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.

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 vow for one day each week to give up my annoying habit of interrupting people and making cute and clever remarks for entertainment. I vow to allow the silence to be a restful space rather than an anxiety-creating space, be it ever so subtle an anxiety. I vow to allow the space to be filled with whatever shows up – be it comfort, discomfort, room to breathe or room to allow another to speak or not speak.

  2. I am a careful eater during the day, but in the evening I eat mindlessly, and I am always mad at myself the next day. But now, I’ll choose Wednesdays to maintain a mindful watch on my eating throughout the evening and see what feelings are sitting there under the food craving.

  3. I am working to do two things: my silly fascination with a video game, and my penetrating anger with a rather vicious neighbor. The video game is a day a week forbearance, and the other days I set a timer to limit myself.
    With the neighbor, she isn’t going to change, so I must. This will take hard work, to refuse to allow her attitude to poison my heart. I feel sorry for her, but I’m working to change my attitude to her.

  4. I will give up watching movies as a means to “tune out” when I find myself alone this coming Saturday. I instead will use the time to “tune in”. I know I need this time, but my feelings of anxiety and being uncomfortable has created a pattern of avoidance. Not this Saturday! I will take time for me instead of squandering it.

  5. I habitually watch tv to fall asleep at night. It distracted me from my racing thoughts enough to allow me to get to sleep.

    I took the challenge above one night, deciding to “stay” with the uncomfortable feelings I was trying to drown out with the TV.

    I discovered a couple things I was afraid of – like not having enough money, time & energy to make ends meet (I’m a single mother). This allowed me to step back and view my situation from a different perspective. I just had to do my best, and leave the results up to God. It helped me to trust God to provide for our needs, even on days when I was too tired to put my best foot forward.

    Since that ONE day that I took Pema’s challenge, I no longer NEED the TV to fall asleep. It’s been a week or two now.

    Thanks Pema!

  6. Pema Chodron has been one of my “teachers” since a friend gave me several cassette tapes of her talks when I was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer 13 years ago. I have since read most of her books, some more than once and have been on the Quote a Week email list for a couple years. Having just returned from a 5 day Sadhana Retreat (and a welcome break from internet, newspapers, cell phone, etc. during that time) the “renounce once thing” advice was perfect since I was already experiencing a liberating spaciousness in my mind and body, in part, because of that “media fast.” I know I will benefit greatly by a regular practice in this regard, along with eating less food in a slower and more consciously aware and grateful way. Thank you!

  7. Late at night I feel my losses and eat.The thinking needs to be changed and the eating over it.. 2 challenges. Which comes first the chicken or the egg? I’ll stop the eating and see what shifts.This all comes with fatigue. So maybe…. the habit of not going to sleep when tired is really the thing to change.Lot’s to think on.

  8. I plan on giving up so much anxiety and worrying that I have been living with for decades. I know it is so fruitless to carry this baggage with me, but that is the nature of this type of baggage, it stays nevertheless. No longer.

  9. I have been looking at my many habits every day, and choosing one to dispense with for each day. They are all hard, but each time I let one go, I feel a sense of freedom.

  10. I love this challenge! I am new to Pema’s Quote of the Week emails, but so far I’ve found great value in each of them. Today I am challenging myself to refrain from mindlessly snacking. I’ve found myself doing this most evenings as a way of avoiding thinking about and processing the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings floating around in my head. Tonight I will instead sit with them and really listen to what is making me so uncomfortable. 🙂

  11. I have many habits but the one I truly ache to work with compassionately is overeating. I am not overweight, quite a happy individual who enjoys dancing with myself for hours in the garden; learning new yoga poses and I always get excited about going up a hill with a bicycle. My urge to eat more than I need is something I think started when I was young , its a combination of If I dont eat it all someone else will and Maybe I wont have anything to eat soon so I might as well stock up. There is for sure addiction to sugar there as well, no surprise. I am sure a lot of people have issues with their relationship with food. The only way I have been able to be a happy veggie-fruit-beans-nuts-seeds only eater is when I dont have anything apart from those ingredients at home. At the moment I am living with my surrogate family and they have a lot of food that I know is not good for my body (when I dont feel nor look healthy because of what I eat) and I find it hard to resist when its always there.
    So this is something I would like to work with with the help from Pema.


