Have you ever thought about why you drink?
I never have. For my entire life that question never came up. That is until recently. So I decided to do a 100 day wine fast.
I remember the moment I began drinking. It was in 2008. Until that moment, I had never really drunk that much before. I had the occasional glass of wine, or martini. I indulged once in a while. But I would go months and months without alcohol ever touching my lips. For some reason, in 2008, I realized that I had never really enjoyed wine (among other things) as a daily ritual in my whole life. I felt, in that moment, that I had been missing out on something big.
And so I made a conscious choice to start enjoying wine and to make it part of my daily ritual. Keep in mind that only a year before, I had a close brush with death and had been examining all of the things I had been missing out on. Wine was one of them.
And so I started to make wine a part of my daily ritual. A taste to be enjoyed everyday.
Only it never became a ritual. It never became a taste to be enjoyed everyday.
My daily wine ritual became a daily habit to avoid dealing with all of those things I did not want to deal with.
The end of 2008 into 2009 was a really big year for me.
As I wrote in my book, Autobiography Of A Naked Yogi,
“I began the year (2009) in Costa Rica, where Adam and I were beginning to bring our vision for Blue Osa to life. Construction began in January 2009 with Adam at the helm–an unbelievable feat, construction would be completely finished the following January.
I left Adam and headed to Los Angeles where a friend wanted me to consider taking over his naked yoga enterprise. He started the LA group based on what I had done in New York, but in time discovered the business was consuming his life and was thinking of moving on.
My model for HNY was based on a good business plan for a few classes a week, but not for a full-time studio. The LA group was different–a members-only organization called Naked Yoga LA.
The notion of taking over the Los Angeles group initially was so enticing. I would not only become bi-coastal, I would have three residences! And although the possibility of an expansion of HNY to the west coast was intriguing, I found myself questioning over and over throughout the coming months, what the hell am I doing?
What I came to learn about LA is that it is a different animal altogether- -people there have different priorities than anywhere else in the world. And having my attention split in three different directions over that year was a constant drain on me.
The LA group didn’t have a central base of operation–with four classes a week strewn around the city. Eventually I found a beautiful loft space to house our classes–but when the building’s other tenants figured out I was teaching naked yoga, we were in for some challenges. It all came to a head as I was leading a retreat in the coastal mountains of Bali and hadn’t been able to check email in several days. When I finally did, I had a pile of them–from the landlord and from our teachers, none of whom were equipped to deal with an eviction notice! When I finally returned from Bali, we moved the studio to a small but comfortable carriage house–just large enough to accommodate a couple dozen students.
From LA I went to Amsterdam and London to lead workshops. I returned to NY where I led the HNY Memorial Weekend retreat in upstate New York, and then returned to LA for a month. I went back to Europe to lead my final retreat in France, then back to New York, then to Costa Rica where I took a breather amidst the construction for ten days. I returned to New York for a week, then headed to Denmark where I taught Hot Nude Yoga in the Out Games. I returned to New York, then headed to Sedona for a yoga retreat.
When I finally got back to Los Angeles in September, I knew something had to give–and it would be the LA group. Little did I know at the time, this would be my first concrete step toward shedding all that I thought was “me”–including the name Aaron Star.
I returned to NYC and enjoyed an entire six sweet weeks in one place–a respite that ended at the beginning of November when I took another group on retreat, returning to India. During that trip I was fortunate to have some of my closest friends and students with me.
I finally ended the year back in Costa Rica.
Wine became a way to deal with the mounting stress. This is ironic because my yoga practice is what kept my inner compass pointed true north and helped me to overcome life’s challenges. I had already done so much, and never needed alcohol before. But in that moment, something shifted and changed.
And until now, I had never given thought to my “drinking habits”.
Why Did I Start This Wine Fast Practice Now?
It has been a long time since I have felt genuinely connected to my source, for a consistent amount of time.
It had recently dawned on me that I used to be able to close my eyes, and feel completely connected. I used to feel completely whole anytime I would close my eyes. And over the years, that feeling started to fade. When it used to take me a couple of minutes to completely clear my mind, it would not take me a few days of practice. To a person who practices yoga, the mysteries are always so clear. And even though I had kept up with my practice, the mysteries were becoming a little hazy. For this reason I decided to dive into a sustained practice and abstain from any alcohol.
Below is my wine log.
I have edited it a little bit, but, for the most part, kept it in its raw state. While I am not a person who really journals too much, this journey has been a powerful one to document and I am really excited to share it with you.
