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MIndfulness and Beer
Mindfulness is the art of being in the present moment - not rehashing the past or fantasizing about the future, but being here, now, to experience this exact moment in your life. Seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean, you’re here, now. Why shouldn’t your head be here, now, too?
Well, you have an organ called a brain that constantly generates random thoughts. Your brain does a lot of other stuff that is actually useful, but in addition to that it generates these thoughts. Most of these thoughts go like this:
“What if ‘x’ happens?”
“If only I had…”
“I shouldn’t have…”
“I’m going to… “
And while you are having these thoughts, life is happening NOW. In fact, life is ONLY happening now. So if you miss it, you’re really short changing yourself because you can’t get it back. You certainly can’t live yesterday. You can’t live tomorrow in advance. You can only live right now, at the present moment.
Therefore it behooves you to think exclusively about now while you’re there.
Now let’s talk about beer. A lot of people like to drink beer to enhance the present, but one of the ways they think they should accomplish this is to suck down a good quantity – say a gallon or so - thus impairing the brain’s thought-making process so they don’t have to listen to yesterday’s regrets or tomorrow’s anxieties. A lot of times they do this while watching TV, because their brains are so actively vexing them they need both beer and TV to do the job of making it shut up.
But there is another, better reason people drink beer: because they like it. Beer is actually a miraculous beverage, crafted with worry and love by brewers who really work hard at making their beer the best it can be. The natural effervescence achieved through the brewing process and the distinctive flavor of beer make it a thoroughly satisfying beverage.
I think this may be the best era for beer ever, so far, so it would be a shame to miss out on the wonderful, sensual experience beer offers because one is too busy trying to drown their regrets and anxieties. The number of micro-breweries worldwide has exploded exponentially, so great beer is easy to find right now. That’s why I suggest that beer drinkers take the time to slow down, engage, and really enjoy their beer.
Mindfulness and Beer
When you bring the beer home, give it time to be the temperature that you like. If you like it chilled, give it an hour or ninety minutes in the refrigerator. If you like it room temperature, give it an hour in the room. Let it be as ready for you as you are for it.
For your first mindful beer experience, choose a quiet room. After a little practice, it won’t matter what else is going on around you, but the first time, try to isolate yourself from distractions as best you can. Turn off the TV, radio, computer, iPod, whatever. Now it’s just you and the beer.
Use A Glass
Beer drunk directly from a bottle or can deprives you of the aroma, which is a good part of the taste. Pour the beer while holding the glass at an angle so that you can control the size of the head it develops. When the glass is full, set it down gently and look closely at it. In a clear glass, the beer will show you its rich color and fascinating display of bubbles mysteriously rising in a seemingly never-ending stream to create the head of foam. A good beer has strong natural effervescence and produces a head of foam about a half an inch thick.
Take the Time to Fully Experience the Beer
You’ll notice that a freshly poured glass of beer is truly beautiful. It is in motion as if alive and is imbued with a color ranging from golden to rich brown. It is a thing to admire.
When the head is stable, it’s time to drink. Feel the glass in your hand, its temperature, its weight. Notice the behavior of the beer as you raise the glass to your lips. Notice the density of the head. Notice the bouquet.
Take the beer into your mouth, hold it there for a moment, then swallow. Notice the flavor. Notice how it feels in your throat. Notice how it feels going down. Notice how it feels in your belly. Ahhhh. Now you might take another draught, or you can just sit for a moment and feel the effect of that sip before going on to the next.
Continue in this manner. As you drink more, notice the effect it has on your brain. Now might be a good time to check the alcohol content.
You might find that, drinking mindfully, you get a great deal more enjoyment from a lot less beer, because when you concentrate on really enjoying the beer in each moment, you quiet your brain chatter and get it out of the way of your good time in the here and now. You have something more important to think about than the future or the past: beer.
Some of you may find this hard to swallow, but there are other enjoyable things in life besides beer. Don't look at me like that! It's true!
All of Life is Worth Your Full Attention
You can take the time to savor every moment the same way you can take the time to fully enjoy beer. Each moment has a beginning, a middle and an end; it is a story unfolding before your very eyes. Even moments spent in the dentist's chair or with a person you would rather not be with are worth being present for, because they are all part of your life and your life is a precious, irreplaceable thing.
Perhaps you would rather not be present for some of the moments of your life. It is true that one can only enjoy fantasy or distraction in the present moment; one can only enjoy anything in the present moment. It is not possible to enjoy anything in the present or past. Perhaps you did enjoy it or will enjoy it, but actual enjoyment only occurs now.
Sometimes it is good to think of the past, to draw enjoyment or learning from it, or to anticipate the future, planning or fantasizing about how it may unfold. What is important is to realize that one is reminiscing or anticipating, for this knowledge brings one back to the present moment.
One can observe oneself thinking thoughts of the past or future, thereby taking a step back from the constant internal chatter. Noticing regret as it creeps into our remembering or fear as it intrudes on our anticipation, we gain power over these emotions instead of allowing them to have power over us.
It is not good to use beer or any other substance to escape what we think of as reality. It is tempting to feel that we deserve a rest from our experience because we have had difficulty, stress or because we are simply tired. Alcohol, however, often amplifies negative emotions rather than vanquishing them, and consuming enough of a substance to forget how one feels is certainly unhealthy on many levels.
If one concentrates instead on being present for each moment as it unfolds, one frees themselves from regret for the past and fear of the future. Regret and fear only bring unhappiness to the present. They serve no other purpose. Free yourself of them and you can enjoy your present without interference.
So take a breath and try to let your senses bring you the rich texture of every moment, however you spend it. Claim each moment as your own.
And have a beer once in a while if you want.
© 2011 Tom Rubenoff