Maybe you’ve sat cross-legged, eyes closed, letting the horseshit of the day float away. Jerry Seinfeld describes his lifelong practice of transcendental meditation as having a cellphone and then somebody hands you a charger.
Like me, perhaps the hippy-dippiness of the whole mediation world turns you off. I almost never tried it. I'm glad I gave it a shot because, had I never stared at that flame and taken a few deep breaths, I never would have found out mediation makes drinking more fun. And I feel a lot better.
You might relate to this; several years ago I found myself in a frantic state. I couldn’t get my nerves and anxiety under control. One day I read a meditation article and decided to try it. I felt awful and nothing else was working.
Instead of trying to clear my mind, the writer recommended staring at a candle and focusing on the flame. Several mornings in a row I spent at least five minutes watching the flicker, trying not to think. Stress declined. I felt more in control. I genuinely felt better.
Later, I expanded my meditative practice. I began closing my eyes and focusing on slow breathing.
I discovered a simple theory that, for me, worked. When meditating, recognize your thoughts and go back to breathing. That’s it. Sit there, and when your monkey mind starts imagining what your fingernails would look like if you never cut them, say in your head, “For some reason, I am imagining a life without finger nail clippers and wondering how my hands would look if keratin took over. I’m okay with that. Back to breathing.” Go back to breathing and try to notice the sound of the room and how your ass feels against the floor. Pay attention to what's actually happening in that moment. Is there a chill in the air? How do your hands feel resting against your kneecaps? Notice things.
For me, meditation is practicing putting yourself in the driver’s seat. It’s practice. Clearing your mind is not the goal. Trying to avoid thinking is not the intent. Your goal is to think about your thoughts. This practice will allow you to be in control, instead of letting your mind and distraction constantly take you in a new direction.
The world, social media, and bloody headlines are distracting. Those shiny objects keep you from being in control. When you’re not in charge of your own brain, you’ll wake up 80-years old and wonder how the hell you got here.
When television, or your Facebook feed, dictates your next thought, you never reflect. You end up not knowing yourself. You get stressed because, on some level, the horseshit of the day becomes every fucking day. You forget who you are and what you want.
"What does this have to do with drinking and enjoying your buzz?"
If you’re like me, when something feels good you want more. When drinking, it’s easy to get a buzz and trigger the reward center in your brain. It starts saying, “That feels good, give me some more.”
When you meditate, you are training yourself to notice the world around you. You begin to feel the air against your skin and hear the hum of the air conditioner. For the uninitiated it sounds boring. For those who have felt frantic and out of sorts, being in control and feeling a sense of pleasure during life’s moments is a welcome return.
You are where you are—at this moment—you might as well enjoy it.
When having a drink, instead of fearing that good feeling is going to retreat back into the bottle, meditation keeps you in the moment and gives you practice needed to be fully aware of the good feeling. Instead of pumping yourself full of porter, you can hit your cruising altitude and sip when you dip.
Your ability to be present allows you to actually enjoy the drink, taste the flavors, and bask in the buzz. When someone uses alcohol to fix a personality issue—whether nervousness or otherwise—they run the risk of using too much, feeling awful, and missing a moment that could have been magical.
When you become one with the real world, you enjoy every drink. You gain the ability to appreciate even a slight buzz. A sense of immersion in the moment may keep you from unconsciously drinking for the sake of drinking. That means when the morning comes, you're less likely to have been, as my friend John once said, "Over served."
To make it easy, here are steps to get started with meditation (along with great-for-sipping summer and winter cocktails).
8-Steps to Easy Meditation
- Sit with your back straight, against a wall if needed, and cross your legs (or don't–just get comfortable).
- Touch your thumb and index finger together.
- Rest your hands on your knees.
- Take a deep breath.
- Notice the pressures against your body. How do your feet and rear-end feel against the floor. Pay attention to the feeling of your hand resting against your legs.
- Listen to the sounds in the room. Pay attention to the hum of the air conditioning unit. The birds chirping.
- When your mind starts drifting, simply think about your thoughts. If you are worried about a family member, in your head say, “I’m thinking about my mom. I am worried about her. For now, I am going to sit here and take slow, steady breaths.” Whatever pops into your head, acknowledge your thought and say, “Back to breathing” and try concentrate on the moment.
- When your brain wanders and you can’t let your thoughts go, it helps to pay attention to the sounds in the room and just try to listen. That sound is happening in real time so it serves your purpose of mindfulness and being in the moment.
Practice 10-minutes each day and see if it changes your mood and your mind. If it doesn’t work, at least you experimented with something that expanded your knowledge of yourself and world around you.
Now, let’s drink.
- 4 oz Ginger beer (Use Maine Root Ginger Beer or Fever Tree—if you can’t find either, do not make this drink)
- 2 oz Vodka (I prefer Kettle One)
- ½ a lime for juice
- Lime slice for garnish
Combine vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug or highball glass filled with ice. Squeeze the ½ lime for juice. Stir gently and garnish with a lime slice.
Kinsley’s Old Fashioned
- 2 teaspoons simple syrup
- 6 dashes bitters
- 2 ice cubes
- 2 oz. bourbon whiskey
- 1 piece of an orange peel (finger length)
Pour the simple syrup in a high ball glass and add six dashes of bitter. Place the orange peel fruit-side down and use a muddler to press the oils out of the orange peel and mix with the syrup and bitters.
Add whiskey and two ice cups.
Wait one-minute and let the cubes melt. The water will round out the flavors.