Moderate drinking is something most of us do. No reason not to pay attention while doing it! Try this mindful drinking practice, a variation on mindful eating.
You’re in a bar. It’s dark, and all around people chatter, but maybe not to you. You’re waiting for your drink to arrive, which it does, finally. Just before you automatically reach for it, stop: take a breath and notice that your liquid refreshment holds a key to the Technicolor present moment…even if it’s only water or club soda! A mindful drinking practice can help you experience the vivid aliveness of your life, with or without alcohol.
Just before you automatically reach for your drink, stop: take a breath and notice that your liquid refreshment holds a key to the Technicolor present moment…even if it’s only water or club soda!
1. Take a breath. Go on, you deserve it. It doesn’t have to be an obvious breath or anything that causes people nearby to call 911, or move away, just an intentional breath. All the way in, all the way out. You might notice tightness in your belly as you breathe. Being alone in a bar can feel daring; notice this and see if you can gently use your breath to breathe into and soften wherever it feels tight.
2. See if you can place your whole attention on taking in the visual experience of your glass. You might notice its shape mingled with the contents. Why not take this moment in? It will never come again. Is there a thought or emotion when you reach for the glass? No good, no bad, just noticing whatever’s there.
3. Pick up the glass. Is it smooth? Does it have weight? Are the contents cold? Warm? Anything? Bring the glass closer; become curious about the color or viscosity of the contents. Are there sugar-legs flowing down the sides if you swirl it? Do the shapes change?
4. Now bring the glass to your nose. Breathe in. Is there a moment where you go from room air to fragrant explosion?
5. When you’re ready, bring the glass to your mouth, and rub it lightly along your lips. Notice any internal combustion when you bring a glass to your lips, but do not drink: Are thoughts popping up? Any body sensations? Emotions? Changing a habit, like bringing a drink all the way to your lips without drinking, can trigger an internal frenzy of activity.
6. Now take a sip and hold it in your mouth without swallowing. Slosh it around. Stay present to the sensory experience happening now, inside you. Neurons are firing their little heads off—can you feel anything? Gently focus attention on the felt experience. If you notice your mind wandering to thinking about drinking, or about anything at all, try to come back to mouth-land.
7. When you’re ready, swallow with intent. Now, take a moment to see what happens in your mind.
This article also appeared in the April 2015 issue of Mindful magazine.