Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It took me forever to finish this book, because I got stuck on the 'pray' part... I finished the 'eat' part before Shane was born, back in January and I read the 'love' part during our holiday in Wales, just a few weeks ago. The months in between were spent trying to get through the 'pray' bit, which I now obviously consider the weakest part of the book. I'm glad I didn't abandon Elizabeth and her journey though, because I absolutely loved the 'love' chapters.

This is a book about the author's journey from escaping from a life she thought she wanted and didn't - a house, husband and future children - and going on a journey, both physically to Italy, India and Indonesia and spiritually towards self-acceptance, self-knowledge and, ultimately, happiness.

The 'eat' part was of course spent in Italy and I loved the utter indulgence of it.

The 'pray' part was spent in India, meditating at an Ashram. I admit that meditation, yoga and ashrams are all things that by all logic I should be passionate about, what with a pagan belief system and my thoughts on spirituality and our connection to the universe. I've tried to get into the India craze sooo many times, to no avail; it all bores me to death. Someone once told me that it's because to do well in meditation etc you need to learn to exclude the world and look inwards, but I can't do that, I need a system where I work with all the noise. Who knows? Fact remains though, I almost didn't make it through this book at all and that would have been a real shame, because the 'love' chapter, the one about Indonesia turned out to be my favorite part of the book.

In Indonesia, Elizabeth works with a healer and completes her journey of acceptance. She finally learns to love and respect herself and everything else falls into place. (Obviously, this is oversimplified, but I hope it intrigues you enough to read the book yourself). This totally resonated with me - I went through a similar painful process and although I consider that I came out the other end a better person, I didn't go through it 100% consciously so some of my lessons learned disappear from my life (and consciousness) just when I'd need them the most. This part of the book reminded me that perhaps it's time to go over some things and put some extra effort into my own journey.

So many ideas in this book touched me. This post is already getting long though, so let me share just two quotes with you. The first comes, oddly enough, from my least favorite chapters, the Indian ones:
"Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don't have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift."
It always strikes me that the main deep ideas of various belief systems are so similqr. This, the focus of energy on intention when praying, is exactly the same as in belief systems that use magic, in that if you're not clear on what you want from your spell, it won't work. This idea is also a reminder to live consciously - if you're aware of what you're doing and why, life will have much more sense.

As a quick digression, let me just point out that this is the same concept as what quantum physics demonstrates - watch What the Bleep Do We Know or read up on experiments on the memory of water, where particles behave differently depending on the positive/negative energy around them. Ah I love this stuff. :-)

The second idea I want to share with you comes from the Indonesia part and is actually said by Elizabeth's medicine man:
"You can do Yoga," he says, "but Yoga too hard. [...] Why they always look so serious in yoga?  You make serious face like this, you scare away good energy. To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will some to you and clean away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver."
Is that wise or is that wise? :-)

And just a comment on the author's life choices - I love that she has shown that you can shy away from what society expects you to make of your life, take all sorts of risks on a new-agey journey to self-discovery and come out the other end, happier than you've ever been. I find it very empowering that this intelligent, talented woman realized that she doesn't want the house and husband and kids suburban life and acted on it. It takes courage and it's an inspiration.

Now, if you have any doubts about Elizabeth Gilbert, watch the video of her talking about genius, available on YouTube. Can you spot the genius?

Challenges: Women Unbound, 2010 Countdown, 4 month challenge

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