving forward. We don’t, out of fear of the unknown, have to put up these blocks, these dams, that basically say no to life and to feeling life…
When we meditate, we’re creating a situation where there’s a lot of space. That sounds good, but actually it can be unnerving, because when there’s a lot of space you can see clearly: you’ve removed your veils, your shields, your armor, you dark glasses, your earplugs, your layer and layers of mittens, your heavy boots. Finally, you’re standing, touching the earth, feeling the sun on you body, feeling its brightness, hearing all the noises without anything to dull the sound. You take off your nose plug, and maybe your going to smell lovely fresh air or maybe you’re in the middle of a garbage dump or a cesspool.
Since meditation has this quality of bringing you very close to yourself and your experience, you tend to come up against your edge faster. It’s not an edge that wasn’t there before, but because things are so simplified and clear, you see it, and you see it vividly and clearly.
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 journey of awakening—the classical journey of the mythical hero or heroine—is one of continually coming up against big challenges and then learning how to soften and open. In other words, the paralyzed quality seems to be hardening and and refusing, and the letting go or the renunciation of that attitude is simply feeling the whole thing in your heart, letting it touch your heart. You soften and feel compassion for your predicament and for the whole human condition. You soften so that you can actually sit there with those troubling feelings and let them soften you more.
The whole journey of renunciation, or starting to say yes to life, is first of all realizing that you’ve come up against your edge, that everything in you is saying no, and then at that point, softening. This is yet another opportunity to develop loving-kindness for yourself, which results in playfulness—like learning to play like a raven in the wind…”