  12. I just had a hip replacement and have had lots of time to be home. I thought it would be easy to sit and meditate and reflect. I have found that my thought patterns have gone haywire. I am in the past with negative thoughts, in the future with what might happen, I have conversations in my mind with people I have been angry at. I think I use this as an escape to not be alone with myself and not be in the present moment.
    This message is perfect for today. I will take today as today and reread this message and begin a positive change in my life.

  13. I have always been an obsessive news and information junkie. While I have not watched television for 10 years, I do have subscriptions to both satellite radio services. The radio is on all day long, and I find myself actually structuring my day around program schedules. So about one year ago I began implementing “Thoughtless Thursdays” – one day each week wherein I do not turn on the radio or the computer. I remember being “edgy” the first few weeks, but now I actually look forward to this one day when I can be fully present to myself and others. It has also tamed my appetite for information on the other six days of the week, and has led me to be more productive.

  14. On September 15th I gave up meat, soda, fast food, and most of the foods I am allergic to. Dairy and Coffee are coming up soon on the 15th of this month. I have been using foods to escape and punish myself for some time now and have decided it must stop now. I have been trying to use the opportunity to stay in the uncomfortable feelings I get when I have cravings to help me with another escape I have been working on for years now.

    I have also been working on giving up “lashing out” at others or myself when I am feeling particularly groundless. I have been working on this one for 3 years now. Initially I was happy to just make it one day. Now, I make it for a week, a month sometimes longer and then I miss catching that initial “trigger” within myself and I lash out again. By lashing out at myself and others around me, I am trying to put the ground under my feet. But I don’t like it, it is not okay for me to do, is counter-productive, and I don’t have to continue doing it. So I am working on getting comfortable with the feeling and just feeling it instead of reacting to the feeling. I will get there one day!

    Having been “blessed” with having vast amounts groundlessness for years now and I struggle with just accepting it. While I am becoming more accustomed to it, I have not learned to relish it, to enjoy the weightlessness again, yet. I want to once again relish the feeling and be grateful that the small amount of ground I have under my feet is constantly moving. And not being afraid of falling through the “holes” anymore. Interestingly, there was a time when it did not faze me at all. When I was younger, before I had a child, being groundless was an adventure, I relished it, I loved learning new things and meeting new people. It was okay when I slept in my car. It did not bother me one bit only living a small amount of time here or there. I had a serious case of wanderlust. Ground? That is what I use to propel myself off in new directions. It does not have to stay under me at all, upside is awesome!, new view point. Water is nifty too; I float on water. If I could only learn to fly…

    Then, after having a child my mindset changed to, it is not okay. There must be stability, I must always know when things are coming and prepare for them coming. I am not okay with not knowing when there is another life dependent on me. And that is the underlying anxiety.

    I wish I had some great pearl of wisdom to pass on from what I have learned however, I don’t. Just more questions. Perhaps it was upbringing that speaks “”You must know, you must plan, there must be …” when you have a child. Perhaps it is just because I am miserable not being free to explore the world around me, or I feel I am not allowed to while raising a child. Perhaps I have been putting myself in a self-imposed prison. Perhaps I just need to figure out a new way to explore standing still, in one spot. Perhaps…

    There probably is not just one answer and much exploring to do of the ones I have thus far. I imagine I will be “learning” truths from this experience for many years to come. And I would not want it any other way.

  15. I want to give up my poverty mind thinking. When I get stuck worrying about all that I don’t have, I will take a moment to sur with the anxiety of not knowing what comes next.
    Instead of projecting all this fear onto the future, I will take time to sit in the tension of the moment.
    I also will practice being grateful for what I DO have.

  16. A major addiction of mine is to react to the shenpa of wanting to blame the other, the entire rest of “them” whenever i am the one who address whatever anxiety or sense of rejection, exclusion I may be feeling. I saw myself in this today and resolve to be more aware of it in the future. Instead of spewing my emotions about others, stop. Breathe. Let go of the attachment I have to the problem being in “the other”. Wish me luck!

  17. I will stay positive all day at work and only express nice things about the day. It will be a challenge since I deliver the mail and we are being buried in political mail.

  18. I am ready to modify my habit of saying ‘No’ rather instinctively. I want to embrace the practice of saying Yes to what I do want and what serves my higher purpose. It’s much easier to focus on what I don’t want and to announce those feelings than to own what I do want. I want to practice being more authentic and less afraid with my own desires.

  19. I will give up using curse words and each time I start to think or speak a negative word I will take a deep breath and center myself.

