Can a yogi drink wine? Or, musings on judgement.

Have you noticed that although I profess to write a blog about food, wine and yoga, it almost always ends up being about food? It’s true. I’m often more creative with my food than anything else. So perhaps it’s time for some wine-ing. Or some yoga. Or hey, both at once?

Here’s the funny incident that prompted this post. I was sitting at my favorite restaurant last week, at the bar, with a book, about to order a glass of wine. And let’s just stop and examine that sentence. This in itself is actually a wonderful thing in a way! For so much of my life I was too shy and nervous and concerned about what others thought of me, I’d never have been caught dead alone at a dining establishment! I would rather have starved! But there I was, having made myself a healthy meal and needing some “out in the world” time for some reason and I just headed out on my own. This is huge progress. And I attribute it to yoga. I have only recently begun to just be whoever I am, both on the mat and in the world, rather than trying to shape myself to fit a certain situation. Man, it’s taking a long time!

So anyway, back to the evening. I was sitting there with my wine menu open and a yoga teacher I know and love walked in and came over to say hi. What did I do? Immediately slammed my menu shut! As if to cover the idea that I was going to drink wine.

She did what any normal, adjusted person would do. She laughed and hugged me and sat down at her own table. To “sneak out and indulge in a huge pile of pasta,” as she put it.

But after she left me, I had a good think. Why do I still feel this need to justify my choices, to anyone at all?

Here’s what I feel about wine: I like it and I’m not addicted to it. I have never ever been a big drinker. In fact, as a younger person I didn’t binge drink or even really go out to bars because I just could not handle my liquor and was too embarrassed to be a liability or to even try to use a fake ID.

I only grew into my love of wine while helping my Dad run his wine shop. And I know a lot about it. I drink it reasonably, not too often and not too much. But I do enjoy it. Is that so bad? No. the problem I have is not with overindulging in alcohol, it’s leftover judgement from the early years of my yoga obsession (now that’s something I’m addicted to). When I first started practicing, I decided certain things were good (austerity) and certain things were bad (wine, coffee, chocolate,  enjoying anything too much). It’s like if it wasn’t austere, it couldn’t possibly be yogic, present. Actually, I’m kind of embarrassed to say that ‘out loud’, so to speak.

It took me a long time to get over most of that. I had to go back to the beginning and rethink the point of yoga. I had to examine the philosophy in detail, for myself, rather than looking at things in big sweeping statements or from other people’s perspectives.

But certain vestiges of this remain, obviously. As in, “drinking is not yogic.”

And in that moment at Fragole, I decided to let the sweeping statements drop  away.

Guess what, I like a great glass of wine. Enjoyed slowly. With great pleasure. From time to time. I realize that clouding one’s life experience with substances is not a way to be truly present. But I also think aversion is the flip side of attachment. Life is an ebb an flow. And rocketing from extreme to extreme isn’t the way I want to flow. I’ll take the gray areas thank you very much.

So, I’m going to share with you  the really special wines I find. That doesn’t mean I encourage YOU to drink. Especially if you have a problem with alcohol. There are some things that you just can’t conquer with mindfulness and “everything in moderation.” I’ve known a few alcoholics, and can say for sure that moderation is not possible there. Getting help is absolutely necessary. For me, the addictive, sticky substances are different. Food, mostly. But I also got help. Some issues just require a helping hand.

What I want is for you, everybody, to examine your thoughts and make sure they’re your own. Also, check in, are you judging yourself more than you’d like, and hence also judging others? Maybe it’s time to drop the judgments and get back to a more connected, compassionate, really present way of going through the days and making decisions.

It’s not easy, in these human bodies in this crazy world with minds that think they are ‘everything’ and try to run the show. You’ve gotta still those swirling thoughts a little, step back from the world a little and drill down to what’s true. And that’s the yoga. It’s no easy feat. It’s certainly harder than learning a sun salute or (for me) putting  your leg behind your head. But it is possible.

And by the way, that hour with a simple glass of Montepulciano was maybe one of the best times I’ve had in a while. After I got over my own “stuff” and got out of my own way I thoroughly enjoyed that barstool and book in a way I might not have done if I were at home. I didn’t click around the internet or keep checking my phone, I just tuned in as I slowly sipped. Mindfulness in action, I’d say.

Whatever your issue, I encourage you to do the same: slow down, tune in, and get out of your own way.

After all, It’s hard. Living in these human bodies. This business of consciousness thrown together with matter with swirling mind stuff, it’s gets cloudy and confusing. But I think it’s possible to work it out. I strive to get better at it. And I raise a glass to the idea of fully embodying this human incarnation, all the quirks that make me me this time around.