Finally, at the end of Easter, feeling odd with a house guest in the basement who goes to bed early, tired from Saturday, I opened a bottle of wine around midnight after a long nap, still feeling the smoke from grilling meat on my face, dishes undone After taking a week off, only a few glasses of wine after the Tuesday shift, a beer after Wednesday night jazz, then three days completely dry, even the Saturday shift, I felt I could try a little wine and see how I felt about it. I needed some calm energy, I thought, to sort through my book shelves, assess what I had. Too much stuff, beginning to weigh on me. Attachments. I'd ingested bread at work on Saturday at the end of the night, feeling it in my joints, unable to get into lotus. I felt I could use a glass, just to smooth things over, calm me down, let my writer mind wander unselfconsciously. Do some recycling. Strip things down. "Good wine is a necessity of life for me," Jefferson said, so maybe it will help me organize my little Monticello with too many books, too many guitars, papers, Hemingway magpie clutter, Madam Korbonski's Polish stuff. I see the picture of Dad, the botanist as a boy back in Turner's Falls atop the desk. The cat knocked it over, broke the glass.
Okay, try a glass, okay. After all this Buddhist stuff, let's see if I'm being a little too Taliban, a little too Puritanical… It all makes a supreme amount of sense, but let's see how the calm reaction to it will be… trying not to get nervous because maybe my future as a barman is riding on this. Peter Matthiessen, you can't get any better than that, the magazine section piece noted him having "a well stocked bar," and maybe the Zen wing more readily allows that, holds that it's the intoxication, and that you can get intoxicated on anything, even Buddha. And poor old Kerouac liked to allude to old Chinese monks of the mountains who loved their wine, whatever they made it out of, even though this hints loudly of enablement. (He could go dry when he had to. Fame… that's what fucked him up. Let's drink with the King of the Beatniks, they'd say, knocking on his basement window as he sat at the typewriter.)
You can't be an Enlightened Buddha overnight. It takes practice, daily practice, the following of moral code, the discipline of meditation and physical readiness. As I hoped, the wine didn't taste that good, and nor did it soothe. I know one can easily get 'holy, holy, holy,' think he is getting somewhere, pray to Jesus in sincere hopes of a second-coming; I know one can go through phases, fully buying it one week, and then a few weeks later, losing enthusiasm and will power and vision. Don't get ahead of yourself. Don't become a full Catholic quite yet, as nice and as comforting as that would be, your mind made up for you about just about everything.
Therefore, test things yourself, in your own laboratory, be honest with yourself, and see what happens. What's all this Buddha stuff about anyway? What is the Lama saying when he says that within all pleasures there is, if you partake, the increase of suffering?
And what I felt was, after all these years of trying to fit in, of telling myself a story, was that no, I don't need it. There was no great aversion, no spitting out, just non-attachment, the truth of non-attachment, distance from the ego-body of 'wine enjoyer.' (And look how my email in box is full of wine related offers, along with all the rest of marketing crap.) There wasn't even too much--though there was some--of great regret, at least the next day in daylight. There was simple plain honesty. A simple note of how very preferable not to even begin.
I might wonder why. Because wine represents attachment? I'm not sure. Or maybe I was just now being honest with myself, cutting through all the crap myths of self, seeing rather the red flush on my cheeks as I looked in the bathroom mirror. "Oh, yes, writers are supposed to drink," a voice said, but it was old and distant, an old fool, tired, though I did not beat up the voice, fearing reprisal, fearing being taken back in. "Think of Coltrane, the Love Supreme, for the newly clean, newly strong."
Forgive self for, in state of complete hunger and growing stiffness from seven hours on your feet after a busy shift for reaching toward the glass of camaraderie, the drink with the chefs jolly to be done with their very long day sweating the kitchen over the proverbial hot stove. There's no fault, just the call to be aware, to raise awareness, to not do the knee-jerk patterned response, after an evening of seeing everyone wrap their own lips around the edge of a tipped wine glass, as if stories and laughter of Czech proportions would come out of the pagan woods, that spirits would dance, the sky would open above and that one would return, with all his hard working good hearted friends to the bosom of a nice small town somewhere tucked within forested hills with very old trees and gardens and courtyards, a magnificent light pollution free sky overhead, fresh mountain air, a river, a fountain, then go home to sleep well under a thick feathered comforter embraced and embracing the girl of dreams.
No, enough fantasies, and each day is day one not be drawn in by the old habit, but to see freshly, to not even dwell on the sins of the past, but be liberated and be the moral being of good just wisdom who harms no one and wishes for the enlightenment of all sentient beings.
Yes, doesn't it feel good, after two ibuprofen, to be up at a reasonable hour for a night shift worker, sipping green tea. And if I can't figure everything out today, quit my job as barman instantly, as I might like, go join at last the monastic call, well, I guess that's okay. Just, yes, live in the present, and only care about what you need to care about and really wish to care about. And don't I feel calmer for saying so.
We cannot but help practice Buddhism in our lives. That is the funny thing. You might as well realize this, and map out to what extent you are doing this negatively or positively.