Monday, August 27, 2012

Totally Drunk... and Sober as a Yogi


I grew up in vineyard land. Having a glass of wine was like enjoying the bounty of a local harvest. The amount of times I drank in order to get "drunk" can be counted on my right hand. Mostly, alcohol was wine. And wine was the obvious compliment to a lovely dinner.

So why did I give up drinking about 2 years ago?


It all started with my first experience meditating. I was reading Autobiography of a Yogi and Many Masters, Many Lives (simultaneously I think). I sat down one night after dinner and had such an incredible experience. It felt like I had left my body. I think now that I just expanded beyond my body into the magnetic field around it. Either way, it was quite a trip.

And need I mention: I had never taken any hallucinogens, so this was a UNIQUE experience, to say the least. Any here's what struck me most: this was so much better than drinking!


At the same time I was reading these two mind-bending books,  I had also decided to become raw vegan. (Note: I am no longer raw, though I have eaten a plant-based diet since then.)

Raw vegan food provided an inadequate "padding" for alcohol. Even just a few sips made me tipsy after eating even the heavier raw food options. I also found that my new diet made wine taste and smell rather unappealing: like rubbing alcohol. Ewww!


And still, wine-drinking had become a sort of habit that I couldn't shake. I continued to have a glass every now and again, even though it never lived up the memory I had of it.

The bottom line was: I liked the relaxed feeling I got from yoga far more than the relaxed feeling I got from drinking. To me, drinking began to feel like taking a strange pill whose effects I couldn't control. A breathing exercise, a powerful yoga practice, or an evening of chant could send me into total ecstasy. A glass of wine not only seemed really lame in comparison; but it was something I had to pay for the next day.

See, the less I drank, the more if effected me. I could get a hangover from the most embarrassingly small amount of alcohol.


About a year after I began practicing Kundalini Yoga, I decided to take teacher training in New Mexico. Unlike the a different teacher training I had taken a few years prior, this was a course about living a yogic lifestyle—not just teaching "yoga". 

While no one was forced to give up their meat, eggs, or glass of brandy, the course did teach us that these were not part of the yogic lifestyle for a reason: they negatively effect meditation

It was pretty simple. No scary diagrams of what beef does to your colon, or what a toxic liver looks like. Just a recommendation for deepening our meditation; and thus deepening our relationship to our soul.

I finally gave myself permission to just quit. 


It wasn't until I completely gave up alcohol that I was able to see what it did to me in a truthful way. 

Alcohol is a numbing agent. 

There were various times when I would have a glass of wine with dinner (or even after dinner) because of an emotional pain I didn't want to deal with: a hurtful comment, a bad break-up, or simply just a bad day.  

Numbness doesn't make pain go anywhere. It just helps us to forget the pain for a little while until it comes back.

Most of the time, it wasn't pain, but the desire to take a vacation from my thoughts that led me to filling up my glass. In essence, I just wanted to be numb to be numb. 

The irony is (at least I think it's irony—English majors, correct me if I'm wrong) that the only thing I've found that can actually dissolve pain or take me beyond my thoughts is meditation. And alcohol impeded meditation.

In the end it just seems pretty self-defeating to drink in order to feel better, which made it harder to meditate, which was the only thing that made me actually feel better long-term.


Well, that's my story. If you are struggling with shaking an old habit, here are 2 meditations that work wonders: 

2. Liberation Kriya (a.k.a. my first 40-day sadhana ever!)

To our mental, physical, and emotional health,

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