Renunciation as a practice in turning towards what we love…

In Buddhism, renunciation has an important role in the development of an ethical life, it is one of the ten perfections of the heart, also known as paramis, and it is the underpinning of the five mindfulness trainings, as I understand them. However, renunciation often has this tone of severity associated with it – it indicates that giving up is a sort of punishment or self-denial that we should do to be a good citizen, a good meditator or a good person.

Personally, I tend to turn away from anything I should do. However, increasingly I find that renunciation actually protects my mind and heart, and makes me more mindful when I am making choices, so that I can make choices that are skillful. For example, in choosing not to shop/browse the internet/watch late night TV when I was tired on Monday night, I ended up listening to my body and going to bed early. I woke up feeling nourished, less distracted and it helped me enjoy my next day with more energy for the things that mattered to me.

Notice, I said, choosing not to. Sometimes, when we can’t choose skillfully, and are driven through reactivity to act in our habitual ways, like I was last night, I noticed that I could still renounce judging and limiting thoughts by letting go and choosing to forgive myself.

And when I choose to let go of self blame, I notice that I have more kindness and compassion for myself and others.

Renunciation can be through big or little actions. It can be giving up wanting to make our tea or food exactly the way we like it, so that we can simply enjoy the tea (or dinner) for what it is. It can be giving trying to have the house perfectly tidy and spending time with our loved ones instead. It can be giving up trying to make this piece for the blog perfect, so that it can simply be what it is. Honest, authentic, imperfect and alive in this moment.

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Choice is freedom. When we choose the path of wholeness and ask ourselves if we really need something, and connect with a sense of abundance and gratitude, we find it easier to let go. And when we let go – whether it is thoughts, emotions, stories, beliefs – that release feels so good! Suddenly we are not so caught up in our stories. We are free. And when we notice how pleasurable this feels, renunciation gets easier. We do it not because we should, but because we want to. And we find increasing freedom in this way.

Ocean blues…

It has been nearly two weeks since I wrote last! The days are flying by, and we are at the home stretch of summer vacation. Since I wrote last, we spent a few days in Ogunquit, Maine. I grew up in south India, about a ten minute walk from the beach, and I took this for granted! Now, living in picturesque and mountainous New England, I don’t make enough visits to the ocean. This time when we went, a mere couple of hours of driving, I realized how much I had missed the beach. There is something that happens when you are around the ocean. A slow letting go of all the worries and anxieties you didn’t even know you carried, and in its place, a deep wisdom growing its roots within you. I slept so well, and woke up the next morning feeling alert and clearer than I had in days. Everything made sense and everything was perfect. Such is the magic of the ocean.

I would be remiss, if I did not admit to having a few less-than-graceful moments. Balancing the needs of your family, while still managing to get your own needs met, is an ever-shifting dance! We had a great breakfast the first day (Daalu, my husband’s favorite meal!), and of course, swimming in the beach (Anji’s favorite activity!), but it got too hot to go on the marginal way, which is what I really wanted. Anji was a bit at the receiving end of my disappointment, and at one point, I was losing it, and I told her, “why don’t we walk in silence until the end of the street, and by then, I will have it together”. She replied: “Mom, even if you are mad, I would rather you be social with me than silent!” She said it in such an earnest and kind and non-judging way, it cracked me up and lightened up my mood. Of course, I would love to be social with you my sweetheart!

We did make it to the marginal way the next day, bright and early, and Anji and I had an amazing time wandering through the little coves.

And she and Daalu enjoyed some quality time swimming in the ocean. We also made it to Cape Nubble Lighthouse, which was so scenic and beautiful!

My beloved friend joined us for the last day, and it was heart-filling! More beach and play time, and dinner at the lovely Rose Cove Patio, and shopping through the streets of downtown at night.

When we got back, I had a few days of ocean blues… I really missed seeing the ocean. The rhythm of the tide, the calm of the expanse of water, the sight of the kites diving into the water, seagulls looking for food, burst of blooms along the pathways, and so much room for everything to be. But then when I pause, I can see within me, the same deep, lasting peace. And a reminder that “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are an entire ocean in a drop.” (Rumi)

Namaste, S.

Twilight moments…

I am a twilight fan. There. I said it! I have been dreading this moment. It all started harmlessly enough. Sitting with Abhi on the couch, browsing through netflix, we came across Twilight among recent new releases on Netflix. I remembered vaguely enjoying it a few years ago, so we watched it that night. I am a sucker for love stories. Abhi, noticing my obvious enjoyment of Bella and Edward’s love story went ahead and ordered the whole saga for me. Mistake. Not that I’m not hugely appreciative – but mistake nonetheless. I ended up watching each installment of the saga over the period of a week. That is 5 movies of 2 hours each, so about 10 hours in total. This may not seem like much to some of you – but I’m somebody who doesn’t get very attached to TV series. Or rather, I’m impressionable so I practice restraint. The few shows I watch – and have watched – Downton Abby, Parenthood, Baking shows, to name a few – are in moderation because they only show one episode a week. I avoid crime, violence and intense drama because they get into my head. And I get bored by watching the same show for more than a couple of days. Hence, imagine my puzzlement when I found myself anxious to return each night after Anji’s bedtime, to the next chapter in vampire romance!

Clearly, this was against all odds. I could think of so many reasons why I should’t be watching this saga. Top of the list was that this series does not make any sense. And yet, drawn I was, like a moth to a flame night after night. My sweet husband valiantly watched all of them with me – that is how much he loves to spend time with me. I felt terrible for putting him through the ordeal! But stop, I could not.

Finally the last of Breaking Dawn finished and I realized how much of a lesson I was really learning. Other than my own self-judgment criticizing staying up late and any related thought that arose harmlessly in my mind, there was no problem really. But that is forgetting exactly how entrenched my self-judgment really is! I struggled with pushing away innocent thoughts of Forks as I drove on new england roads. ‘Go away!’, I said. And of course that didn’t work!

And finally, one night tossing and turning, berating myself and my mind, I came into softening. There was really nowhere else to go. My mind and heart softened. I chanted metta phrases every time a thought or scene from the movies arose in my mind. ‘May I be happy, may I be peaceful!’, I repeated over and over.. All night, my body and face kept softening intentionally until I realized: here was the practice! This was what Twilight had led me to. The workings of my own mind, observing, witnessing and accepting all of my thoughts. and softening and embracing my own loving heart. When I woke up in the morning, all was calm, my face and heart was shining.

I am a twilight fan. I adore the story of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. There I said it. I’m not proud but I still love the goofball teenager inside me!

Peace to you,