Daily Wisdom / From the Editors / Giveaways / Pema Chödrön

Renounce One Thing

Book CoverFor one day (or one day a week), refrain from something you habitually do to run away, to escape. Pick something concrete, such as overeating or excessive sleeping or overworking or spending too much time texting or checking e-mails. Make a commitment to yourself to gently and compassionately work with refraining from this habit for this one day. Really commit to it. Do this with the intention that it will put you in touch with the underlying anxiety or uncertainty that you’ve been avoiding. Do it and see what you discover.

From Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, page 36.

GIVEAWAY
Do you accept this challenge from Pema to work with one of your habits? If so, comment below and tell us about your experience. Next week, one commenter will be chosen to receive a free copy of Living Beautifully. This contest is now closed. Congrats to Eileen! Thanks, everyone, for sharing your journey with us.

158 thoughts on “Renounce One Thing

  1. I’ve been in a constant state of uneasy the last few weeks.. the change in season, a birthday, my children no longer requiring my full on attention & then this deep-seated longing for something more.. to feel awake & alive to have some meaning.. questioning, IS This it? In this state, I disappear, avoid and dodge by sleeping, escaping into the computer, cleaning, consider having an affair, and daydreaming. So instead of refraining (since the list seems all tied to the same fears/uneasy & I may just lean away from one and rely more on another one) I’ll make a commitment to take some breathes, sit with these feelings/thoughts and acknowledge what I’m doing.

  2. Turning around and facing it. That’s what I’m going to do. I will not turn to food as a pacifier. I will turn to face the challenges, so I can accept the lessons they’re teaching me. Food’s a distraction. Thank you :D

  3. It is not that i am unaware of using ‘distractions’ to avoid the underlying issues – in fact i am often aware that the choices i make are to do just that. This challenge of Pema’s brought a deeper awareness to me of the myriad of ways one can cover up the deeper scarier places. One day i gave up reading novels, one day watching TV. I have even been know to use my spiritual practice as a means of escape. Sometimes sitting and being with myself is the biggest teaching experience i can have, Thank you Pema for your pithy perspectives.

  4. Working toward a change in behavior, a habit you want to stop, or an addiction you need a break from, is a huge challenge. When the yearning comes, we experience discomfort. We want to scratch the itch. Being in that moment for longer than a few seconds, becoming familiar with it, is the answer. Pema reminds us to feel the pull of the urge to keep doing it the old way….and stay there for as long as it takes to let it go. I am then reminded of the pull it had on me…at least until it comes again. I always want to hurry and get to the solution, when “the way” to the solution is the lesson.
    This requires great patience, for me. A lesson that comes later in life, after exhausting all else.

  5. I want to offer my gratitude to all those who commented before me. I feel connected because I share so many of the same challenges, and here we are, willing to make a change, and face our discomfort. I draw courage and inspiration from all of you, and thank you for sharing.
    Today, I commit to re-focusing when I compare myself to others. When I find myself doing it, I will take that moment to rest in a thought of gratitude and appreciation for something in my good life.
    Supporting you all,
    Susan

  6. Coffee. No coffee today. Good thing I found this post in time. Coffee is not my friend, and despite how good it tastes and how much I appreciate the ritual, it generally leaves me feeling anxious and annoyed later in the day. Which is a bit ironic, because I often mistake those feelings for passion, and efficiency. So, no coffee today. This will be an adventure.

  7. I decided to give up analyzing. Analyzing makes me feel momentarily safe stuck in a pile of garabge. If I stop that one thing all the rest of the parade of energetic craziness can’t get off the ground because it has nothing solid to motivate it. To not analyze then gives me a quiet inside that is unfamiliar. I have no idea what I don’t know until I am quiet enough to hear it.

  8. I will give up speaking from fear – fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being hurt….I will speak from an open heart.

  9. So much to focus on… I think I have been hiding.

    I’m renouncing carrying a book with me at all times: it’s a diversion from busy thoughts, and not a good distraction for down times while I wait.
    I too will commit to sit with my feelings.

  10. There are so many possibilities of things that I could give up, but a good first step is my personal computing at night when I get home from work.

  11. Yes I accept the challenge and the experience has been one of growth and acceptance…letting go and just being present.

