Deeper Perception Made Practical

Sense of Self Reveals: Are you a Renunciate or a Householder?


Lately we have been having blog conversations around sense of self. This morning I woke up with a “Boing!”-type thought about something AMANDA wrote yesterday. In her Comment #3 at Extra-credit points from being an empath, she wrote:

“… when I do think about identity at the moment it just becomes one set of ‘Well, it’s for sure not that, or this’ after another – leaving me feeling more and more comfortably separate from what you call the ‘workaround sense of identity’.”

Context for identity, or sense of self, often comes down to spiritual path. Many paths for spiritual development today are for renunciates, while others are for householders. Not that either is necessarily well labeled.

Today’s post will explore ways that a person might experience sense of identity, or definition of self, related to the single most important choice you will ever make in your lifestyle. Are you a householder or a renunciate?

Householder or renunciate, what’s the diff?

By definition, a householder positions consciousness in life to be out in the world, a human among humans. Householders engage in activities like these:

  • Developing personal friendships, engaging fully in family relationships
  • Pursuing ambitions, interests, and hobbies
  • Exploring sex and intimacy
  • Making money, enjoying shopping,

By contrast, a renunciate (or recluse or monk, or nun, or celibate-type priest) positions consciousness with God front and center. Renunciates engage in activities like these:

To put this distinction into the language of mottoes:

A Householder Motto might be, “I really, really enjoy everything about my human life. God matters most, but I’m celebrating that relationship through everything about my human life.”

A Renunciate Motto might be, “I love you God and want nothing else to stand in the way.”

Beware life in the middle

Compromise is a great thing. Mostly. But confusion results from taking some elements of householder along with elements of renunciate and mixing them together.

Results of living in the middle include a disappointing love life, decreased success in career, diminished ability to make money, feelings of failure despite working so very hard, sending out a very mixed message to the Universe. And every one of the people you meet.

At the level of auric modeling, the push-pull is evident. Often, the spiritual seeker develops a spiritual addiction… as part of the educational experience.

I believe I have the standing to make this observation because I have been there.

Long story short, I lived as a clueless sort of householder up until 21 when I began a meditation technique that claimed to be for householders but really was for renunciates. I lived more and more in the middle until age 23, when I shifted quite fully into being a renunciate.

Thanks to awesome healer and Wholeness Practitioner, Joanna Lester (my original teacher for cutting cords of attachment), my attention was drawn to a deep conflict of interest that, consciously, I had overlooked. At 40 years of age, I was pursuing a love relationship yet still had the loyalties of a renunciate. In fact, I still was using a recluse mantra for meditation that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had given me, after years of pleading. In short, I had slipped back into the middle again.

Thanks to Joanna, I moved clearly into the householder lifestyle.

Fast forward to this year, becoming an Enlightenment Coach at 64. Now I appreciate more than ever the importance of exploring differences between Householder Enlightenment and Enlightenment for Renunciates.

Although I personally have chosen the former, I have huge respect for the latter. As you might expect.

AMANDA and I have enjoyed sending comments back and forth about poetry recently. Starting with her gorgeous poem at Comment 128 at For Empath Empowerment, Quiz Yourself.

Well, I remember standing in front of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at a course for TM teachers and reading out a poem in honor to his guru, Brahmananda Saraswati.

You made the wilderness your home.

While I am wondering, from my city, what it means to be alone.

Tell me what it means to be alone.

And that was the heartfelt refrain, “Tell me what it means to be alone.”


Trust me, in the years that followed, I learned very well. As a person living in the middle.

What’s wrong with living in the middle?

Great confusion about personal identity, for starters.

  • Householders have a sense of self as householders. “I enjoy this and have that.”
  • Renunciates have a sense of self as “I am not this, not that. All I want is God.”
  • In the middle, “I am trying to enjoy this and have that, only it never really satisfies me.”

The pain only grows worse, until a person makes a choice and follows either the householder or the renunciate path with clarity.

Confusion at Earth School includes wrong labels

Earth School: That’s the big one room schoolhouse all of us inhabit. Every single soul, here for learning… something.

And, like it or not, the grades are not labeled properly.

This lack of labeling especially shows up in spiritual and psychic practices. Often at this blog, I’ve discussed this. The theme also runs through books like “Use Your Power of Command for Spiritual Cleansing and Protection” and “Magnetize Money with Energetic Literacy.”

  • Spiritual seekers can be pulled into The Romance of the Astral, being told this equates with finding God.
  • Psychic development practices can be taught as a sort of shortcut to God via seeking messages from angels.
  • Spiritual addiction can be confused with spiritual Enlightenment.

