Tuesday, June 19, 2007

SoHo, June 2007

Buddhism has guidelines, known as the Ten Grave Precepts, that offer adherents a path to walk while minimizing harm and delusion. They’re sort of like the Ten Commandments, but maybe not as commanding -- they’re guidelines, a framework for living life, as opposed to strict rules.

Not killing. Not stealing. Not lying. Not gossiping. That kind of thing.

One of the precepts focuses on not taking drugs. The premise is that “all beings of the Universe are unclouded from the beginning, but the haze created by their use of drink and drugs keeps them from acknowledging it,” as Robert Aitken wrote in his book “The Mind of Clover.”

I thought about this precept after my outing on Saturday night, where I certainly had more than an adequate amount to drink. I wasn’t sloppy drunk, but two drinks is about as far as I usually go -- any more than that and I’m pretty much over the edge. On Saturday, over the course of the evening, I had two gin & tonics and about five glasses of wine! No wonder I felt fuzzy the next morning.

My theory on drinking, like most things, is that it’s a matter of balance. I mistrust absolute rules, because there are always situations that demand that they be broken. For example, if I’m out with friends and they toast someone’s birthday, I’d like to preserve the balance of the occasion and share the drink. Even dining with friends who buy a bottle of wine, I like to share in the bottle. It’s about the fabric of the companionship, and not making an issue of my ideas and beliefs.

I think a glass of wine or two, on occasion, is utterly harmless. It’s only problematic to drink habitually, to run away, or to the point that you literally lose your mind. I think I can be mindful even with a glass of wine in me; but probably not with five glasses!

Anyway, I’m not doing that again anytime soon. I wasn’t really hung over -- not like I’ve been in college -- but as I went to the Zendo the next morning, I didn’t exactly feel like my normally unclouded self!

“On your cushions, each breath is a going to sleep; each breath a wakening. With each exhalation, leave everything behind, except your practice. In daily life, your practice will be your task at hand and your movement from one thing to another, including, of course, recreation and rest. But wherever you are, self-centered thoughts are waiting in the wings. Give them a wave, but don’t let them take over. This is the enlightenment of all the Buddhas, the precept of not taking drink or drugs.” -- Aitken, “The Mind of Clover”


  1. The photo today is extraordinary! Some shutters wide open, others not so open. Wow!

    People have been drinking forever. For some people, like the Europeans, it's just one aspect of having dinner. For Americans it seems to be more about the buzz.

    Even though remorse is a part of every hangover, I do think there's something oddly cleansing about a blowout night of drinking every now and again. It blows steam - or something - way out of the energy field.

    I agree with you - balance is everything - in all things, really. Everything in moderation, even moderation, my shi'atsu teacher used to say.

  2. two things were inscribed in greek temples of yon. at the entrance 'know thyself' and on the back wall 'everything in moderation'...or something thereabouts. i quietly work towards those i think. and sometimes like reya, i think a blowout can do one the world of good sometimes!

  3. I came here by way of Merle's blog. Your photographs are beautiful.

  4. I like your practice of sharing in the moment with friends. I think it's a good policy to toast a friend, or share in a bottle of wine.

  5. A good philosophy - all things in moderation. Balance is key. I strive to defeat absolutes because they are illusions meant to control, and being at any "absolute" point immediately unbalnces you and limits possibility. I also believe that we grow and change based on our experiences, and thus there is really no "wrong" (unless what we do negatively impacts others - though a case could be made that even that is necessary).

  6. A good philosophy for life. I've lived abroad in both England and Denmark now and in both places it seemed that the folks kept drinking without stop. Maybe (at least with the Danes) they couldn't take life in the cold places without some cloudiness.

  7. The photo is wonderful! I get a good, uplifting feeling from it.

    I have similar beliefs around rules and the precepts, and your take on balance. I meet with my Uncle and close friends on Fridays (Family Friday) when we share food and drink, and on occasion, I go overboard and then feel like I've wasted my Saturday due to a slight headache and tiredness. It's easy to do when the everyone is having a good time and one bottle after the other is open and my glass is forever full (even though I keep sipping). Yes, moderation is key.


  8. Wonderful piece of work. I like the mindful thoughts and the artful self reflective writing.

    This is my first visit to your blog and this the first post I've read. I will visit again.