Alcohol is an important part of life for so many people. Courtney E. Martin wrote a brilliant and honest post about it in the online magazine On Being. Having worked with people whose lives have been devastated by alcohol and drugs, the article – real as it is – was heartbreaking. There are better ways to:
calm your mind,
“suspend the self,”
experience flow and
Better ways than using alcohol.
It’s not spirits you’re looking for, it’s Spirit. It’s not disappearing you’re looking for, it’s transformation. Transcendance without detachment, presence without attachment, belonging – unguarded, unpolished, raw, wild, and sweet.
There are better ways to feel connected…to the eternal, to one another, to the center around which all the flying pieces of your self revolve. To the place where heaven and earth come together – in you. To a brief moment that expands into a lifetime, and then expands ever further than that.
It’s no secret that we don’t drink alcohol. Not at all. The last time I can remember us having a drink was the glass of champagne, on our wedding day, 25 years ago. And we also don’t use drugs. I stopped smoking pot and using hallucinogens when I was 16. Didn’t like pot. My relationship with hallucinogens was complicated. Let’s just say I respected them, but I found other, safer, ways in. Charles never used drugs. He did get drunk once – when he was about 6 years old and broke into the eggnog that his grandmother was cooking in the snow. Never did that again.
We want to be present to Life. To experience the richness, passion, and messy vibrance of Life. We want to be present with each other, for each other, with other people, and with ourselves. On behalf of ourselves – because when you aren’t present, you can’t feel fully. You can’t sense the nuances of safety and danger in the environment. You can’t avoid risks because you’re not there to notice them. You can’t love fully, because you’re not fully here.
Alcohol doesn’t pierce the veil. It makes it fluffy. An artificial lift that evaporates when you come down. And have to face all the stuff you were avoiding. The anxiety. The conflict.
I’m not saying being present is easy. Feelings don’t always tickle. Who doesn’t want to make a quick escape now and then? But we hold to checking in rather than checking out. We want to know how we feel – so we can adjust our course when we’ve wandered into territory that doesn’t feel good. And it doesn’t matter whether that territory is geographical or social or mental or financial or whatever. We can adjust our course. But first we’ve got to be present. You’ve got to be present to make a choice.
And when it’s our own thinking that’s causing us pain, like dwelling on hurts of the past or worries about the future, being present is like a deep breath that finally gets some oxygen to our starving cells. Being present, in this moment. Here and now. Here. And now. That’s where the solution lies.
Charles and I want to be together. And we’ve got to be present, to both be present, to be together. We want to show our daughter, to model for her, that you can live life awake. Head on, full force. Without deadening or numbing yourself to any of it. The beauty and the sorrow. You can even find the tender beauty inside the sorrow.
How do we cope with the stuff that overwhelms or hurts us from our human perspective?
When the pain is truly too great, we check in deeper. To the source of who we are, the pure energy of Life. That’s our ultimate reality. The safe. The timeless. Soul that lives within. I am that I am. We stay present here and now and invite the presence of our Divine self too. The expanded self. The one that sees the big picture. The part of us that is present in everything. The part of ourselves that is not dictated or determined by circumstances.
And by the way, we think drinking or using drugs when you call yourself a spiritual teacher is just hypocrisy. We don’t love those teachers any less, but we can’t trust them. I love Chogyam Trungpa, but his teachings are a little more hollow, now that I know he died (at the age of 48) from complications of alcoholism.
Yes, we have friends and family who drink alcohol or use drugs. Some of them say they just like the taste. Some say it helps them deal with stress. Some say it’s entertainment. Well, there are lots of things that taste good without being toxic. And suppressing boredom with substances is just a waste of nature’s push towards creativity. Make the most of it! As far as stress management goes, if you need to use drink or drugs to relax, you’ve got a bigger problem than you think you do. And besides that, there are better ways to find altered states of consciousness. Ways that fill you with appreciation and awe, ways that bring you more Life, more energy, more insight and inspiration. And keep you present. Here and now. Connected with those you love and those who love you. With the soul of the Universe. With your self. Ways that aren’t so thin.