Meditation: a first step to mindful bartending

When I first stepped behind the bar in New York, when I was just 23 years old, I was pretty much terrified of my customers. I’d just arrived in the USA from a small town in England, and everyone in the Big Apple seemed to be so much smarter, quicker, and so much more sophisticated than I was. I was an easy target for savvy New Yorkers to tease, and tease me they did.

It didn’t take me long, though, to develop a practice that made it easier for me to deal with this situation. I arrived for work a full hour before I was due to start my shift, order a meal, and I’d sit quietly on my own, eating slowly, and gearing myself up to face the crowd. If anyone tried to join me I’d politely tell them that I wanted to be alone, and when the time came for me to start my shift, I found that I was feeling peaceful, centered, and ready to deal with whatever came my way. Although I didn’t know it, I was indulging in a form of meditation.

If you’ve ever practiced meditation you’ll know that, although you are seeking to get away from the constant chatter that goes on in our minds, it’s very difficult to “tune out” for long periods of time. Our minds constantly try to stray to thoughts such as, “I wonder if Jim and Coleen will be at the bar tonight,” or, “”I wish I’d have handled that situation with my partner differently this morning.” Thoughts about the past and the future, rather than living in the present.

It’s important, then, that, when we meditate, every time we recognise that our minds are straying, we don’t beat ourselves up about it, and instead, we simply try to come back to a place of stillness. And in that same vein, when we realise that we’re not being mindful, it’s good to take that opportunity to steer ourselves back to living in the present moment. The past is gone, and the future hasn’t yet arrived. Be Here Now. This present moment is all that’s real.


Gary Reganis the author of The Joy of Mixology, gaz regan’s Annual Manual for Bartenders, and many other bartender-related books and newsletters. You can find him at www.gazregan.com.