NewYears IED

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mindfulness and Alcohol are Cousins

Last weekend was great until the Redskins/Steelers game started. Thank you to my family for giving me a ticket, but man I wish the Redskins had shown up.

Like I said everything was great before the game started. I was tailgating with my brother-in-law, drinking Paps Blue Ribbon and eating cold baked beans with tortilla chips.

Eventually more of his buddies showed up as well as some other family.

I ended up meeting one of the guys who is a Marine that fought in Falluja.

After shooting the shit for a while, Armor Down came up in conversation. I mention how AD is all about recontextualizing things like Yoga and mindfulness to help service members transition to thrive as civilians.

During this exchange the Marine repeated these statements twice:

I've got my drinking under control.

I gotta check this yoga stuff out.

I stopped drinking before the game started because I had to drive the five hours back to DC once the game ended.

What the Marine said interested me because, typically, Yoga and the Marine's doesn't mix.

Anyway, while sitting in the stands watching the Redskins drop one pass after another, I noticed my buzz going away.

It was a subtle feeling. Not unpleasant, but clearly noticeable. I also noticed my body's desire to drink more. Also, subtle, but clearly noticeable.

Four hours and 11 dropped passes later, I was walking to my car sure footed and clear headed and I wondered if my experience with the subtle withdraw of the feeling of intoxication and the ability to control my desire to drink more was what the Marine was talking about when he said he had the drinking under control.

If that's the case, then he is already practicing mindfulness and he will be ahead of the game if he decides to start taking Yoga.

A Mindfulness practice is simply becoming more and more aware of what's going on inside you.

If you drink, you can relate to this phenomena by virtue of the fact that you can feel the subtle accumulation of the influence that alcohol has on you. Now, if you are like that Marine and others who have a good grasp on that feeling and the ability to closely monitor it then you already have the ability to be mindful.

The more I think about drinking and mindfulness in this context the more similarities I see.

Drinking gives you a path towards a lighter state of mind. So does mindfulness.

The real difference boils down to sustainability. Drinking to find a lighter state of mind has potentially terrible consequences even for those that are really good at it. Mindfulness is the exact opposite. A regular practice not only gets infinitely better with time, it starts to work just as fast as a beer.

Stuck in traffic trying to leave Pittsburgh I was pissed. Text messages started coming in from the Steeler fans in my family. I had five hours of driving ahead of me. Things were not looking good.

Wanting to feel better, I listened to one of the mindfulness meditations I keep on my smart phone and all the thoughts, which triggered the frustrated feelings, which triggered my bad mood, which was enhanced by the traffic and the long drive ahead--abated

Just like watching the feeling of the alcohol leaving my system during the game, my bad mood faded.

The frustration and the anger, just like the earlier desire to drink more, was present but under control.

This post was guided by the 34th stanza of the Art of Peace, a book written by Morihei Ueshiba
Armor Down now has a website. Check it out.

Like the AD Facebook page and I'll send you a great book about Mindfulness!

Listen Here to one of the Meditations I practice at the VA in DC.


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