08 February 2011

Renunciation Day

On the 8th day of the 2nd month (technically, lunar, but we'll go with Gregorian) the Great Renunciation of Siddhartha Gautama is commemorated.

I lift from a piece by Pema Chödrön:
[R]enunciation is seeing clearly how we hold back, how we pull away, how we shut down, how we close off, and then learning how to open. It's about saying yes to whatever is put on your plate, whatever knocks on your door, whatever calls you up on your telephone. How we actually do that has to do with coming up against our edge, which is actually the moment when we learn what renunciation means. There is a story about a group of people climbing to the top of a mountain. It turns out it's pretty steep, and as soon as they get up to a certain height, a couple of people look down and see how far it is, and completely freeze; they had come up against their edge and they couldn't go beyond it. Their fear was so great, they couldn't move. Other people tripped on ahead, laughing and talking, but as the climb got steeper and more scary, more people began to get scared and freeze. All the way up this mountain there were places where people met their edge and just froze and couldn't go any further. The moral of the story is that it really doesn't make any difference where you meet your edge; just meeting it is the point. Life is a whole journey of meeting your edge again and again. That's where you're challenged; that's where, if you're a person who wants to live, you start to ask yourself questions like, "Now, why am I so scared? What is it that I don't want to see? Why can't I go any further than this?" The happy people who got to the top were not the heroes of the day. They just weren't afraid of heights; they are going to meet their edge somewhere else. The ones who froze at the bottom were not the losers. They simply stopped first and so their lesson came earlier than the others. However, sooner or later, everybody meets his or her own edge.
I find I am meeting one of my edges in figuring out my place in the local sangha, and today I ask myself those very same questions: "Now, why am I so scared?  What is it that I don't want to see?  Why can't I go any further than this?"

And I don't know the answers, but I do know the strategy: drop it all and just keep going.

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