Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Spiritual Practice of Drinking Wine (or how wine tasting taught me mindfulness)

I’ve been doing these “Spiritual Practice of…” posts for so long now that practically anything I do seems like a potential spiritual practice.  Since I’ve already written about how everything is spiritual, I won’t belabor the point here but it does amaze me to consider what an effect this series (and HBTB in general) has had on my spiritual and daily life.  I find myself somehow more integrated, more holistic.  And isn’t that the point?

So, dear lovely readers, let’s get down to business with the

Spiritual Practice of Drinking Wine (or how wine tasting taught me mindfulness)

Since moving to the Santa Barbara area more than two years ago and living so close to wine country, my husband and I have enjoyed the luxury of trying a variety of higher quality wines at a relatively lower price point than other parts of the country.  And being surrounded by wineries and wine drinkers has made the wine culture more accessible.

Here are some things wine tasting can teach us.

1) Prepare. Since I am nothing close to a wine connoisseur, I always like to read the descriptions that usually accompany a wine tasting and ask questions of the server about what the winery is known for, the process of making the wine, and what experience they want me to have.  I pay attention to key words like “earthy” or “finish” and try to prepare my palate to experience fully the wine I am about to taste.

2) Breathe. Experienced wine tasters will tell you the first thing you do when you receive a glass of wine is swirl the wine around a little in the glass to aerate it and then stick your nose in and breathe deeply to experience the wine first with your sense of smell. 

3) Taste. Wine tasting is not really about drinking wine at all.  It’s about tasting.  When you taste wine, you don’t just drink it.  For one thing, you usually get at the most about an 1/8 of a glass of any wine on the tasting list.  That’s not even enough for one gulp.  Tasting wine is about really, really tasting it, taking a small sip of wine in through your lips, rolling it around in your mouth so that it touches all parts of your tongue, and even sometimes slurping or gargling a little before finally swallowing.  The point is to engage your sense of taste fully with every sip.  Some dedicated wine tasters will even spit out the wine after tasting it so the alcoholic effects don’t hinder the next tasting.

4) Notice.  Here is where mindfulness really comes in for me.  At every point in the process of tasting a particular bottle of wine, my attention is fully claimed.  From the moment the wine enters my glass, I am observing the color, feeling the weight of the glass in my hand as I swirl, breathing deeply to smell as much as I can from what the description tells me to expect, and then finally taking a small sip onto my tongue to contemplate the flavor as it slowly makes its way to the back and down my throat.  I savor.  All my senses are engaged. With this sip of wine in my mouth, I am fully present in this moment in an embodied way.  Then, before I take another sip, I consider the finish and the aftertaste. I compare it to the other wines I’ve had and to my expectations from the description.

5) Repeat.  And then, slowly, I go through the process again.  Do I pick up any nuances I missed on the first sip?  Is my palate more discerning on this trip than last time? Can I appreciate the wine more fully than I did last time?

6) Share. Wine tastings, like many activities, are more fun with friends.  Since my husband and I often go together, I like to ask him about his experience of the wine we are tasting.  What did he notice? How did it compare to other wines we have tasted? I find that sharing in his experience and sharing mine with him creates a greater depth.  My wine tasting experience would be incomplete without this opportunity to share with and learn from each other.

7) Change. I have found that since I started wine tasting, I accidentally apply this method to other beverages I try.  New blend of lemonade on the menu? Let me swirl it around in my glass and breathe it in first.  It’s led to some odd looks from dinner companions, I’ll admit.  But that has only further impressed upon me the benefits of drinking wine as spiritual practice.  Slowing down and allowing our activities and experiences to fully engage us in the present moment—fully engaging our bodies, minds, and spirits—helps us cultivate a valuable and lifelong habit reminiscent of Brother Laurence’s practicing the presence of God.

What do you think? Let your voice be heard in the comment box below!

 

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You are worth more than your body or your sex appeal.

One of the central themes of holistic body theology is cultural discernment.  Our culture has many valuable gifts to bestow, but there are also many lies and harmful beliefs perpetuated.  That’s why media literacy is so important.  We have to recognize the messages around us and decide for ourselves whether we will accept them as truth or not.

But before we can even develop that discernment, we have to first know who we are.  If our identity is not sure, then we are so much more easily swayed by others’ attempts to tell us who we are or who we should be.  As Christians, we identify as children of God.  The foundation of our identity is built on Jesus, the incarnate divine being, perfectly holy and fully flesh.

Holistic body theology, then, is about realizing our embodied holiness in our everyday lives.  This is hard enough for those of us who live out our lives in quiet and relative obscurity.  How much greater the struggle for secure identity and wise discernment among the many messages of our culture when in the unique opportunity to create those messages for ourselves.

I don’t usually engage in ongoing conversations about the latest thing in popular culture, but Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus carries too important a message to worry about getting caught up in current debate.  Regardless of the various opinions floating around about Ms. Cyrus’ motivations, etc., Ms. O’Connor’s effort still gets kudos from HBTB for being willing to speak hard truths about the reality of sexual exploitation of women working in the music industry.

Here are some highlights from her letter:

[…]Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent[….]
I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and it’s associated media.

You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever … Don’t be under any illusions … ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty…

Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you[….] And its sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself[….]

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted … its so not cool Miley … its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. We aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers … that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career[….]

The value of Ms. O’Connor’s open letter is that her message is for more than just Miley Cyrus and other women in the music industry.  It is also a message for those relative-obscurity-living-in people like you and I.  We have a responsibility to engage wisely in the world around us.  When we buy magazines or watch videos on Youtube or tune into entertainment news, we are telling the media and the world what we are interested in.  “Sex sells” is a well-known and proven marketing adage for a reason.  Sex sells because people buy it.

So, my dear lovely readers, here is my open letter to you:

Know who you are.  Make choices that reflect your identity and honor your worth.  Live a life that sells what is truly worth buying.  Live a life worthy of the precious, beautiful, unique, beloved child of God that you are.

You, dear readers, are worth more than your body.  You are worth more than your sexual appeal. You are too valuable just because of the simple fact that you are a human being on this earth to believe anything less about yourself or about any other human being on this earth.  You are worth more than the low, base messages in the media.  You and I, and Ms. Cyrus and Ms. O’Connor, and every other person deserve better.  We all deserve to be known and honored and valued and loved for our whole selves — mind, body, and spirit.

Let’s sell that for a change.

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