  12. Renouncing one thing might be hard for us all; but truly is in the best interest of all. I know how connected we are to each other and find when I continually hold on to something negative; it then effects all that I am associated with. I have an issue with a family member. When I let the issues of this family member invade my sacred space; all around me become effected by this too. So holding on to this negativity is not in my best interest or for the best interest of others who might be so dear to me. Renouncing this specific person’s negativity will lead me to true happiness and my happiness will be contagious to others. It is also like putting up a boundary line or a wall of protection to seal in my sacred space and then all goodness will flow.

  13. Just the thought of not checking my emails for a day brings up a feeling of uneasiness. When I recently went on holiday I noticed how I am perfectly happy to be away from a computer and vowed to myself not to check my emails so often and spend less time on the internet when I get back. Even though I spend less time at the moment I still feel that when I do it is often out of compulsion. To try to refrain for one day seems like a gentle way to experiment how it would feel to do without.

  14. Since January 2012 – I am the sole caretaker of my 87 yr old uncle. An uneducated, illiterate man who was never stood up to by his wife. Suffering from dementia. It is the biggest challenge I have EVER encountered.
    I do all I can to keep things to myself because sharing the experience (venting) only brings the same poisonous toxins into my friends’ lives.
    Trying to forget the bad words, the painful experiences…. it’s a constant struggle to keep it from becoming intolerable.

  15. Good challenge….makes u look at urself more…makes me tell myself..see .u can do it…u will be ok.. and it has been easier to continue the next day n the next….pretty cool…..thank u for nudge, something we all need from time to time!

  16. Even thinking about this brings up my anxiety. What to choose? Talking about other people when they are not here. In a new situation in medical school there is a lot of that going around. I dont want to participate in that.

  17. i am going to make a concerted effort to give up my feelings of entitlement and resentment that arise when i think of something charitable to do … to further give up being selfish and become more accepting of a long term goal of finding peace & acceptance in the impermanent aspects of my life, to let go of anger daily & try to open to Divine Love, regardless.

  18. I make a commitment to refrain from excuses – those little lies I tell myself and other to cover up, hide, mask, fuzzily, confuse and dismiss responsibilities, duties, promises I have failed to meet, whether in my own relationship to myself, to my soul, and in my relationships to other.

  19. I will give up my negative thoughts that run through my mind continuously. I will not focus on the bad in my life and will focus on what is good. I know to make change in my life I need to change my focus. I will do this for a day, I hope!

  20. Giving up One Thing–seems doable. I will give up Solitaire on my phone, a time suck of very dubious value. After I submit this comment I wilk delete the app. That will help me stay on track!!

    Just one little thing…..

  21. Even the thought of being in that uncomfortable place is scary. I am gong to give up for one day feeling like I am in competition with my husband. That I must prove my worth through my career. I will be proud of my gifts, strengths and know they are beautiful and exactly the the way they are suppose to be. I will be fully that and not something else.

  22. What a great approach. I will give up my much loved glass of wine after work for one day and think about the reasons why I need it so much.

  23. Too busy. Avoidance. I keep myself busy then I am too tired to take the time during the day (evening) to be quiet and reflect. I will gently but firmly renounce the fast flow of time during my day by slowing it down. I will quiet myself several times throughout the day by using a timer (on my watch), so I can recognize the flow of unnecessary thoughts, the “chatter” that feeds my mind and makes my life busy and stressful. Slowing the mind by using the breathe and focus on it even only one minute, 60 seconds at the time, ten deep breathes are enough to calm my mind and then ask: Is this really what I want or need to do? Is this bringing me closer to where I long to be? Am I being mindful right now? One minute. In only one minute, I calm myself enough to be able to recognize what I’m running away from… I need to give the chatter up because it is preventing me to see my life clearer. As I practice this one-minute quiet moment in this one day (today), throughout the day, I then, hopefully more and more will be able to recognize the forgotten powers I have inside me, like courage, and will be aware that I can manipulate my reactions to anxiety by facing what scares me and knowing I will also be brought the help I need…. and eventually come face to face with my true self and rediscover my self-worth and what my life is supposed to be and go for it!

  24. inspiring. i will stay present to the inner anxiety when i catch it. During my walks i will try to notice my busy mind trying to divert my attention from the inner sensation of fear. Usually i think of other people, which can fool me into thinking i am kind, done habiltually, it indicates my escape from feelings and sensation.

  25. This is indeed a thoughtful and helpful exercise. Last Friday, 9/28, I stayed off the computer for a day. It was liberating in a strong way. I will do the same this Friday and try to incorporate Friday computer-less days.

