Beer, booze, wine smoking...
Life's lovely vices are not typically associated with the practice of meditation.
How can they coexist?
Well over a decade ago, I came across a Buddhist principle that helped me answer this question, and has shaped my life to this day.
The middle way. This Buddhist philosophy is all about living a life in between the extremes.
Buddha himself was born a prince and lived a luxurious life within palace walls in southern Nepal. In his late 20’s, he left this life behind him and later followed asceticism, which is a self-discipline that rejects worldly pleasures in pursuit of spiritual goals. During this period of his life, Buddha starved himself and eventually became so weak he nearly died.
He eventually wised up and realized that living a life of either extreme—luxury or self denial—doesn’t get you any closer to enlightenment. Either lifestyle can cloud your vision. It’s best to live somewhere in between.
Now, the middle way in no way mentioned that drinking beer is okay on the path to enlightenment and mental clarity.
But Ordinary Dude Meditation is not about Buddhism.
However, us ordinary dudes can learn from this story and apply the principle of the middle way to our lives. As beer drinking meditators, we can enjoy our adult beverages and still reap the benefits of our practice.
I always recommend to live a life of moderation.
How much moderation is needed to still gain clarity?
Well, that depends. What are your goals?
Even if you decide not to moderate stimulants, meditation will still provide you more calm and clarity of thinking in your life than if you didn’t meditate at all.
Your health may feel in good enough shape drinking six days a week, smoking a pack a day, or binge drinking every weekend. And meditation may provide that extra bit of clarity to help you feel more calm, clear headed and happy enough with your life.
But if you live an indulgent lifestyle and still feel anxious, on edge and lost, then I recommend slowing down on the stimulants, meditating more often (like twice a day or for longer periods) or examining other areas of your life that may be causing dysfunction.
It’s all about finding the right balance.
But no matter how many or few stimulants you consume, reducing them will give you a bump in calm and clarity.
I know for a fact (because I’ve done it before) that if I gave up all alcohol and caffeine for the next 30 days, my mind would be much more clearer than it is today. Colors would be sharper. Sounds would be clearer. I would breathe a bit deeper and sleep a bit more soundly.
But do I want to do that?
I’m happy where I’m at. I’ve found a good balance, and still get to enjoy the pleasures of beer, coffee and wine.
With that said, personally, I find the more I meditate, the more I choose to cut back on stimulants. When I wrote the first edition of An Ordinary Dude's Guide to Meditation in 2015, I used to drink 3 - 5 nights a week and down an Americano every morning.
Today, three years later, my life is much different.
I rarely drink more than two days a week, and I typically don’t drink more than one cup of coffee a week. Those are my two favorite stimulants, but I’ve noticed they have a negative impact on my clarity of mind (at least in Bangkok’s stifling heat). So I limit them.
Will I, or should you, ever aim to completely eliminate stimulants from your life?
I likely will not. One reason dudes indulge is because it gives them greater enjoyment in life. It makes them happy. And isn’t meditation done for the same reason?
On this earth, I believe we are meant to enjoy our time here. A beer, stogie, glass of wine, or whatever vice you love should not be abstained from unless necessary.
So to answer the question of this blog, how can beer and meditation coexist?
Balance your vices with an adequate amount of meditation, and you can have both.