Is Meditation Better Than Wine?

"Meditation refers to any of a family of practices in which the practitioner trains his or her mind or self-induces a mode of consciousness in order to realize some benefit." Wikipedia

I was introduced to the practice of meditation in 1988, shortly after I started taking karate classes. At that time I was a social drinker; once or twice a week I would have a few glasses of wine while out at a party or bar. I liked the speedy way wine made me feel relaxed, happy, less inhibited, and how it provided me with a short escape from reality. At that time, I had five young kids (ages 6-14) and thought that they were the reason I needed and deserved an occasional wine break. Yep, wine worked like a charm, but the next morning I'd often feel sick and abused by the drink. For me, wine was a guilty pleasure that made me feel more guilt than pleasure the day after.

Then one day a thoughtful karate master suggested I try meditation and gave me a book entitled Kung Fu Meditations & Chinese Wisdom. It included a chapter on "How to Begin Meditation." I read every page of that little book and understood very little of it at the time. But the more I learned about meditation, the more attractive it became to me. The list of the benefits sounded too good to be true, such as reduced stress, better health, control of your thoughts, detachment, more happiness and peace of mind, and a way to discover the deeper meaning of life. But too good to be true or not, I wanted to get some of that!

So I followed the book's directions and began to meditate. It felt awkward at first, but I kept on trying. I would meditate for five, ten, or fifteen minutes in the morning and before bedtime. Almost immediately, I felt myself changing inside. I felt more able to control my thoughts, my moods, my actions, and my reactions. Control your mind, control your life. I slept better and woke up refreshed and excited about the new day. I began to feel more capable, calmer, and wiser. On the inside, I felt like a monk; strong, peaceful, and connected to something Special outside of my little self. On the outside, I began to carry myself more like a Queen than a spoiled princess. I became a better woman, a better mother, and a better human being. People noticed the difference in me, but assumed it was due to my karate training.

The Up Side
After meditating for a few weeks, I was surprised to realize that I had lost my desire to drink alcohol. I realized I didn't need to drink to get high, happy, or loosen up. I was already higher, happier, and looser than most people I knew, even the drunk ones. Meditating instead of drinking had many wonderful side benefits for me, such as...

No hangovers.
No calories consumed or a beer belly.
No alcohol related health issues, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis.
No cost (meditation is free, alcohol is not).
No fights with your mate (after a few drinks).
No risk of alcohol abuse, dependence or addiction.
No DWIs.
No high risk sexual encounters and subsequent STDs.
No bad examples for your children.
No loss of work days due to hangovers.
No signs of premature aging.

The Down Side
The only down side of not being a social drinker is that I'm always the designated driver after an evening of merriment with friends or family. Always the sober ride, never the partier. I tell myself that I'm doing humanity a great service by keeping drunks off the road, but sometimes I do envy the all the crazy fun that drinking people seem to have. And I sometimes I long for the good old days. But two seconds later, I return to my senses when I see one of those hilarious drinkers puking on her date's new khaki pants. Not a pretty sight.

Twenty three years have come and gone since my first try at meditation. I'm proud to say that I still meditate daily, still practice the martial arts, and am still alcohol-free. My chosen lifestyle works just fine for me. It may work just fine for you, too. Who knows? For me, there's no place like Om!

A Quick Lesson in How to Meditate

• Go to a quiet place where you won't be distracted by external noise.
• Lie down on your back or sit up in a chair.
• Get comfortable, but not so comfy you'll be tempted to fall asleep.
• Close your eyes, take a few deep breathes, and repeat these words a few times in your mind: "I am calm. I am at peace." Some people say "Om" at his point instead.
• If you want an answer to a particular question, ask it mentally before moving to next step. Ask it, but don't attempt to answer it. Just let go of the question once it's asked.
• Take slow, steady breathes. Focus on your breaths going in and out of your nose. Ignore everything else, such as incoming thoughts and feelings, bodily sensations, and outside interferences.
• Stay there in that wonderful, non-thinking, non-active state for five, ten, or fifteen minutes. (You can set a timer ahead of time if you want to.) Enjoy this suspended state of being and consciousness; it's a natural high.
• When your meditation time is up, open your eyes, slowly get up, and enjoy the rest of your day or night. When the moment is right, the answer to your question will pop into your head without provocation.

Susan Martinez is the author of 7 books, a second degree black belt, a personal safety expert, wife, mother, and grandmother.

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