Good thing that you have self-authority, Blog-Buddies. Self-authority helps a person to discern what a teacher or path really offers.

Self-authority helps someone to find the courage to face facts in objective reality. Spiritual practices are usually described in subjective terms. But the householder vs. renunciate choice is not only subjective. It impacts objective reality and a person’s standing in material life.

With self-authority, you can explore what the human consequences really are from following a path that (correctly or not) is labeled “A Householder Path to Enlightenment.”

In addition to using self-authority about one’s current lifestyle and values, it is so useful to develop skills of Stage Three Energetic Literacy. That way, you can explore your own chakra databanks and monitor the progress you’re making.

If there’s a huge emotional charge over doing aura reading research on a particular theme, or you simply haven’t developed energetic literacy yet, that’s where you might choose a session of Energy Spirituality. During your phone call, or session in person, just say that you want Enlightenment Coaching. Or request aura reading research on various choices you have been making.

A classic technique illustrates the difference between renunciate and householder

A classic meditation technique has a different spin, depending on that householder-or-reunciate orientation.

My very first meditation experience, for instance, occurred in a college classroom in 1967. It was a psychology or sociology course; I’m not sure which. I liked the professor and the class, but it wasn’t one of my standout experiences at Brandeis.

This does seem an ungrateful way to acknowledge my first meditation teacher ever. Yet it’s the truth.

Here’s what happened. As we sat at our desks, the teacher had us close our eyes. He had us notice one level of life at a time. For instance:

“Notice how your body is sitting here right now. But you are not your body.

“Notice how you have a mind that is thinking. But you are not your mind.”

We continued in this manner until we reached that innermost destination, pure silence. That, we were told, was The Self. Who you really are.

“How lovely,” I thought. The full experience was so clear and delightful.

Actually, this was a clear and delightful introduction to a spiritual path of renunciation. Where all you are is spirit and consciousness and energy. The human bits are just a shell.

Talk to anyone who lives in the middle, or a renunciate, about how much that human life is valued and guess what? I suspect that most will express a happy looking forward to the time called “Drop the body.” (Known to householders as “Death.”)

Transcendental Meditation, powerful but confusing

“TM is for householders. The technique supports householders. The mantras chosen as part of the technique are for householders.”

How often I was told that, starting in 1968, at my first Introductory Lecture on Transcendental Meditation. And how often I would say the same thing, serving Maharishi as a TM initiator for so many years.

TM is an extremely powerful technique, and I owe a great deal to it. However, many lies were taught as part of TM.

In hindsight, I don’t blame Maharishi one bit, not for anything. In hindsight, I suspect that all those millions of new TM initiates, plus TM teachers like me who “Rounded our brains out” by doing TM and yoga asanas for as many hours as possible, day after day, on official TM courses… we cleared out enough astral STUFF to make a big difference in the world.

Personally, I feel our big mission was to avert World War III. And we do seem to have succeeded. Not that Maharishi ever mentioned this in my hearing, not even once. And I have spent over a year of my life, in total, literally in the room with him, legs crossed, listening to his discourses.

However, a great deal of confusion was created because TM really does produce renunciates. The technique causes people to live more and more in the middle unless they wind up going over entirely to a renunciate lifestyle. And the mantras chosen are for renunciates just as much as for householders.

So Candy Crowley, who moderated the recent Presidential Debate, has famously started TM. She has done so as a householder. If she really keeps up, over the years, what awaits her? I suspect, her career will be based more and more on the lifestyle of a renunciate.

Other sweet attempts to make householders into renunciates

The age of the great gurus is past. But starting with Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, a series of Indian yogis impacted Western civilization in a very powerful way. The list includes Yogi Bhajan, Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj — a.k.a. Kripalu, Swami Satchitananda — the founder of Integral Yoga, Sri Chinmoy, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

I’m not sure about Yogi Bhajan, the Kundalini Yoga master, but the rest were definitely from lineages of renunciates.

Within TM, explaining the difference between householder and renunciate wasn’t always straightforward. Maharishi solved the problem by, well, lying.

Yogananda was more an advocate of living in the world as a householder while personally being a recluse.

How well does that work?

  • If folks pursue such a lifestyle as living in the middle, the results are disappointing.
  • Others may, instead, develop the hybrid lifestyle of appearing to be a renunciate while presenting “householder” to the world. That would be more successful. And expedient. (Although not necessarily honest by Rose Rosetree’s personal standards.)

