A Sweet New Year

September 29, 2014

In the Jewish tradition, this is the time of year for reflection, renunciation and renewal; the celebration of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Reflecting on our lives as they are now, letting go of old hurts by seeking connection and understanding with those we love and even those we don’t, and going forward into the New Year with clarity, kindness and optimism.


During these holidays, it’s traditional to wish each other the blessing of a “sweet new year” and seal it by eating apples dipped in honey. I love that. Whether I receive or offer this blessing, it always makes me feel warm and cared for, and the apples are delicious, too.


In the Buddhist tradition, Renunciation is the third of the Paramis, the perfections or beautiful aspects of the heart and mind. It follows Generosity and Morality. Sometimes we think of renunciation as giving up our luxuries and comforts, stripping down to the bare essentials of our lives into our own definitions of austerity. And there are times when this exploration can help us access and understand ourselves in new and instructive ways.


I think of renunciation as letting go of the aspects or habits in my life that really don’t support my well-being. This is a cornerstone of practice; showing up for what’s there, seeing it, feeling it, understanding it. Renunciation invites a certain kind of discipline and determination to adjust, and ultimately the freedom to make clear, wise, skillful choices.


This brings us back to the Buddha’s compass question from last week. “What when I do it, will be for my long-term welfare and happiness?” Inherent in that question is this: what can I let go of or give away that will add to my clarity or benefit another? Can we see that generosity and morality are indeed facets of renunciation and that all three are mutually dependent? By committing to practicing the ethics of non-harming, we are by definition practicing renunciation.


A few years ago my husband gave me a birthday card on the front of which was a beautiful print of a Western Tanager perched on a branch, one of my favorite birds. The caption said “Look Forward Brightly.” I framed the card and it hangs above my desk so I see it every day. Whatever your tradition, I wish you a very sweet year ahead filled with care and kindness, looking forward brightly.