Mindfulness + Wine = Winefulness? I don’t think so!
I like a glass of wine. Or two. And sometimes it’s three.
Mindfulness and wine. Hmm, not sure. This week I have decided to focus on wine, or I should say the lack of it, as my mindfulness practice. The Famous Buddhist art of Not-Doing! A great opportunity to watch that gap we talk about in Mindfulness Training. We notice how we feel somehow lacking in this moment. In my day to day it can be a very subtle thing, it’s a tricky elusive aspect of my habitual way of being, so taking something away that I know I will miss, will be excellent practice! I don’t really want to stop drinking wine. I really like it, but this week I will get to know that feeling intimately and feel into its stories a little.
Dukkha, is the Buddhist term for this sense of lack which manifests in all kinds of subtle ways, but this week, for me, a concerted effort to deal with just this one, winelessness!
Mindfulness has really helped me to notice my middle-aged urge for wine. Well that’s a start isn’t it? The seeing is the doing? no?
Rob Nairn says that the deeper levels of Mindfulness training when we get to insight training it helps us catch a whiff of these subconscious drives which can be very powerful. Along with attitudes, they are active just beneath our conscious awareness, and definitely are pulling the strings. Only a still mind, will catch these drives in action.
Rob asks, have you ever noticed that you set an intention to do something, and then before you know it, you are doing something else? Not going for that run. Not hoovering and putting the washing away. Eating the whole packet of biscuits (used to be my favourite!) Having a third glass of wine when you said to yourself you would just have two? So the weak intention is easily overruled by subconscious drives.
The urge seemed to increase as soon as my youngest son passed his driving test and I was off the hook for taxi services, which happened a lot as we live in the middle of nowhere, and there is no public transport when a young person might need it. I really didn’t mind being a taxi driver after all it was my decision to live here, and I did feel responsible for his lack of social scene, so different from mine as I grew up in a big city. So that was fine. But the wine then became the after dinner ‘treat’ and rather than occasional it became possible to have my ‘nice glass of wine’, every evening.
Mindfulness has also helped me notice how my body is somehow involved in my decision making, something that I was oblivious to before. My body or some kind of energy within my body is demanding wine – and telling my head to go and get it! The unconscious part of me, just obeys this order from below. It might not be my body that’s demanding it but it feels like it.
So before my major intention setting, I had a minor intention to not drink wine every evening. I write ’wine’ on the shopping list (as if I need to actually write it on the list haha). There is an interplay here as I observe my planning. The body/urge now satisfied its request has been heard and is being put into action.
Mindfulness watches me buy the wine. Mindfulness watches me take it home. Later on, around Wine O’clock, Mindfulness is aware of the Urge for Wine, but only very rarely does it have the power to intervene. Mindfulness watches as I collect the bottle opener from the hook, noticing its beautiful shapes and craftsmanship (someone designed that!) Mindfulness takes me towards the bottle, notices I don’t need the bottle opener because it’s a screw top, opens the bottle and now my sound senses pick up the sound of the wine pouring into the glass, the glinting ruby liquid, the sense of satisfaction of the first sip. My body immediately relaxes, celebrates, and feels joy.
So I can be Mindful with all that. My ego likes to kick in here and hijack the scene by telling me how clever I am at Mindfulness. Good Job! Taste the wine! Tastes good doesn’t it? Notice how GOOD it makes you feel, says the character, similar to the inner critic but this time it’s the ‘inner wine taster’!
Mindful Observer is noticing that there’s a lot more going on underneath this neat exercise in Mindfulness that is not being addressed.
Mindfulness in itself is only the beginning of the journey. Mindfulness is only the first step towards a much deeper richer experience and understanding of myself, my thought processes, my habits, my attitudes, my subconscious drives. Once I had cultivated and stabilized my Mindfulness practice I practiced the compassion practices next. As we practice more and more we can start to encounter things about ourselves we may not entirely like. And then once we are fully equipped with a kind warm-heartedness towards ourselves we are ready for the insight practices where we can really get down diving into the undercurrent, and its underlying attitudes and the unseen forces at work beneath our behavior.
So this past 2 weeks, I have mindfully restrained. I connected with my motivation, for not drinking wine. Heath benefits! Better sleep, more energy, clear thinking, vibrant dreams – are major benefits of drinking rooibosh tea with almond milk, and fresh filtered water instead of wine. A slice of cucumber grown in the garden and a mint leaf makes the water taste a bit posh! I have enjoyed the evenings and have spent more time reading, researching and practicing. I’ve been much more productive.
I set my intention and held firm, reminded myself of my intention each day during my practice and as I woke up and as I went to sleep I reminded myself to stay with the sensations of any urges or feelings arising and be curious. Setting an intention is one of the first things we encounter when we begin our mindfulness training. Setting intention helps us to stay with the energy of the motivation, it is not goal driven, it is an intention to stay in the moment- only I find it to be a direct message delivered to the unconscious that somehow it goes in deep. We just need to consciously declare the intention to ourselves like a reminder to remember to be mindful, to re-mind ourselves and let it go.
