With your meditation practice established, set your sights on the next stage of personal freedom. Break self-imposed limitations and self-defeating habits, while cultivating greater gratitude, urgency, agency and surrender.
When you’ve found that space of despair and confusion, that crossroads where you’re staring despondently into a void of meaninglessness, you can use the doorway to wake up your innate genius and discover what youcan accomplish with this amazing life. That’s transcendent renunciation, which is a form of love: caring enough about life, recognizing your innate power and potential, and being motivated to do something about your predicament before it’s too late. It’s also self-care. People use the term self-care a lot these days, and that’s a good thing. Self-care means getting plenty of rest and exercise, eating well, and putting up healthy boundaries regarding work and toxic people, but what I mean here is evolutionary self-care—care for your psychological development and evolution over countless lives. Kale smoothies won’t lead to liberation, but caring deeply enough about your soul to eliminate fundamental delusion will.
From Gradual Awakening, Chapter 4, Renunciation.
Renunciation doesn’t mean giving up something material. It may have meant that in pre-Buddhist Vedic culture, but the renunciation the Buddha proposed wasn’t about avoiding worldly life, or transcending the material realm, or giving up our savings account, our relationships, or even pizza and football. We’re not expected to wear a loincloth and live a celibate life in a cave. However, we do have to give up on delusions that trigger afflictions, drive compulsions, and create suffering. Like a heavy wagon wheel spinning in the mud, creating an even deeper groove from which the likelihood of escape decreases with every rotation, the unconscious chain reaction in our mind is what we’re renouncing. That means renunciation also involves a reorientation toward waking up here and now in the world, forming new relationships with our bodies, people, our work, and the environment based on a realistic understanding and ethical sensitivity. It means staying in the world, breaking back in, being present with discomforts and habits, and working through them. Renunciation is the doorway to liberation. The only way out of the fire is to let go of the coals.