Not that all teachers of renunciation come from India. Any monestery or religious order for renunciates is… for  renunciates. And often the esoteric version of the religion or path involves renunciation; this is kept secret from the newcomers.

Back in the day, when I did workshops for various New Age centers, I met many sorta-householders. One explained to me that she and her husband hadn’t made love in 15 years. From what I remember, she shrugged off this quintessentially householder activity as “unevolved.”

Layers of Self Technique for a Householder

Another version of the classic layers-of-self technique was presented to me when I studied with Teaching of the Inner Christ in 1985. You can find it outlined in “Being a Christ,” such as Page 13, “Levels of Sensitivity.”

Body, mind, emotions, inner knowing, etc. are each experienced in turn as “I am” or components of personal identity. For TIC, the self is a jumping-off place for conscious channeling of the Divine. And nobody I have encountered teaches this better!

My work emphasizes human, householder life. Increasingly, I see the work with energetic literacy and Energy Spirituality as part of a larger project, being an Enlightenment Coach to join with all who are helping millions of people to attain spiritual Enlightenment in this lifetime, and to do it as householders.

No surprise, I have adapted the classic layers-of-self technique as part of my method of Empath Empowerment(R). It’s the “Coming Home” technique in “Empowered by Empathy.” And the point is to not only claim layers of self as a householder but to awaken a fuller, stronger sense of identity. This shift in consciousness can help to turn an empath’s gift(s) OFF.

Draw the conclusion for yourself

Because nothing can be more personal.

For householders, layers of self are framed differently than for renunciates.

  • For renunciates, layers of self are, “Not me, not me, not me. Spirit counts, alone, as my true self.”
  • For householders and skilled empaths, layers of self are, “Me, me, me, me, me, all the way through spirit.”

Two glorious paths. Choose one. Just beware the middle.

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  1. 1
    Jean says:

    Thank you Rose for writing on the pertinent topic of
    “Householder or Renunciate”….. and pointing out the pitfalls of attempting a life in the middle.

    Assists me in framing similar challenges I face as challenges that all kinds of folks – all through human existence have faced – and are currently facing now.

    So many ways(!) to be
    “IN the world (reluctantly, to some degree) – but not OF it”…..

    Reading all you say in this post helps me to arrive at a place of greater clarity around my own experiences – my own sense of self – and which of these “two glorious paths” I am choosing to travel on.

  2. 2
    Brittany says:

    Twice in my life, I really thought I wanted to attend MUM. I went and visited the campus, loved the vibe, and I thought it was a good fit. As soon as I got back home and was by myself, it ceased to feel like a good fit. This was also a time in my life where I believed in the renunciate on the mountainside as the person seeking enlightenment…

    Cut to today, where I don’t meditate and very much have the householder view you describe. I have a lot of joy! But I feel like I am the person in the middle 🙁 In my recent session with you, ROSE, you chided me when I said sometimes I just feel like laying on the floor, doing nothing. Is that a result of mixing “not me not me not me” and “me me me?” Or is it just stupidity, like you said 😀

  3. 3
    Primmie says:

    Rose wrote: Talk to anyone who lives in the middle, or a renunciate, about how much that human life is valued and guess what? I suspect that most will express a happy looking forward to the time called “Drop the body.” (Known to householders as “Death.”)

    I find this extraordinary. It seems so strange that people would want death while they are alive. After being close to death I no longer fear it and will welcome it when it comes, but to want it when you are in a beautiful body and taking part in such an amazing world? I’m so interested that people really feel that.

    This post is fascinating. Thank you Rose for writing it. Thank you for all of your writing. I think it’s very powerful that you give so much of your thinking the way you do.

  4. 4

    PRIMMIE and JEAN, thank you so much for your contributions here.

    Thank you too, BRITTANY. Gawrsh, but I can’t remember what the circumstances were when the dreaded word “Stupid” issued from my mouth.

    Best solution is to replay your sound recording from our phone session and make sense out of it with your self-authority.

    In general, it is very common for STUFF to be part of the muddle with choosing to be either a householder or recluse, or slip-sliding into life in the middle.

    A practical solution? When you can, make sensible choices in life, using your conscious mind and common sense.

    Otherwise, if flopsillating on the floor etc., that would be due to STUFF. Consider a session of Energy Spirituality to heal.

  5. 5
    Jordan says:

    Primmie, it’s not a big mystery to me. Some people remember what it’s like, being ‘between lives,’ living with no stuff.

