The Shadow of Moroni, Part III • 10 January 2008

Ok, let's wrap up this series before we all get thirsty.

I started with the yoga the year after I stopped with the alcohol. And then when my first arresting ashtanga transformation occurred another year after that, a lot of ascetic tendencies got locked in. Stuff I’d put in my body, sensory stimuli I’d tolerate, the rougher-edged personalities among friends: the threshold of what I wanted in my world got pushed far, far back by the nadi shodana.

That’s another story, you know. You do this practice and at some transformation point your nervous system might get touchy and it might change your bearing on the world. It’s not easy for you or your loved ones; but revolution is like that. I’m not judging what was my process because I don’t regret it and I wouldn’t take it back. But I am experimenting with it now—seeing how much room I have for play in this permanent, radical revolution.

I imagine that if I had not quit drinking before the nadi shodana wave hit, I’d have done it then. For me personally—and that is all I can assess—I doubt that deepening a second series practice and initiating pranayama and meditation practices would have been possible at all if I had not existed in a simple, fairly non-toxic, environment. It just took too much inner focus and environmental support to build up those practices. Seriously: I think that without a certain level of monasticism, I would not have had the clarity or intensity I needed to set some foundations. Yes that is a bold statement to make about what is also supposed to be a practical, daily kind of yoga for the householding set. But there it is.

And also: it is easier now. The world does not feel like it might take me out of my practice the way it might have—would have—when practice was new and I lacked the force of habit. But practice can get so precious and isolated from the world, and I want to blur the boundaries between it and everything else. Get less monastic, not more.

Thus, contra monasticism: salmon in November. And like I keep trying to get around to describing: on the solstice I finally drank.

It tasted nice. Pinot noir is something I can sort of appreciate like the artisans and merchants who are closest to its roots. L and I worked in a Willamette Valley vintner’s restaurant throughout college, took some seminars and tours, and drank a great deal of what the rich valley silt had to offer up. Even a half-decent pinot to me feels nourishing; and a decent one feels like art.

As I wrote earlier, my body didn’t ask for wine the past five years at all; and in fact my first several attempts to drink failed by force of habit. New Years 2007: big disappointment. The Editor's 30th: foiled again.

Though suddenly when I opened up to alcohol again, it again became so easy to want. Now once I’ve had a drink, the greed for another is—suddenly—very strong. Maybe this is a small scale experience of falling off the wagon, though I don’t pretend to understand the intensity of chemical torture and dependency a severe alcoholic would experience. In any case, for me, “mindful drinking” (check on Choygam Trumpa for infamous interestingness) is going to be difficult if not bullshit.

Here's the experience. As soon as the buzz starts—which is now almost immediately—I want to use the sauce to go deeper into non-control. I actually don’t know how much of this is my immaturity—I have not grown past my 14-year-old relationship to alcohol—and how much might be chemical reaction. It feels more ornery than chemical. There is just a petulant fascination with moving quickly toward that point where the lights go out.

God. I don’t know how many people experience the process I’m describing. Yes: it is troubling. But—no kidding—I don’t know if it is entirely different from my desire to let go in practice.

Isn’t that odd? The edge here is not just attraction and not just repulsion: it’s a strong desire for loss. Not transformation so much. Just loss.

Greeeat. Well, coming off the solstice, a decent number of badly-selected wines greased down my holiday with the in-laws quite nicely (though seriously: it was reassuring to see that even under conditions of extreme desire and a handful of empties I won't waste myself on White Zin), and then I sat on the plane home feeling the greed for not one but three drinks. An obese man with a coalmine-quality cough and cracked grey thumb callouses a centimeter thick sat next to me and happily (sweetly) drank two little whiskey bottles straight. Yes, there I am. I let that grasping drain out of me as we flew back down the coast, and haven't gone in to it again.

I am wondering if "drinking practice" may be more trouble than it is worth unless I recognize on the level of my body that I’m no longer a confused kid in a cornfield, and that one more drink is not one of the ways–so far as I can tell–to the void.