The Gift of Renunciation

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The focus of today’s blog is a subject I never considered writing about until several recent books I read and am reading referred to the essentialness of it. That topic is renunciation. Typically, we think of the path of renunciation as one where we reject all worldly pleasures, including sexual activity, drinking alcohol, and even culinary pleasures.

The books from these spiritual teachers were speaking to the importance of renunciation from a different perspective. For example, Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite Monk from the 17th century who authored a book entitled Practicing the Presence of God, stated “…the most important part resides in renouncing, once and for all, whatever does not lead to God.”

Looking at it from Brother Lawrence’s perspective, we can likely see the value of renunciation on our spiritual journey. If an activity or way of being does not bring us closer to God, or in other words, closer to our divine nature, why would we want to pursue it?

This does not inherently call on us to give up anything in particular. It will be different for each individual. For example, a couple in a relationship might find sexual intimacy to be something that brings them closer to each other and more in touch with the divine quality of love. Renouncing sexual activity in this case wouldn’t seem to enhance their spiritual journey. On the other hand, a person with a sexual addiction whereby sexual activity brings out the worst in them might be well served to consider renouncing sexual activity, not because sex is inherently a bad thing, but because it is not currently serving them on their spiritual journey.

Swami Muktananda of the Siddha Yoga lineage wrote “Renunciation is necessary, absolutely necessary…It is only the illusion of ‘mine’ in all this that you have to recognize and renounce.” Here, the illusion of mine refers to a sense of separation from God or our divine nature, a sense that we have a unique self that is apart from God. Of course, we do have a unique self, but it is not separate from our divinity. Similar to the guidance from Brother Lawrence, the guidance from Swami Muktananda is to renounce any sense of separation from God.

Chogyam Trungpa of the Shambhala tradition and founder of Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado wrote “What (he) renounces is anything in his experience that is a barrier between himself and others. In other words, renunciation is making yourself more available, more gentle and open to others.” Again renunciation is letting go of that which puts us in separation.

Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind philosophy, wrote “It is a belief in separation from God which binds and limits.”

We need not renounce anything in particular if it is serving to lift us into joy, prosperity, well-being, and wholeness. The invitation is to renounce that which puts us in a sense of separation from our source, that which binds and limits us. This is unique to each person and we each can know what we are to renounce, or let go of, by honestly and deeply looking into the mirror that is our lives.

Thus, renunciation becomes a path to liberation and inspiration rather than the giving up of anything. What are you to renounce today? What does hinder thee? Perhaps letting go is really claiming the greater possibility that awaits you in your life.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory Toole offers spiritual coaching to individuals and groups who want to create and live extraordinary lives. For more information, go to gregorytoole.com.

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