Have you noticed how often you fight with yourself? It’s usually over wanting to do what know that you shouldn’t, or should do and really don’t want to. If you step back and watch from a neutral corner, the battle that ensues can get pretty amusing.

“I really want to do this.”

“But you should be doing that other thing instead.”

“But I really want to do this, and I’m sure it will be okay.”

“No, it’s a bad idea, and you know it.”

“Yeah, well, I’m going to do it anyway, because if I don’t, I will be in a lousy mood, and that would be worse than not doing it.”

We may not be masters of Self-realization, but most of us are pretty good at rationalizing the pursuit of an urgent desire in spite of what our higher awareness can see as a karmic mistake.

Renunciation – turning away from what we really want – can seem like a terrible austerity, especially if self-discipline is not one’s strongest suit. But in matters of worldly distraction, it’s the most important action we can take. Swami Kriyananda viewed renunciation as a great spiritual investment that would accumulate in value far beyond that of ordinary wealth. All we have to do, he said, is “spurn the tempting magic” of things finite and fleeting.  

Spurn? Couldn’t he have just said to make a sensible attempt? Spurn is not a word that offers any slack. If you’re going to spurn what you really want, you’re going to need plenty of willpower to do it, more than most of us are accustomed to mustering up. 

“Do you like nice things?” 

“Yeah, I do.”

“Lots of nice things?”

“Yeah, absolutely.”

“How many nice things do you need?”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe I need to keep acquiring more until I figure that out!”

Isn’t that the answer that most folks would give today? Renunciation is the easiest thing in the world to put on hold.

“Yeah, I’ll get around to it one of these days, but I’m having kind of a tough time lately, and a little ‘tempting magic’ would really hit the spot.”

So here’s the burning question: What is going to persuade us that spurning our compulsive tendencies will pay off like he says? The answer, of course, is to prove it to ourselves, one compulsion at a time, the easier ones first. Note the inner peace and joy that each victory brings.

In moving from attachment to letting go, there’s a Zen way of looking at things that I find very helpful. Picture yourself holding your favorite cup. Feel how perfectly it fits in your hand, and say to it, “You are my favorite cup… and you are already broken.” Because someday it will be broken, or lost to you, or you will be lost to it. 

Renunciation, whether of things, certain relationships, even the body you inhabit, is about accepting their ultimate impermanence. Truly enjoy your life and its countless gifts, think about doing more with less, and see what you have as already broken. In so doing, you free yourself of the stress, sadness and regret that might otherwise trouble your emotional state. 

Agonizing over a loss is like punishing yourself twice for what you told yourself was yours and no longer is. Where is the value in that?

I don’t mean to imply that letting go of a difficult loss should be easy. We know that it isn’t. But be aware that the suffering we invite is mostly due to seeing things as ours, when in truth, nothing is ours except to borrow and give back. Adopting an “already broken” point of view makes every setback more even-mindedly manageable.

And just to finish where we started, the next time you get into one of those fights with that noisy voice in your head, pause and look farsightedly at what it wants you to do. Might it not be wiser to avoid the tangle and tribulations of where its advice tends to lead? 

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