I am aware that drinking is against the fifth precept, but there are certain occasions where I can enjoy a few drinks (few times a month). I read a lot that it is not recommended to meditate purposely on any drug - but what if I did take a few drinks, should I still meditate (e.g. Vipassana) or should I skip it?
I would skip it, allow me to explain why.
Just a little bit of context: Your question touches on a very important point about meditation currently many people see meditation as a simple tool for relaxation, some mix meditation with music, some use it for healthy benefits only, stress reduction etc... there is nothing wrong with that, however in Buddhism meditation is seen as something very different from that, much more powerful.
Meditation is something sacred, special, divine, that is why we prostate, that is why we are thankful for the opportunity to meditate, it is something that we should pay respect to, Buddha attained enlightenment meditating.
In a Nutshell, as a way of showing respect for the meditation process you should never do it after drinking, keep it as something pure, something special in your mind and in your routine.
PS: This is my approach, I understand people from other traditions may think differently
As a means to realize Nirvana, it is best to not meditate on drugs or use drugs as a crutch for meditation. By first-hand experience I'll say the drugs can be useful to an extent. If you've read "Be Here Now", the author describes how experiences with drugs led to a sort of heightened awareness, and I have had similar experiences. HOWEVER, the author clearly demonstrates the danger of using drugs as an aid to meditation, and I also have experienced those drawbacks. Basically, what happened was he would reach those blissful states of mind but he would go to great lengths to get them back. He would often experience depression when those states have ceased. This is the same thing that happened with me, and ultimately it is something that happens due to a lack of understanding towards our experience (i.e. that it is conditioned). He was shot straight into these blissful experiences, lacking in wisdom and exceeding in defilement. This is very dangerous.
But, like all things, benefit can be found here. We can learn to understand that all states of mind, or rather all experiences, are impermanent. Such an understanding will be conducive to dispassion.
So if you choose to drink, please be mindful of its conditioned nature. If passion (enjoyment) arises, set your mind on contemplating the conditioned nature of your experience. It is useful to have a basic understanding of the aggregates for this. For me, marijuana led me to be able to easily expand my awareness to my whole body and my environment. I stopped using it simply because it is not necessary to use drugs to experience such a state of mind, and also because the drugs can easily cloud the mind if you're not careful (and willing to sacrifice the pleasant experience).
Do not use this as an excuse to drink. Sometimes people on drugs say that they're high to understand their experience, but if they are passionate towards such experiences then they simply are not getting anywhere and are lying to themselves. This is why it is best to not use drugs.
I hope this helps you. Please understand that I am not encouraging drug use, only showing its (limited) usefulness. It is ultimately safest to not use drugs, and also it is more respectful to the Buddha. Metta to you.
As a general rule of thumb I agree that one should not imbibe before practice. However, it is useful to observe the mind in that condition. What is that like? And again we have such chaotic schedules, you may find that you are free to practice after you have been at an event or out with friends, so why not practice then? I don't see how it could harm you...
You may struggle to keep awake, which will be easier if you happen to follow a practice with the eyes open.
In addition to causing questionable judgement, it's clear that Alcohol dulls the wakeful quality of mind. It limits stamina for long practices, as well as our ability to serve others. These are the main reasons that I limit my consumption. (But I need to make a stronger effort myself.)
If we are learning to awaken to the natural mind, then it seems counterproductive to intentionally dull the mind. It's like dulling your knife before chopping your vegetables.
I would meditate first the same way you would not drink and drive because you lose awareness of the surroundings when you drink and lose the ability to concentrate.
Of course if you can become intoxicated on fruit juice, it is a sign of increasing sensitivity. If you must drink alcohol, make sure it is separated from time and place of your practice. Keep counting breaths while you drink. See if it is the drink you wish for or the thought of having the drink in your hand and feeling in control by being intoxicated.
Another herbal alternative is peppermint tea made very strong. You can drink hot or cold. Some say it has quite a kick. It is mellow and natural tea.
Drinking / drugs reduces your awareness and consciousness. You cannot effectively practice awareness after drinking. Think you are baseball or cricket player. Will you get drunk before you go to bat. You need some awareness to bat though not the right awareness as in Vipassana.
Also Vipassana is not something you just do on a cushion. This is just practice which should continue during the day. So if you are practicing Vipassana seriously then best is you do not drink at all.
Having said all this, for some reason or the other you end up drinking, keep looking at the sensation and your alertness of your body and mind. Look at how the intoxicant is effecting your body and mind. Some point you might see there is not enjoyment in drinking and also sets you back in your practice, through this might be very had as intoxicants reduce your awareness. Don't take intoxicants with a view to try to get such insights, as each time you do take an intoxicant, you take a step back and more steps in that direction lesses you will be able to get any insights into this.
According to my Zen Master, you must never meditate under influence of any drug. We even had a little sign at the entrance of zendo, that warned about this.
The same rule applies to alcohol, and if Master caught you drunk, or even in hangover, he would kick you out right away. Although unlike the drug rule, the alcohol rule is more of a disciplinary thing. They don't want people to lose their sense of boundaries.
These were the rules for lay people, who did not take the five precepts. I don't see why these would not extend to home.
there's that word again... "should". :0/ No skipping meditation is not what you "should" do. But alcohol will actually bring out things that are not usually evident in the mind. The same way an angry person that starts drinking may get furious, so too will it exaggerate certain aspects of the mind, which theoreticslly makes them unavoidable, or at least they will be noticed if you truly are putting effort toward being mindful of the present moment as fully as possible.
But, as alcohol is very likely to cause a lack of heedfulness if taken in excess... you may not get much out if it.
Excuse opinion, but im a lay renunciate so i share my views on occaision and in this case i think it could be helpful... so here it is, If you meditate under the influence of a conciousness altering thing, the first thing to do is focus on its effect, maybe in contrast to sobriety, on the four foundations of mindfulness. If drinking is a thing you might have trouble letting go of you certainly "Should" not let it be a hindrance to your practice by avoiding meditation simply because you drank a little.
Im not saying or assuming this applies to you necessarily... but may help if said... if it is a pretty serious problem (alcoholism) i woukd say it could help to MAKE SURE you meditate every time you drink... as you may come to understand it better that way. And to practice "live mindfulness" of the time in which you consume it... like why am i here REALLY?... be aware of what your body is literally doing... you know like when you grab the glass and pick it up, and tasting, etc... what do you do in between drinks, what thoughts and feeling arise.
im not sure why some people are telling you to skip being aware of a recurring phenominon that you are partial to but... i say take four precepts and meditate!!!
I try to be mindful all the time, as much as I can. Therefore I would try to be mindful of what caused the desire to drink in the first place, then certainly I would try to be mindful while in the process of drinking and then I would try to keep being mindful while drunk. I would see how difficult it would be to concentrate and experience the more subtle meditation objects. I would see how much more difficult it would be to remember and remember to be mindful as well. I might see how poor my judgment was while drunk. Hopefully I would realize how dangerous any amount of drinking would be and let it go.