Chocolate, Wine, and Yoga: Match Made in Heaven or Confusing Combo
To be sure, when I think of pairing wine with something, downward dog isn't the first thing I think of. And since chocolate has become a self-imposed illicit substance that I tend to sneak in moments of undifferentiated need, I will admit that my small-s judgmental self raised an eyebrow at the idea of a Yoga+Chocolate & Wine Tasting Workshop on Friday, February 13th (6-8pm). Breathe, I tell myself when I notice judgment showing up, because being judgmental is my cue to myself that something alive in me is looking for attention. To make that connection, to have that awareness and to shift away from judgment toward self reflection, that is my practice. And by practice, I mean: something I do over and over and over, in an effort to gain mastery. On good days, after enough cleansing breaths, my big-S Self gets curious about A) what the judgment is telling me about myself, and B) what joy and/or learning I might find in whatever it is that I am judging.
Part A is easy: wine and chocolate belong to the world of no/don't, while yoga—virtuous, divine yoga—belongs to the world of yes/do. I feel good when I do yoga, and while I enjoy wine and chocolate, and also feel good when I indulge, the story I tell myself is that they're bad, and I really shouldn't do them. Hence, the coupling of yoga with wine and chocolate shines light on what is unreconciled in me, and the unconscious way I deal with that schism is to judge, or potentially blame: what the … !
AND, I know better. Understanding full well that there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so, like others, I, too, am convinced that both wine and chocolate are heaven sent:
Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine. – Geronimo Piperni, Spanish army surgeon, 1796
Wine is a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. — Benjamin Franklin
So I let the part of me that knows better direct the shift from judgment toward self-reflection, and while Part B might be challenging to unravel, it usually brings rich reward. Engaging my beginner's mind, I go back to what I am curious about: what am I missing here? As soon as I let myself be open, of course, the answers come.
What I see is that, chocolate and wine have landed on my no/don't list because, while I do enjoy them, when I'm feeling challenged, they tend to be my go-to strategies for avoidance: in other words, I use them to 'take the edge off.' When I Google wine and chocolate quotes, it's clear to me that I'm not alone in this. “Give me wine to wash me clean of the weather-stains of cares." That's Ralph Waldo Emerson! I'm not saying he drank to avoid difficult feelings, but his lovely, poetic words very poignantly say: wine will make it better. And there's plenty more where that came from; some of the quotes might be really funny, if there wasn't just a bit too much truth to them.
I’ve learned to use meditation and relaxation to handle stress… Just kidding, I’m on my third glass of wine. (someecards.com)
I don’t drown my sorrows, I suffocate them with chocolate.
What I'm seeking in avoidance as a coping strategy is 'a void:' I want to hollow out whatever is causing the uncomfortable edginess. More often than not, it's a feeling, thought, situation or circumstance that I don't want to tackle head on.
How does this relate to yoga? In yoga, like all spiritual practice, I'm also seeking a void of sorts, the kind Lao Tzu describes in his verse: We shape clay into a pot, / but it is the emptiness inside / that holds whatever we want. The difference between avoidance and stepping into the spaciousness of a spiritual practice can, and has been, described in countless ways. As I see it, it comes down to this: When I avoid what disturbs me, I am saying, in essence, that this is bigger than me, and I can't handle it, so I'm going to push it away from me at this time. When I create spaciousness around what disturbs me through my spiritual practice, what I'm saying is: I know I can handle this, I just don't know how at this time, so I will ground my body and quiet my mind and make room for solutions to appear, but I will not be attached to outcomes.
This is not the same thing as wishful thinking. Rather, it is stepping all the way up to the edge of my discomfort, admitting: I don't know, but I will trust. What am I trusting? A) I'm trusting that there is a solution. And B), I'm trusting myself: somewhere in me, I have the answer to my own dilemma. I may not be able to see it, but I know it's there, and until I can see it, I will practice patience and acceptance for what is right now.
In the detachment of yoga, I can experience bliss, even if the rest of my life is a train wreck. In the wake of a sip of wine, or in the aftertaste of a bite of chocolate, I can find the exact same experience of bliss — but only if I've ingested them with the same sense of detachment. If, however, I need the wine or chocolate to take from me the burden of my discomfort, what I get in place of bliss is more burden, and typically, craving for more. Moments of bliss imprint themselves in our system, and become reminders to us of what's possible.
Admittedly, at times, I do use heavenly substances to try to bypass my earthly woes— usually to no good effect, of course. It is also the case, that, from time to time, when I can ground myself, and mindfully approach the likes of chocolate and wine, I can remember and connect to the particular flavor of goodness that I am wanting to have present in my life as a whole. And this remembering helps me find my way to the hope of possibility.
What's possible, I now wonder, in the experience of chocolate and wine AFTER grounding my body and quieting my mind through yoga? Not everyday, for sure, but at least this once, on February 13th. Remembering that Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about myself, I extend my curiosity to the endless opportunity inherent in the words of Forrest Gump: Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.