Is Winefulness The Secret To Festive Cheer?
Can inner peace be found at the bottom of a slowly-sipped glass?
Yes, really, says Jo Carnegie, who has found inner peace at the bottom of a slowly sipped glass
Christmas time. The chance to eat, drink and be merry. Healthiness is swapped for hedonism as our diaries become a whirl of festive frivolities.
It can all turn into a bit of an endurance test and, come Christmas Day, our livers are left desperate for respite and our minds yearning for peaceful downtime - especially as recent research from Cambridge University has shown the size of our wine glasses has doubled since the Nineties, which encourages us to pour bigger measures that we swig even quicker, no doubt doubling our hangovers the next morning.
But what if you could feel calm and connected while drinking your favourite tipple? Welcome to Winefulness, the mindful technique that could revolutionise not only your Christmas but your drinking life.
I first came across Winefulness when I was in Australia last year. I had spent the past few years trying to be more mindful and holistic, and as I neared 40 had started to question my drinking habits. I’d always been a binge-drinker and I had decided that I and my beloved white wine were no good together.
So I cut it out of my life along with a lot of other things, such as going to the pub with my mates or hosting dinner parties. I was trying to lead my best mindful life but all I did was lose most of my social life and become rather bored and lonely.
While in Brisbane I met Manish Singh, a leading mindfulness practitioner who runs a company called Changing Mindspace. I had always struggled with concentration during meditation practices. I had all the candles, the mantras and the apps, but nothing seemed to turn my mind off for long enough to really be in the “moment”.
So, I was intrigued and a bit sceptical when Manish suggested that I try Winefulness - a new meditation technique with wine that he had started developing and teaching.
Up until then my experience of drinking was more akin to mindlessness, and I was so exhausted by the relentless search for inner peace I was also gasping for a glass of chardonnay. So, with nothing to lose, I found myself a week later trying out my first Winefulness session in a bar on Brisbane’s sunny riverfront.
We both got a glass of Sauvignon and Manish asked me to do what he called a “baseline check” to see where I was emotionally. I was actually feeling rather relaxed for once, rather than the normal resentfulness I’d always felt at “having” to meditate. He made me sit and observe the colour and movement of the wine in my glass.
It was lunchtime and the place was busy with workers, but Manish told me to just observe the noise, rather than react to it. I had to pick up the glass and feel the weight and coolness of it in my hand, to use it as a kind of prop to physically anchor me into the moment. Next he told me to put my nose to my glass to inhale the wine.
The scent made me take strong, gusty breaths and I realised how shallow my breathing was normally. After the first sip, I closed my eyes and kept the wine in my mouth, focusing on the feel and flavour.
As the wine trickled through my body Manish told me to keep focusing on my breathing: the inhale and the exhale. Normally when I had my first sip I would still be “up there” in my head, checking my phone, looking around or chatting. This was a new experience. I was tracking the wine through my body and where it was leading me.
Manish asked me what sensations were coming up and I started to list all the hot spots of tension: my neck, my shoulder blades, around my hips, even my feet. By connecting to my body, even if it was tense, a sense of space opened up. Instead of swigging another mouthful (my previous MO), my first sip lasted a few minutes.
I felt more calm than I ever had from sitting on a yoga mat for an hour. All for the price of a good Sauvignon.
Drinking wine to become more mindful does sound counterintuitive, not to say just plain daft. But paying close attention to the experience had the same effect as a quiet meditation.
An average Winefulness practice can start from one sip and go up to one or two glasses. At the point you start to feel yourself losing awareness, it’s probably best to stop or just get on with enjoying your booze. But when we are doing something we enjoy, we are relaxed and more receptive to being in the moment - a great starting point to any mindfulness practice.
It’s different from wine tasting, where you are told what notes and flavours to look out for. With Winefulness you are having your own unique experience, and you can also practise it anytime, anywhere, with anyone.
Most importantly, it’s fun. I now have a much more balanced approach to drinking. Using these techniques at a party stops me from glugging drinks and it has given me a workable strategy to manage my social life. I drink, but not too much. I savour the wine and the moment.
So if you find yourself feeling a bit fraught over the festive period, try practising Winefulness. Who knows, maybe you’ll even end up swapping Dry January for a Wineful January...
Six Steps to Winefulness
LOOK & LISTEN
Look closely at the visual data: the colour, light and movement in your wine and glass. Listen to the noise/sounds around you but don’t label them “good” or “bad”. Notice your baseline state of mind: are you distracted or emotionally charged?
SMELL & BREATHE
Get your nose right up into your glass and breathe in the wine for a while. Take little breaks to clear your nose. Notice if it brings up any emotions or memories. Keep your breathing soft, strong and relaxed.
TASTE & FEEL
Take a sip and focus on the flavour and feel in your mouth. After you swallow, just breathe for a few moments, noticing the flavour and feel of your exhalations. Let the wine work its way through your body. Notice any new sensations. Can you feel any points of stress? Don’t try to change anything, just have that awareness that it’s there. Even if you only manage 20 seconds, you were giving your brain a break. Over time you’ll feel more connected to your body and have a calmer, spacious, more creative mind.
— The Daily Telegraph