I had just one evening where I felt the urge to be really strong in the body. I noticed it was triggered because my partner opened the wine and poured himself a glass.
It was a combination of seeing the bottle, and hearing the noise, that perked up my ears and triggered my urge.
I stayed with the sensations of the urge, so curious about it! how does this feel, this urge? Where is it coming from? My head or my body? It felt like a great dark hole like my whole body was a cavern that needed to be filled up. An empty ache. What am I filling up? What is empty?
I practiced and sat with the feelings that were arising. I have been working with a Mindfulness and Art Therapist (as part of my MSc Studies in Mindfulness research) and she had encouraged me to draw these feelings that were arising in an earlier session a few months ago. She taught me to stay with the feelings and to be aware of any images that came to mind. We did a kind of RAIN practice but with art materials. It was so interesting so I drew the feeling I had of the empty vessel floating but submerged. It took me to wonder about that emptiness, the void feeling. It echoed the feelings I touched on of no-feelings. Like I have been an empty vessel, numb of feelings, unaware of feelings, empty of feelings.
Having experienced alcoholism in my caregivers as a child I am very aware that that is not a route I want to go down. I wondered if there is a tendency to like wine, if it is a genetic predisposition. I know that as a teenager we were all drinking so much because we could freely express ourselves and it freed us up from our inhibitions and fears. As adults we can drink to numb feelings. I could get a sense that this was quite possible in me.
I did some research to amuse myself while I sipped my tea! I remembered a study about alcoholic rats I read once, maybe it has been disproved (I hoped!) So-called alcohol-preferring rats voluntarily consume much greater amounts of alcohol than do non-preferring rats. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health now report that a specific gene plays an important role in the alcohol-consuming tendencies of rats. (Zhou Z, et al. 2013) Oh dear. Then I find something even more scary – ‘Winefulness’ is being promoted as a thing! (by booze selling companies of course – jump on the bandwagon why not)…
“Winefulness: be in the moment, feel calm and connected while drinking your favourite tipple” it went on to encourage mindful guzzling – oh dear that’s not good!
Finally I landed upon a health promoting site (Healthline) which emcouraged mindfulness when we are considering our relationship with alcohol:
- “Mindful drinking” is the practice of being aware of why and how much alcohol you drink.
- It often leads to healthier relationships with alcohol and less consumption.
- To practice mindful drinking, pause before each new drink and ask yourself whether it supports you.
- READ THE HEALTHLINE INFO HERE
And finally the scientific research: Just 11 Minutes of daily meditation can reduce alcohol consumption! After an 11-minute training session and encouragement to continue practising mindfulness – heavy drinkers drank less over the next week than people who were taught relaxation techniques, according to the study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.The mindfulness group drank 9.3 fewer units of alcohol (roughly equivalent to three pints of beer) in the following week compared to the week preceding the study, while there was no significant reduction in alcohol consumption among those who had learned relaxation techniques. Read the study HERE
So it’s been a really great week, and am now sleeping really well, with great dreams and am really feeling much more energetic. I have a new habit – an evening meditation practice and I will continue to work with the feelings arising and use my medittion practice to stay with the urges which suprprisingly are very short lived when faced head on and felt into. Feeling in to the sensations and offering myself self-compassion for any difficult feelings that arise help me to guide myself through any difficulty. Accepting the feelings, means that insights are more likely to arise. And insights lead to transformation.
I like the healthline guidelines. Heather Regan Addis and Ki James will be looking at our relationship with food, drink and exercise on their new Mindfulness Based Healthy Living Course. If the course is fully booked, look out for the next one coming up in January.
I’m looking forward to my new “Mindful Drinking” habit, and I’ll be giving the winefulness a miss I think!
This week try setting an intention to notice when you have an urge or a craving for something. Before you act on that urge, if you can, spend a moment feeling into the sensations of that urge. How is it manifesting in your body? What is it trying to say to you? If you feel like there’s an image there, maybe you could draw it. Offer yourself some self-compassion in that moment and stay with the feeling. Notice what happens. What normally happens when you get the urge?
How has mindfulness affected your eating and drinking indulgences? Do you have any tips for us? We’d love to hear them!
You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org we always love to hear from you.
There is a Compassion Course TASTER SESSION THIS SATURDAY with Kristine Mackenzie-Janson at 7pm – the online course starts on October 9th
MINDFULNESS LEVEL 1 Weekend one with Kristine Mackenzie Janson is a great place to start your Mindfulness Training starting on the weekend of the 25-26th September.
MINDFULNESS LEVEL 2: Responding with Compassion Our next Online Compassion Course Begins on October 9-10th and is delivered over three weekends.
Mindfulness to Buddhism Retreat A 5 day Mindfulness to Buddhism retreat delivered by Choden and Alan Hughes will certainly take your practices to a deeper level. It starts on the 27th October and is delivered on zoom.
POST GRADUATE MASTER’S COURSES Transform your life and your career at the same time! The University of Aberdeen course is available entirely online the other University of the West of Scotland is based in London. (Join Our open evening on October 11th)