I never expected to have a faith-affirming experience while sunbathing on a polka-dotted inner tube, floating on the Joe in St. Maries, Idaho. I’d just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love and the eb and flow of the water was churning my reflections. Reading Eat Pray Love, a memoir about Gilbert’s emotional and spiritual journey through Italy, India and Indonesia, had felt like meandering blissfully through an antique shop. I didn’t walk in with the intention of getting anything, just looking. But as I weaved my way through the endless nooks and crannies, I discovered gem after gem after gem. I hadn’t hoped to get so much out of a book that hit the reading market the way Justin Bieber hit the music industry. The teeny boppers and soccer moms drooled while the snobs shrugged, “It’s just a fad.” Then– BOOM! Here come the awards, the critics, the interviews and finally– The Movie. So much for “fad.” Even so, I snubbed Eat Pray Love until a friend recommended it. Luckily my mother had it collecting dust on her bookshelf. She thought it was self-indulgent, so much so that she hadn’t been able to finish. Her criticism (and the fact that it is partly true) didn’t stop me from reading every word, and rereading those that resonated. Eat Pray Love is one of those books a reader needs to be ready for. Books like this one find you when you need them, and if you let them inside your world, they can take you places you ain’t never been before, as our boy Bieber would say.
By the end of my own journey with Eat Pray Love, I found myself bobbing in a river, basking in my inner peace and contentment. I knew I’d found tranquility when a dragonfly landed on my knee, glimmering iridescent in the sunlight. I watched it rub its hands together, opening and closing its pac-man mouth. Somehow, this vulnerable little insect had determined my body was a safe place to rest, and even more remarkably, I didn’t flinch or brush it away. The dragonfly stayed with me for several minutes until I slapped at a fly that had landed on my elbow. When I looked back at my knee, the dragonfly was gone. But I could still feel its presence, as if its spirit and the spirit of the entire universe had imprinted themselves upon my skin. I knew then that I believed in Divinity, that I had faith in Love. And that I am ready to travel my own path.
While Eat Pray Love did not bring me to this moment singlehandedly, it certainly gave me the extra nudge I needed to get there. Here are some of the nugets I found that either got me thinking, laughing, or praying:
“Human discontentment is a simple case of mistaken identity. We’re miserable because we think that we are mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentments and mortality. We wrongly believe that our limited little egos constitute our whole nature. We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character. We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme Self who is eternally at peace. That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine.” (122)
“I stood up and did a handstand on my Guru’s roof, to celebrate the notion of liberation. I felt the dusty tiles under my hands. I felt my own strength and balance. I felt the easy night breeze on the palms of my bare feet. This kind of thing– a spontaneous handstand– isn’t something a disembodied cool blue soul can do, but a human being can do it. We have hands; we can stand on them if we want to. That’s our privilege. That’s the joy of a mortal body. And that’s why God needs us. Because God loves to feel things through our hands.” (188)
“God dwells within you, as you.” (Gilbert’s Guru, 191)
“Imagine that the universe is a great spinning engine. You want to stay near the core of the thing– right in the hub of the wheel– not out at the edges where all the wild whirling takes place, where you get frayed and crazy. The hub of calmness– that’s your heart. That’s where God lives within you. So stop looking for answers in the world. Just keep coming back to that center and you’ll always find peace.” (Sean, the Yogic Irish dairy farmer, 207)
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.” (Richard from Texas, 149)
Wayan’s “Fail-Proof Broken-Heart Curing Treatment: Vitamin E, get much sleep, drink much water, travel to a place far away from the person you loved, meditate and teach your heart that this is destiny.” (Wayan, 264)
“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” (95)
“In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.” (114)
“We gallop through our lives like circus performers balancing on two speeding side-by-side horses– one foot is on the horse called ‘fate,’ the other on the horse called ‘free will.’ And the question you have to ask every day is– which horse is which? Which horse do I need to stop worrying about because it’s not under my control, and which do I need to steer with concentrated effort?” (177)
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.” (One of Gilbert’s Guru’s teachings, 260)
“[The Zen Buddhists] say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well– the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens…
…It is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.”
What did you think of Eat Pray Love? Which books have touched your life? Let me know in comments below!
Smiles and all the best,