Renunciation is the devotional act of giving up earthly, sensory pleasures, and is commonly associated with monks and ascetics. As a spiritual seeker who found a solid path after having a family, I have in the past been left wondering if there is a ceiling on what my progress can be. How high can I climb up the mountain of progress considering I can't devote large swaths of time daily to meditation like those in an ashram can?
I know many people who have had the same internal struggles. They wonder if they are devoting themselves to the correct life by being "in the world." This is where karma comes into play. We come into this life with unsettled debts, so to speak, and those shape our lives to a large extent. If it were my karma to live in an ashram because that was the type of life I was supposed to lead, I would have found my path before I was ingrained in family life. That is such a monumental decision that the universe would not have let things unfold the way they have if in fact I was supposed to be in an ashram. I would have been thwarted at every turn as I prepared to get married and throughout my marriage, as we planned for and had children, and with my work endeavors over time. Imagine the negative karma that would automatically be accrued if I turned my back on my family to become a renunciate. Abandoning my family would certainly not help my spiritual progress - not only do I have no desire to do that, but they would be left with the pain of picking up the pieces and I would then add that onto my karmic debt. So, part of my sadhana, or spiritual practice, is my family. It is using the teachings within my family structure - putting them into practice as I move through life with my family members.
I write this because I have talked to "householders," or non-renunciate spiritual seekers, who do seem a bit confused about whether they are missing out on their true opportunity to really live the yogic teachings because they came onto their path too late give everything up and live in an ashram. In the end we must remember that the whole point of the teachings is to get us into higher consciousness. We do that through meditation, but we also do that through right action. Even when we are in the world we get opportunities all day long to have positive interactions and to choose the right actions to support our spiritual growth. The key is, as they say, to be in the world but not of the world. Your duties, responsibilities, recreation, etc, are in the regular world, but you are ever-reaching with an open heart on your spiritual climb.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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