If you have had a similar experience, please email me and/or share your experience below in the comments.
Yogi Aaron’s Wine Fast Practice
I officially started this wine fast on Tuesday May 23.
Day 1 – I want a beer with my hamburger
I had been traveling the day before, returning from Spain. Upon arriving in Costa Rica, my wine fast had started. The very next day, which was Day 1, I was walking through the airport and saw a bar serving burgers and fries. I almost sat down, and then caught myself. I started to make a list of all kinds of excuses saying, “I could easily start this wine fast practice tomorrow.”
That was a powerful moment of personal reckoning.
Day 2 – A day from all food. A day of fasting.
Day 3 – I am starting to wonder, “Am I addicted to something? Am I addicted to escaping? What am I escaping? Am I avoiding stepping into my life’s purpose?
Day 6 – Starting to experience deep sleeps. Deeper then I have in a LONG time.
Day 7 – Having headaches – is it from not drinking?
Day 9 – So many things are coming up for me. First time I started to meditate again. Really meditated. The inner restlessness is dissipating. People keep asking me for how long I am going to do this practice. I realized last night that I will stick with it until I know and feel that I return to where I was in my spiritual practice before life took a grip on me. There is a deep hunger in my heart to return to the sacred.
Day 10 – I am feeling very clear headed. It is as if someone has wiped away the layer of dust that had settled on my consciousness.
Day 11 – Today I am facing anger. Question – what is the difference between righteous anger versus anger that is consuming us and takes us away from our center? Is there a difference?
How do we embrace all that is whole and is in contribution to the world.
I faced my angry self in meditation.
Day 12 – A profound desire is building for me to dive deeper into personal practice. That desire is awakening along with inspiration and an inner longing.
Day 14 – Realizing I am able to process the past more easily. With wine, I am holding on to the past and not letting go.
Day 15 – Today, cravings for wine manifested all day. It was a long day and all I wanted to do was chill out. I decided to fast (from food) and went to bed early.
Day 16 – There is a restlessness that is diminishing. I don’t want to leave, go out, or run away to anything. I just want to be where I am. Even last night I did not want to watch anything to fall asleep. I just turned off my computer and did some deep breathing until I fell asleep.
Day 18 – Shit is getting real. For some reason now it just got hard. I find myself wanting to unwind after a long day.
Day 22 – After four days of that, the mind is getting more quiet again.
Day 27 – Shit just hit the fan. I am being accused wrongly from students, there are pressures in the business. Even with all of this going on, I am noticing that I am dealing with this with a lot more equanimity. I am not so emotional in my responses.
Day 28 – My desire to do my practice every day is increasing.
Day 29 – Someone sat down beside me with a glass of wine. The smell hit me like a ton of bricks. I nearly fell back. It was so delicious. Being so sensitive, I realized that I had not smelled that in years. Not drinking has made my senses so much sharper.
Day 34 – I have been really craving wine. I can smell it so strongly from everyone who is drinking it around me. So I fasted last night and skipped dinner. When I woke I had felt this inner purging had taken place.
Never underestimate the power of fasting and prayer.
Day 39 – My connection to my morning practice awakened something within me that I had not felt in a while. A wave of bliss and love spread over my entire being. And I felt a contentment I had not experienced for a long time.
Day 40 – I finished leading the one-month immersion at Blue Osa and left for a little trip away. My tendency was to have some wine to celebrate and relax. I ended up staying in and not having dinner to fast and not be around alcohol. There is an enormous bar where we are staying and I know my friends will drink.
(I don’t even think the drinks here are that amazing anyway.)
Day 45 – The moment I finally acknowledged what I really need.
Day 58 – I am acknowledging my limitations and avoiding places that trigger my cravings.
Day 77 – Today I hit a huge wall. Knowing that my goal was to stay alcohol free until September 8, I found myself today going to an Argentinian restaurant and making excuses about why it would be okay to have one glass. That was a real moment of truth. I did not drink.
Developing new habits is not easy, and going against the grain of old habits is even harder.
Day 78 – Today was big. I went to the adoption agency. It was a moment of truth that I don’t think I would have been honest about had I been drinking every night. I was really happy I did this.
Day 79 – I am still thinking about day 77. I am relieved I had enough willpower to stay the course.
One of the things Swami Rama talks about in his book, “The Art of Joyful Living” is that when we break our own agreements, we create confusion in the mind. And then it becomes harder and harder to do anything or set our mind to a task.
