Can you be spiritual and still go to the pub?

I recently began to explore a question that many people my age and in my social circles have frequently thought about but very rarely discussed explicitly. These are the kinds of people who have gained a reasonable level of personal maturity and success, but also into having a good time and letting your hair down whenever the opportunity presents itself.

They are generally confident in their outlook, with a broad understanding of health consciousness and some of whom are in varying stages of exploring their spirituality.

In our younger days, and some even now, are hard party goers. Many frequent pubs and bars, perhaps less so than five to ten years ago. I myself have been very much into having a few wines or beers particularly in my twenties, studying medicine in England and fraternising with the ‘work hard/play hard’ mentality of the medical fraternity.

In fact some cultures would regard such consumption of pints of alcohol and frequently dance venues even ‘hedonistic’. Naturally, in some cultures such as in Muslim countries, consuming alcohol even goes against religion.

Spirituality on the other hand conveys a sense of pureness, of religion, temples, mosques and churches and people dressed in robes. Aren’t those the first things that come to our mind when you think about spirituality?

What I am finding, is that spirituality seems be redefining itself in current society, but also in our own internal journey and self-discovery. Society now wants to hear from spiritualists who not just talk the talk in contemporary, modern terms but can also walk the talk in a balanced way.

What I am finding, in my own personal journey of conscious growth and particularly with the journeys of many others around me, is that while we enjoy exploring our own inner self or ‘spirituality’ even deeper, we are still attached to some our usual ways of letting our hair down.

Of course, we may still be engrossed in sports, outdoor recreational activities, the movies or artistic festivals and concerts. These are all fun but these are not the activities that occasionally seem to bring about a sense of internal conflict and personal emotional imbalance.

What I mean is spending time in pubs, bars or nightclubs, having a few drinks, getting drunk, smoking cigarettes or even taking recreational drugs (yes, some people do this!)or even other activities that border on the illegal. And yet, they are still exploring their spirituality.

Now, I am in no way encouraging or condoning any illegal activity or much less anything that is unethical or morally offensive. Yes I do realise that most people are on a journey, a transition from one way of doings things and routine behaviours, to another way of doing things, and thinking about them more consciously.

And this journey takes time. It can take months, years or even decades. And in the mean time, we are on a ‘middle ground’, on a path with a million crossroads, some leading us to explore our more ‘sinful’ side and some leading us to explore our more spiritual side.

Our humanity, our human-ness is therefore a duality. It is a duality of right and wrong, of light and dark, of external instant gratification of pleasures versus a more internal obtainment of inner peace. And that appears to be normal.

From what I’ve observed and what I know, there never seems to be a clear boundary within ourselves between the two forces. On a short term daily basis, people are constantly swinging from one side to another in their daily behaviours. Some swing more in one way than another.

However, in the longer term I also observe people evolve over time and gain a sense of enlightenment where they become more at peace with themselves. But these people, also first loved both sides of themselves.

They did not feel guilt, shame or pain as motivators for becoming better people. Instead they started with accepting themselves for who they are, for their own duality. And this acceptance occurred at a very deep level.

Instead they were motivated by happiness, and by this I mean true inner happiness. I saw these people to have a desire to serve others and have the ability to detach from mundane daily stresses and look at life and the world from a whole bigger picture.

And yes, some of them even continue to enjoy a drink every now and again, as they were treading along this path of inner growth and higher purpose.

So the question I ask you then is….. can you explore your spirituality while still going to the pub?

Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan
About the Author: Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan

Dr Avi is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organisations and governments.



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