My Wilful Unenlightenment

Dear curious ones, At the moment I am sober curious as well as spirit curious. It’s January, so I guess I am not the only one getting curious about what a more enlightened life would feel like. Time to contemplate some stepping up, people… I once thought that being enlightened was too much like hard work. There would be all the effort of rising into grace. Eurgh.  Then there’d be all that sitting on a cloud and chanting or similar. I was suspicious of the whole concept, and I knew it was absolutely not for me. In fact, I might go out of my way to do things that I believed made me unenlightened. Just to be gloriously awkward and chaotic. I would not only smoke, drink, and chase overwhelming, all obscuring sensation, but I would revell in being on the upswing, topside of a major descent. I courted disquiet. Then I noticed that actually, being unenlightened is really hard work. It involves clearing up so much mess. It is mentally and physically challenging. It is exhausting. But taking a more enlightened approach to life is not so straightforward. Don’t get me wrong. I am lucky. I have access to great resources and teachers, both online and offline. However, I also have spent years developing and cultivating the habits that make it hard to quiet my mind, nourish my body, and get on with cloud chanting. I know that this is not about keeping score, or trying to be perfect, or doing every practice under the sun, or ascending into light. It’s about going to sleep and waking up again. It’s about coming back to the present moment. Ah this is my morning wake up view… Being a mite more enlightened is also about letting attachments and addictions fall away. It’s about enjoying and appreciating life. Not trying to get anywhere or manipulate anything. Not chasing head drama. For me, it’s probably also about stopping drinking alcohol. Not because drinkers are bad and unenlightened. Not because I hate wine. But because when you are trying to bring together mind, body, and spirit, being hungover sucks. Truly, it feels like alcohol is adding more complication to my health and happiness than it is worth. I have wanted to moderate my drinking for a couple of years, and sometimes I do, but there are times when I reach for wine to drown feelings and knock myself out. I know deep down that drinking doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I am tired of debating whether to have a glass or not, whether I am hurting myself or not, whether it feels right or not. Perhaps moderation is a lot harder than abstinence. For most of my adult life I have used booze to relax my mind and body, but there have been periods of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and abstinence too. I have learned other ways to unwind, and I am more comfortable with social discomfort. I wonder if I have gained enough experience of not drinking to do life sober instead of trying to drink sensibly and failing. It’s not that I think this is the magic thing that will make me become enlightened, but becoming sober seems to be something constructive I can do for myself. I feel like I am doing something wilfully unenlightened for no good reason. I don’t feel like I need to drink anymore. And when I find it so hard to moderate, then I’m no longer sure why I want to. I am examining some history: It’s January 2004. I smoke a lot. I have not owned a tracksuit since I was a child. I walk as a means of transport and own a bike. I am learning to play Korean drums. I like to dance in bars. I visit temples. I drink every day, usually a lot. I have done this for a few years. It is beginning to show in my body. I have digestive problems and anxiety. I have a lot of fun and do a lot of travelling, and I have some wonderful friends to do it with. I live in South Korea, which is the drinking capital of Asia, and one of the most boozy countries in the world. Life is a rollercoaster between heady, high sensation experiences, and recovering from them. In between, I sometimes pretend to be responsible, but adulting is not a frequent occurence. It’s January 2009. I am pregnant. I do not drink. I didn’t rule out the occasional half glass of wine, but I worry it will hurt the baby and it’s just not worth the stress. I live in a village in Portugal. I do not have the energy to go to bars all that often. I eat out a lot though. I have a mortgage, a husband, a job, and I make a respectable effort to look after my home, romantic relationship, and work. I am learning to prune vines and pick fruit. For the first time in a long time, I have to learn other coping skills for anxiety and stress than drinking lots of wine. I do yoga. I own stretchy trousers and sports bras. I take walks and swim often. I still don’t feel like a grown up, and yet all these grown up looking things are happening. It’s January 2014. I have three children aged 4, 2, and 4 months. I am breastfeeding. I drink a unit of alcohol a day. I still have a husband and a mortgage. I am a stay at home mum. I sometimes do yoga. I sometimes sit on my mat and cry. I write and draw about my feelings. It is cathartic. Gardening seems like an impossible challenge. I nap when I can, because I wake a lot in the night to look after the kids, especially the co-sleeping youngest. I love to curl up and nap with my baby girl. I am often anxious and very, very tired. I do not have an abundance of coping skills. I take walks with the buggy. I eat a lot of comfort biscuits. I drink a lot of coffee. I don’t care if I am a grown up or not. It is a low priority question. It’s January 2019. I have three children aged 9,7, and 5. I still have a husband and a mortgage. I have a job. I probably drink alcohol more days than I don’t. I often have a few glasses of wine or beers. In the last year, I have spent some weeks being sober, but didn’t stick with it. I do yoga. I meditate. I actually sometimes chant. I sing. I read. I draw. I jog. I walk. I listen to podcasts about the mind. I have taken courses about being human, being a buddhist, and being witchy, sometimes all at the same time. Gardening is a perplexing curiosity. I have evenings out with friends to movies or restaurants. I wake up once a night or less. My anxiety is much less than when I was younger. I am a grown up. I like it. So, maybe it’s time to do life sober. I may not be a cloud chanter, but it isn’t horrifying and alien anymore. I am unlikely to ascend to nirvana any time soon, but I have a blessed and magical life, with big and little loved ones around me. I know my anxiety doesn’t mean anything about me, and doesn’t need to be wrestled with or medicated with alcohol. I definitely do not have trouble falling asleep at night, and am home taking care of the kids more than I am going out to bars. Even when I go out, I drive and therefore limit alcohol anyway. It’s the perfect time to experiment with abstinence. I felt like I couldn’t choose sobriety in the past, but maybe I can now. I could at least try it out for a few months. Why be stubborn and unenlightened for the sake of it. I’ll let you know how it goes. What are you holding onto that you would like to let go of? Let me know in a comment if you can relate. Lots of love, Alexis xx

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