  20. I am going to give up using the computer for one day. Even saying it here makes me feel anxious, lol. I know it is easy for me to escape into virtual world so that I don’t have to face my feelings. Being with this may become a practice I will try and do more often.

  21. I’m ready to give up “overwhelm” and “confusion,” two go-to places for my mind to rest… and to make a whole-hearted relationship with the stuff underneath.

  22. I really appreciated this excerpt from the book ~ it was meaningful to me and I shared it with a close friend. I gave up mindlessly munching after dinner last night; it’s a habit I have when handling work at home in the evenings. It was a relief not to mindlessly munch, as I always give myself a hard time after I do it. Last night, I skipped the munching and the self-critique, too. Thank you, Pema.

  23. I have a condition called trichotillomania which causes me to pull out my eyelashes when I feel the effects of anxiety or depression. Through reading Buddhist teachings such as those of Pema Chodren, I have learned to sit with these feelings of being ungrounded and confusion. So, although I still fall into the trap of pulling my eyelashes, I will continue to try to catch myself and honor the reality, instead of avoiding it.

  24. This is good timing. I will give up and detox from over-analyzing my new ex to find all the things wrong with him, stop blaming him, and in general stop thinking about him. This is my way of not having to face something very scary – myself, being alone, the hurt of rejection, and fear of the unknown. Just as I can place my focus back on my breath, setting an intention to be aware of those thoughts can hopefully prevent me from getting hooked. Or noticing i’m hooked and let go. Just for today. One 24-hour period. Just like they say in AA… I’ll start fresh tomorrow morning since I can work from home and won’t have to explain tears.

  25. Practicing wise speech, I give up gossiping about others. Choosing instead to remember that we are all in this together and to practice kind regard for all, including myself.

  26. I’m struck by the instruction to gently and compassionately refrain from an action or activity. I will refrain from facebook on October 4, and do it gently and compassionately, without judgement for how much time I spend there.

  27. On the drive home from work tonight I was thinking about trying to discontinue that “after work drink” that has become customary every work night over the last few months. I pondered what purpose it serves that compels and tried to think what I could do to replace the habit. I opened my email and read “Renounce One Thing”! I resolve to not have that drink tomorrow night, and do some journal work or meditation instead, and see where that leads.

  28. To be able to participate and feel the support in this simple task and not to complicate the task. Sitting with myself with patience and compassion and to wait to see who is there.

  29. Truly listen and allow silence before I respond.
    With my children, husband , friends and students.
    Truly experience the gap and let the answer arise out of the silence. Refrain from immediate advice.

  30. I am ready to realize that caffeine affects me in a negative fashion and doesn’t let me listen to the inner “me”. It is merely a distraction, a drug that I don’t need in my body. I don’t like the disquieted mind that I am faced with if I indulge in caffeine.

  31. I just started this (because I listened to the audiobook of Pema’s called “Getting Unstuck”). I used to come home EVERY day after work & drink 2-3 glasses of wine to relieve stress. It was very effective because I felt much less stressed, almost immediately. However, I realized I was spending my life zoned out. The habitual behavior is very strong! I am trying to learn to move closer to the uncomfortable feelings I have, but it is very difficult.

  32. What a wonderful challenge. I’ve been working on refraining from drowning my mind with the TV and computer in the evenings. It seems that at nighttime, after the busyness of the day has settled and the darkness sets in, my mind freaks out. I get anxious, scared, lonely, etc., and I cover it up with mindless internet searching and TV watching. Needless to say, this leaves me dissatisfied, exhausted, even MORE anxious, and disappointed in myself. Since reading this encouragement from Pema in my email, I’ve made some significant improvements. First, I stopped doing TV and computer at the same time, then I cut back to where I can turn them off and pick up a book or just sit instead. It’s been much more calming and I’m finding once I take the action of shutting them off, the hard part is done and I can “relax with what is.” Pema scores again 😉

  33. I really appreciated this excerpt. Last night, I gave up late night over-munching, which is a habit I sometimes get into when handling office work at home. It was good to not overeat ~ and also good not to end up in a self-critical mode. Thank you, Pema.

  34. I am giving up computer games for a day – October 4. I love that instruction to gently and compassionately work with refraining from playing, so I will be gracious about letting go, and grateful for the opportunity, as well as noticing but not judging myself if I want to play.

  35. I am giving up my tendency to arrange a situation to fit with how my thoughts wanted it to be. I am sitting back and allowing that situation to be what it is.