  26. I feel especially led to do this because as a mental health/substance abuse counselor I am constantly asking people to do just this. To experience their feelings, without numbing them, and realize they will not be consumed by them. This is a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach daily. I will commit to a day free of electronics, because it is my current way of numbing out. I commit to doing this on 10/6/12, which will particularly challenging since it’s a Saturday, when I tend to do most of my “surfing.” This will mean no Facebook, email, surfing the internet, scrabble on my phone, or texting. I’m already feeling anxious and thinking about something I can do to distract myself :)

  27. I will stop pressing the ‘snooze’ on my alarm clock. I will just get out of bed the first time the alarm goes off on weekdays.

  28. I have been ill for the last 4 months. I’ve had to completely change my eating habits which is helping a lot. My last hold-out to mindLESS eating/drinking is Starbucks’ lattes. These are NOT good for me (either the coffee or the milk) and yet I’m struggling with letting go of the habit. I beat myself up for not having willpower. So, I will do this one day at a time – with gentleness and lovingkindness. ♥

  29. I am deeply grateful for this challenge, and for each of you who shared your response to it. Even thinking about giving up the habitual escapes brings instant anxiety. I know I’m using technology to escape feelings and to create an illusion of connection to others. I am choosing this Sunday, Oct 7 to have an internet and email free day and spend the time being present to whatever arises in me and in my environment. I will be mindful between now and then and seek to have minimal use and only after first connecting to see if there are feelings I’m looking to escape.

  30. I gave up Facebook and Twitter a few weeks ago, and it’s been challenging but I’m glad I did it. I was feeling too compelled to broadcast my negative thoughts to the world. Also, they were both huge time wasters at work. We’ll see how long this lasts.

  31. This is very up for me right now. My habit is the screen. I noticed when I didn’t want to be present with something difficult I was looking at two screens at once. I have been working on it, one day a week is a good, manageable start.

  32. I will work to accept that I cannot control that which is outside of me. My hardships are directly tied to the desire to have control over people and outcomes. I can only control my behavior and how I react to events and situations. Progress through practice.

  33. I share my intention to be mindful about how I spend my unscheduled hours at home after work, so that I may truly refresh and restore myself. Thanks!

  34. While traveling recently, I was discovered that staying connected via the internet was problematic. I decided that the people we were visiting were more important than my running to the internet cafe once a day. Even though I didn’t speak the language of our hosts,by spending time with them, and being fully present I ended up feeling more connected and learned many more words and phrases that I had on previous trips.
    More importantly, I have, as a result of this experience, been able to establish a better sense of balance between on line connections and present connections.

  35. Regardless of what I give up, be it cigars or visiting a certain spiritual forum, I notice the desire to smoke cigars and read and post on the forum comes from not being content with “what is” not being what I imagine “what is” is.
    So having observed this I am able to let go of expectations of what I ‘think’ a clear mind might bring.
    The problem is that it still doesn’t bring any change….and then I gert bored…and then I light up and logon….lol

  36. When my work went against my heart, I gave up my fear of being unemployed and handed in my notice!

    Now I have to pick up my fear of uncertainty and travel with this as my companion on the way.

  37. “Nothing competes with habit”-Aimee Mann

    It is as if a sweaty, anguished and angst-ridden tug of war between mind and heart create this loathsome competition for the most vile part of the darkness inside of me. Some of it feels inexhaustible and yet I must try to calm my fears, my anxiety and my immense anger at all that has come my way this year.

  38. I will give up sugary based food and opt for healthier choices. I will start tommorrow since I had sugar in my coffee, one donut and 3 reeses pieces already. ;)

  39. When I get home from work, after I take my birds outside so they can perch to enjoy nature and fresh air, I tell myself how tired I am and how I just cannot go on, and I go to bed and turn on the television. This day, this is the day today, I will not recline and give up, I will stay out of the bedroom and use energy for anything other than watching television – for there is much to do at my house that, left undone, prevents me from enjoying my space and feeling alive. I will stay out of my pain cave today and live in my space.

  40. I have 3 habits I’ve recently identified I want to change. I have a chronic illness so I’m starting with sleep habits. Since insomnia is a big part of it, I’m committed to a bedtime within a half hour, meditating and looking into cd’s to listen to to fall asleep. There’s a lot of anxiety around sleep because of insomnia so I’m reaching for faith that with my efforts, it will become manageable… That and accepting that some nights just aren’t going to be so great.

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