    Comparing that to how they feel now, on Earth, living in a body full of stuff, perhaps in nearly constant suffering. Nothing they’ve tried has worked much to alleviate it. But there is one solution they know would really work… finally being done with this body, this life! Death! Release! Bliss!

    Anyway, I used to feel that way. One good thing is, it seems that with spiritual addiction you’re often not grounded enough to be concerned enough with the body to actively harm it. Mostly it just gets ignored, I think.

    Interesting that you mention having once been afraid of death. Well, I’ve never understood fear of death. I guess fear of death and desire for death are two sides of the same coin, and both pretty common. I bet they correlate nicely with the 45% spiritual addiction/45% spiritual shut-down Rose has written about.

  6. 6
    Brittany says:

    Thanks for your reply, ROSE; I am definitely considering another healing session. The cord cutting session with you was very effective; and, since then, I have been feeling the ramifications of finding and taking in information this site has to offer.

    It is a good idea that I listen to my audio again. I will do that right now.

    As for the S-word.. it seems like the perfect word for me. Being on this site makes me address “feeling stupid.” I am happy that you used unexpected words that grabbed my attention. You used another word in my session that starts with the same letter as flopsillate, also just right in it’s context.

    Thank you!

  7. 7


    So glad you are doing well. And please do use that resource of

    Although Mitch and I have wanted to redesign it for some five years, and hope to actually get this done in 2013, much content is there.

    You can find FAQs, many articles, a chapter from every single one of my books, even Online Supplements with many articles.

    The Online Supplement from “Wrinkles Are God’s Makeup” is especially fun, and we keep it up even though that face reading book is now out of print. Here’s a direct link:

  8. 8

    JORDAN, how very insightful. I’m especially taken with:

    “I guess fear of death and desire for death are two sides of the same coin, and both pretty common. I bet they correlate nicely with the 45% spiritual addiction/45% spiritual shut-down Rose has written about.”

  9. 9
    Sylvia says:

    Thank you so much for this, Rose. It has really given me much more clarity about life as a householder. Until I read this post, I didn’t realize that part of me was hanging out “in the middle,” and that it was the source of some ambivalence. I remember attending a Buddhist teaching where the well-meaning nun said, “Face it, if you were really serious about enlightenment, you’d drop your current life and become a renunciate.” Of course, the implication was that, face it, one couldn’t seriously pursue enlightenment as a householder. I think, as a consequence, I always felt a little guilty about not choosing the path of a renunciate. But I now feel much more ready to embrace my human life more fully! I love the idea that it’s “me, me, me, all the way through spirit.”

    I’m so glad to be learning from you! (And I recently finished going through “Become the Most Important Person in the Room.” Wow, I had no idea how much I needed Empath Empowerment skills. My quality of life is much improved.)

    Thank you again for all you have done to nurture me and others through your sessions and your blog.

  10. 10
    Amanda says:

    Hello all,

    Well I’m happy my comment inspired such a great post! I find what you say here so interesting.

    I’ve always thought of spiritual life as being cyclical – that is, sometimes you go up the mountain and other times you launch into the marketplace.

    I think it can be easy to use spiritual life as a form of escape but then, if you go back into life you’ll find the same problems you had when you left it :). For this reason, although I meditate, I’ve never been on retreat.

    I’m really not sure where I am in the context of your post, ROSE. I’m a passionate believer in the body, and the more I clean up the more it becomes a source of joy. However, I have noticed that constantly circulating thoughts about my identity, my human life etc. create areas of numbness and tension in my body. When my true self (for want of a better word) manages to penetrate these numb areas and they stand aside, I am fully in the moment and it’s a source of endless joy. I associate that with a renunciate-type view of the world.

    Living lightly in human life – I think a happy middle ground to aim for.

    one thing I’ve noticed about the divisive mind – and it’s something i would count as STUFF – is that it has the tendency to crouch (in fact I’d be stronger there and say ‘cringe’) in the middle of two opposites, going AARGH.NONONO and trying to reconcile them.

    We have a natural tendency to look for division and develop a stance and attitude around it – this not that, I’m now doing that not this, I was that not this – and somehow reject whatever is not happening for us now. A good motivator when it’s time to change but I’m not sure it’s necessary. It’s just a finction of the mind rather than anything real or anything happening now.

    So to me renunciation and human life feels like just part of the cycle of spiritual life, and it’s not necessary to look for division or try to reconcile them. We’ll all have times when we’re more one than the other.

    So I guess I’m still thinking in terms of spirals, like I was at eighteen when I wrote my poem! 🙂


  11. 11
    Primmie says:

    Jordan, I also understand people who are suffering wanting death. I think I probably have a naive idea about renunciates that they would cherish the body as a gift.

