Renunciation (zuhd) is the perfect discussion to begin the blessed month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a time when Muslims are asked to renounce food, drink and sex from sunrise to sunset every day for a lunar month. Many Muslims believe it is a time to renounce more than just physical habits, but unhealthy spiritual habits too like anger, resentment and being a slave to one’s lower impulses.
More than anything, Ramadan represents a time of spiritual heightening, when one can turn away from the physical realm and explore the radiance of the spiritual realm. The invitation is extended for one to transcend the self. In a month deemed sacred, when divine inspiration is within greater reach, the path laid out for Muslims is one of renunciation of anything that will, in its absence, provide room in the spiritual heart for the influx of divine grace and spiritual sustenance.
When the Sufis talk about renunciation, many are quick to point out that it is more than just the abstinence from food and wealth, or wearing coarse wool and thus renouncing the body through various means of self-mortification. Renunciation is really about acceptance of whatever happens to be in the present moment without seeking for more or fearing having less.
In other words, it is mindful presence.
“Renunciation is to free one’s heart of whatever one’s hands are already free of.”
What this means is that, whenever something happens to us, we allow it to leave us without letting a piece of our soul go along with it. It means that we allow the past to be the past, the future to be the future, and remain untouched by either to give our hearts the chance to be emptied of preoccupations that don’t serve us and remain centered on what is beyond space and time, beyond matter and form, beyond the life of the individual–that which is always free and always in bliss.
This release, this renouncing of the past and future, of all events that happened or will happen, requires an absolute trust (tawakkul) that we don’t need to control anything. That no matter what, we are fundamentally whole.
Ramadan is an invitation to a renunciation that allows us to enter into a presence upon which we can cultivate patience, gratitude and peace. Like a good teacher, Ramadan provides us with a nurturing environment for growth without forcing results. In our daily fast, we are invited to think beyond preoccupations with food and material comfort. And in our increased daily ritual practices, we are invited to step through to the world of the unseen.
Today, I give you a guided mindfulness meditation that encourages the cultivation of present mindedness to help you access a place you can retreat to whenever you find yourself being pulled outside of yourself (and away from the fundamental beauty of every experience–whether difficult or comfortable). This meditation follows the practice of mindfulness, which is very popular as a stress-reduction technique that I worked with in therapy last year when I was dealing with a lot of life changes I felt I couldn’t handle. More than stress-reduction, mindful meditation helps cultivate gratitude for all the little things, that which keeps you breathing, that which keeps you fundamentally whole. Mindfulness helps reduce the pull of the mind’s anxious ramblings and preoccupations so that you can learn to renounce the impact of external forces on your spiritual health and welcome in the medicine and the beauty of every moment that was given to you and you alone as a divine gift to help guide you on your path. This, for me, is the spirit of true renunciation and the path to spiritual wholeness.
Next, we explore the spiritual state of Love, the mystical path most associated with Rumi. Stay tuned!
Blessed Ramadan and warmest wishes to you all,
Bonus recommendation: I recently began reading Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. It is the perfect book to read during Ramadan if you are fasting! It explores how our relationship to food is a microcosm of the (sometimes harmful) beliefs that we live by, and can add a whole new dimension of spiritual contemplation and reflection this Ramadan that is directly tied to your fasting. If you read it, let me know what you think!
See my introduction to this series: The Sufi Journey through Yoga.