  36. i recently renounced a major (unnamed) addictive behavior just over two weeks ago. as time has passed, and my energy lightens, i find that i’m now addressing unhealthy eating habits. thank you for your blog, it came at just the right time ( as all things do, hmmm). so, tomorrow (perhaps 1 day a week), i’ll not eat when driving.

  37. I am a boomer use to dancing every night. There are lots of good benefits to dancing. However, I think I went too far, so that my life was not balanced. Dancing came first before friends, family and work commitments. Now, I don’t go out every night, stay home much more, even the Fridays and Saturdays when everyone goes out, home alone, feeling all the stuff come up, when one is quiet and alone, I don’t watch tv, though the Internet sort of replaces that now, I have meditated for over three decades. In recent years, I now see that, I had a dance addiction, I use to joke that I had a dance addiction, but when my life was hit with “tsunamis”, my anchor was dancing, or I thought, so I have been not dancing more than dancing and noting my feelings, attachments, withdrawals, sadness, not hearing from dance friends, regrets of not spending more time on family and a home. This exercise is valuable for me to get to know who I am and my place as each moment arises, changing.

  38. I plan on sitting with certain negative feelings, staying curious about them, reserving judgment, and seeing what happens. I know it will be difficult, but freeing. Wheee!

  39. I haven’t been on facebook for a week and have been surfing the net at least socially a lot less. When I gave up smoking 6 years ago, I replaced that with eating & when I noticed I replaced the eating with surfing, now I’m trying not to replace that space with anything other than perhaps rest & contemplation. I lead a busy life and need more time to be still rather then fritter it away, it is an interesting process.

  40. I will continue to re-align my posture, adjusting my pelvis and allowing my hip bones more space. In this way I will be able to walk more comfortably and freely.
    Thank you for your challenge and implied support!

  41. Thank you for this challenge! I will give up procrastination – oh boy, that’s a big one for me so therefore it definitely deserves renunciation. Good luck to all!

  42. I will give up Facebook for the day and use that time to pay attention to my spouse and work on our relationship instead of avoiding it.

  43. What a great challenge! A habit that I’d like to address with myself is not setting healthy boundaries, whether it’s with my eating habits, how I speak to others or approaching daily tasks–it seems that I have consistently failed to set any particular goals, resulting in sloth and laziness on my part. Pema Chodron is a beautiful author and I hope that this book could discuss ways to embrace resolve while watching habits like sloth and idleness closely.

  44. I am ready to clear my mind of the “committee” in my head that is constantly chattering, judging, quick to make comments, assessing, interpreting a situation. Then I develop a feeling immediately from this chatter. That feeling could be an instant interpretation of who someone is when that is NOT who they are. A feeling over the temperature of my bosses mood. I internalize what I think is going on making what her outside looks like about me. When she may have something going on that is not at all about me. I resolve today to work to block the committee in my head internalizing those feelings into thoughts about people and surroundings. I will chant, hum or mantra to quite the internal gauge.

  45. I have, for several days now undertaken the challenge of giving up my habitual and most often negative comment making; where i judge others to the point of distracting from my own presence in my mind….simply being there. This behaviour is self distractive, it makes me unhappy and unpleasant to be around, whether these thoughts are spoken or not.
    As i make this effort, I am surprised at how frequently I return to the act. I
    When i do find myself being judgemental, I remind myself that I’ve chosen to give that up, try to dispense with self judgement and criticism, in general, and start fresh.
    I am learning from Pema’s teachings to be compassionate with myself, a slow and informative process. As i develop compassion for myself, I find it much easier to be compassionate to others, to be gentle and loving with all living beings.
    This challenge has mage me aware of how very much time I spend reflecting on the behaviour of others’ and how much I allow the behaviour of others to influence my life…and how much iI want to continue to get to know myself, to be kind to everyone, including me…., to learn to live beautifully.
    It is a challenge that will require a good deal of time, just part of a continual process to eliminate the many behaviours I use to get away from myself.
    Thank you Pema, for your teachings.

  46. I am/have been struggling and working with my tendency to overeat as a reaction to the daily anxiety I have in dealing with my physical body and the general discomfort with being in this world. I overeat in order to numb myself and distract from uncomfortable physical discomfort as well as emotional uncertainty. I am trying to find other ways to deal with these anxieties such as performing yoga and meditating. It is a slow process but I am determined to keep moving ahead from here.

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