    I don’t have any sense of a life before this life, and don’t believe on reincarnation, but I do have a womb memory and it was blissful for me then.

  12. 12
    Rachel says:

    What if flopsillating is a major Soul Thrill activity for someone? 🙂

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

  13. 13

    Making up words like “flopsillate” definitely thrills my soul, RACHEL… 😉

  14. 14
    Miranda says:

    I think I started out as a householder of sorts and then by age 28 got really burned out by human life (was also a social worker at the time). Since then for the past 30 years or so I have either been living as a renunciate or the middle place when I have to move more into the world to make a living.
    I feel that a lot of this has to do with taking on way too much stuff and needing so much down time to recover.
    The good news though, is that I now would like to discover what spirituality as a householder is like. So I believe my soul is moving me in that direction. I can sure relate to wanting to be free of the body, and yet at times I have been so thankful for it and how hard it works on my behalf, always leading me towards health and vitality if I choose to listen to it!
    As I develop into a skilled empath, the possibility of this becomes more real to me.

  15. 15
    Amanda says:

    Mranda, your comment really touched me. I wonder how many renunciates are in fact unskilled empaths who simply have to live that way in order to cope.

    I also think for some people, it’s a time of dealing with old karma as part of our process. We never really know where or why anyone is as they are (unless we use our honed skills, of course!)


  16. 16
    Jill Erin says:


    I agree with Amanda, that it is probably a lot of unskilled emaths who end up as renunciates or “in the middle”. I know that before I became a skilled empath, thanks to Rose, I, also would long for the renunciate life. I would only deal with the world on a needs to basis, like you.

    Becoming a skilled empath, however, has freed me up to be joyously engaged in all aspects of my human life and truly enjoy it. I am so glad you are here and, obviously, starting to learn to be a skilled empath!

  17. 17

    Happy Guy Fawkes Day to you, AMANDA. Also to AMY and RACHEL and others who may be celebrating.

    And MIRANDA,I join AMANDA and JILL ERIN in appreciating your heartfelt share here. (Plus appreciating AMANDA and JILL ERIN’s comments, too.)

    Wow, can you tell I am nearly giddy at the prospect of a big bonfire holiday? Not that I have ever celebrated it in this lifetime, but doesn’t this sound like fun, Blog-Buddies?

    I won’t say I long for my own “Bonfire society” but it does sound festive.

  18. 18
    Amanda says:

    Rose, thank you! It’s such a fun night here – just as the days become colder and darker we get to make huge fires and light up the skies.

    It’s useful the next day for burning the autumn leaves too 🙂

    Our big event attendance was last night at the children’s school – a bonfire as big as a house and fireworks that filled the sky and made the whole surrounding countryside boom and reverberate.

    And while it may be a uniquely British festival, I’m grateful to the US for the hotdogs that are also becoming traditional!


  19. 19

    That does sound like fun, AMANDA.

    And how restrained, in a way, to have the big celebration about explosions that did not detonate, rebellion that did not take lives.

  20. 20
    Melissa says:

    Thank you for this post, Rose! Having grown up super religious with with relatives who joined religious orders, I spent many years getting the message that renunciation is vastly ‘superior’ than participating in earthly life. And a new friend who teaches Hindu scripture talks about being ‘homesick’ for Krishna. Yet I’m not homesick – I feel I’m here to live life here on Earth as best I can, and I’ll get back to the spiritual world when I’m due. So many meditative practices do come out pf renunciation, and I’m glad to see some clarification. We can’t all renunciate – many of us have to help earth life become more functional, at very least in our immeditate surroundings!

  21. 21

    MELISSA, you’re so welcome.

    All that you wrote resonated with me, both as a teacher and personally.

    And I love how you concluded with a powerful statement about Enlightenment for Householders:

    “… many of us have to help earth life become more functional, at very least in our immeditate surroundings!”

  22. 22
    David says:

    Thanks for raising an excellent topic, Rose. I’ve experienced floating in the middle ground myself.

    I recall reading Maharishi’s description of the Yogas, saying those on the path of the intellect had to be renunciates. For a time, I thought this meant I had to follow that path. Later I realized it wasn’t so black and white. We tend to follow a blend of paths. And at different stages of the journey, different aspects are more prominent. (heart, action, intellect, etc)

    I do see value in taking occasional renunciate breaks on retreat for spiritual progress, even for householders. But that should not confuse someone in their role.

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