Day 80 – Went to the doctor and it was confirmed. 15 pounds in weight loss.
I continued this wine fast for another month totaling 110 days.
Habits can deeply affect us. Our habits form our personality. What we do defines who we are. Over time, we become a slave to these deep seeded habits which in turn dictate our personality.
To practice abstaining from something you think you need will bring you closer to who you really are while uncovering the boundless wealth of joy, love, compassion, indomitable will, strength and courage.
Use these practices to root out and destroy all of your inner disturbances. The deepest ones, anger, shame, resentment, they will always come back to haunt you until you deal with them head-on.
I would love to hear from you and any stories about wine, alcohol that you would like to share. Please post them in the comments below.
Dearest Aaron, I have decided to share something with you very personal to me, my experience is not with alcohol, it was with food and bulimia. My childhood was a difficult one. My mum married three times and my last step father showed his true colors very quickly after my mum and him got married. Basically between the ages of 6 and 10 he began to sexually abuse myself and my sister, if that was not bad enough he was an alcoholic and extremely violent physically and mentally with us, my mother new nothing of this and as I approached 10 years old, I began to understand how dangerous and disfunctional my family life was and how if I stayed in this house, my spirit would die so my sister and I approached my mother and asked her to send us to boarding school in England, we were living in Germany at the time. Reluctantly she agreed and found an all girls boarding school for us in North Wales, my sister and I were so happy, knowing we were starting on a new adventure but more than that we would be safe away from him. I did not know at the time that my sister had suffered the same fate all those years as me, but a few years later we had returned home for our summer vacation ( which as you can imagine was more of a torture for us), we went to the bowling alley, as we lived on an airforce base, in which time started to talk about our step father and realized we had both been abused by him, we made a pact there and then that it would be our secret and that our mother would never know. Years passed, then when I turned about16, something started to happen to me, the realization of what i had endured as a child and the understanding and connotation of that disgusted me beyond belief, i didnt understand it until hynde sight of course, but I began to stop eating, I hated myself and my body, I love food and preparing it, so starving myself was not really an option, so I began to eat and purge, i felt relief everytime i was sick as if i was getting rid of the bad parts of what had happened to me, but it was not long before this terrible habit, turned into a sickness began to take over my being. I was lost, was living by myself in Brighton and alone. I began to practise yoga at this point in my life, by this time I was about 20, 21, my bullermia had almost taken over my life, my thoughts and personality, but the more classes of yoga I attended the more clarity and control I began to have, but it still wasn’t enough. Then one day after I had eaten I think the entire contents of my fridge, becoming by this point of knowing what to eat and what not too to be able to bring the food back up ( the thought of what I did to myself even today makes me shudder), I had my head down the toilet and I started bringing up blood. I looked into the toilet and at that moment said to myself, if i dont get a handle on this I’m going to die, it scared the life out of me. I thought about how i was going to help myself, a few days later i booked a ticket to india, i had no clue if this was a good idea or whether it would help me, but I believed in my intuition, it has never let me down and went with what I knew in my heart to be right. Thinking that the action of eating and purging was the problem I got on the plane and set off. To my surprise a funny thing happened, being my first time in India at that time the culture shock was huge, as it is for us all and when I went for the first time to an Indian toilet, i looked down and said, there’s no way I’m making myself sick in one of those, that one moment broke the action of the habbit, now the real work was to begin, I spent the next year bimbling around india, I spent time in the shivananda centre in Trivandrum, and the rest of my time practicing my yoga here and there on my travels trying to fix what had been broken. My yoga practise definitely had a role to play in opening my eyes, and showing me during that time in my life, a true picture of what had manifested, together with what I saw and experienced on my first trip to India, together with the understanding from a battered child, that I was still full of love and light, and that my spirit was true and strong, gave me the courage to keep pushing forward no matter what, and I was able to beat it. I am so thankful for this life, and especially for the lessons I have been given, I forgive myself completely and also my step father, he did not know what he was doing. If he had had an understanding truly of his actions, he would never had acted that way, my mother died a few years ago, bless her soul and he is know alone, with no connection to his family or children. I believe that this is his Karma, we create with our own actions our own hell, and to be an old man knowing you will probably die alone and lost is not something i would not wish for him or anyone, no matter what they have brought to themselves. Thankyou for being here and listening to one of my stories, love and light to you?