In Ireland, the “I don’t drink” issue comes up more often than in America. Drinking is part of the Irish national culture. In fact, Ireland ranks #4 in the world for alcohol consumption per capita. (America ranks 43rd. The top three are Uganda (!), Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic.)
Usually, I say “No thanks, I don’t drink,” and that’s that. But this time, I was met with a curious and interested “How come?” from two friends, and the answer turned out to be far more interesting than I expected.
Here’s how the conversation went.
(Notice how my friends mostly played the roles of cardboard cutout dogs.)
I stopped drinking 4 years ago because it felt like a Good Thing To Do.
I guess I feel like abstaining from alcohol is aligned with my spiritual path.
Wait a minute, do I even know whether these people drink? I’m pretty sure the Dalai Lama doesn’t, but why do I assume that the others don’t? (For your edification, Eckhart does drink, but Pam, Mark, and Hiro do not. In fact, Hiro drinks nothing but water and herbal tea.)
Hey, it’s circular! I have this image of a spiritual guru and role model, and my imaginary role model doesn’t drink, so if I think of someone I admire spiritually, I assume they don’t drink.
How to break out of this circle? Maybe I can figure out where my image of a spiritual guru came from.
Let’s see, who were my spiritual role models 4 years ago, when I stopped drinking?
Ah. My ex. My ex, whom I looked up to spiritually, who strongly disapproved of drinking, and whose approval I sought desperately. Remember all the times I attempted to completely change who I am so I could be compatible with her? Hmm… maybe this is yet another example of me changing who I was to try to gain her approval.
If that’s the case, then my image of a spiritual role model isn’t really my image at all — it’s hers.
How about I completely ditch that old stale guru image that wasn’t really mine at all. How about I think about my own spiritual path, Pace’s path, the Pace of the present, and see what I feel called to?
And that’s what I did. I threw away my old envisioning of “The Right Way” to do spirituality. I threw away my guru-based “shoulds”. I meditated on what spiritual path I feel called to. I listened to my heart.
This is what my heart said.
“Yo, rest-of-Pace. Here’s the skinny. Our spiritual path is to seek reunion with Source. As for alcohol, it’s kind of a crutch, but at least it gets you out of your head and into me. It’s totally fine for practice, but it isn’t a long-term solution or anything. Also, I love you.”
The next day, I drank a pint of Guinness in an Irish pub and thoroughly enjoyed it. I got surprisingly tipsy; apparently 4 years of no drinking lowers one’s tolerance!
So I guess a more accurate title would have been “A teetotaler changes her mind and drinks a pint of Guinness”, but hey, Irish Guinness is pretty darn good, so I don’t mind the implication. (:
The moral of the story
The simplest way to personal growth is to Ask yourself why.
Don’t count on your two curious friends to ask you why. Ask yourself. Write down your answer, if it helps you to work it out. Question. Examine. Journal.
Simply asking yourself why can get you out of a years-long rut.
Think of one thing you might be doing because of someone else’s reasons, or because of old stale reasons.
Ask yourself why.