I just finished reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. What can I say? Every woman who is going through some sort of transformation in her life, or embarking on a journey of self-discovery must read the book. Every other woman should read it too. Elizabeth Gilbert has become not only a favourite author of mine (I read Big Magic first), but also a role model in general. And she’s not only a writer, she is also a spiritual figure and someone who is bravely sharing her experience and knowledge in a very encouraging way.
For those of you who haven’t read the book (and actually the movie is only based on Liz Gilbert’s story but that’s how far it goes in delivering its message e.g. read the book!), it is a memoir chronicling the life of the author for about one year. During that time she visits three places – Italy, India and Indonesia – in the pursuit of respectively pleasure, spiritual devotion and balance between the former two. By the end of her spiritual journey and travels she finds not only the love of her life, she finds her love for herself. Well, in fact, it’s a bit more complicated than that but I won’t spoil it for you! Here’s just a little teaser:
It was in a bathtub back in New York, reading Italian words aloud from a dictionary, that I first start mending my soul. My life had gone to bits and I was so unrecognizable to myself that I probably couldn’t have picked me out of a police lineup. But I felt a glimmer of happiness when I started studying Italian, and when you sense a faint potentiality for happiness after such dark times you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt – this is not selfishness but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight. Part I, p. 115
We’ll all agree this is true, won’t we? For the sake of human life itself we have to find a way to pull ourselves out of the dirt – not only an entitlement but an obligation too. An obligation to yourself and everyone around you, but mainly to yourself. And yes, it could be anything that you can grab onto – even the tiniest “straw”, like loving Italian language in the case of the author, could be your path towards the light.
I’d also like to stress the importance of recognizing your misery as the ticket towards your salvation.
When I faced my personal crisis after the death of my sister last year, I knew this was my chance to look into myself, my life, my soul’s purpose. I knew I had to start digging and do the work in order to be able to continue living a sane life. I knew in a way that I had no other choice because I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to give up on my life. So I had to go through the depths of my internal mess.
And I started that very same day right from my armchair!
When I was reading the part of Eat Pray Love when the author is in an ashram in India, I thought to myself: “Isn’t that just great, what an experience! She has to go through all this mental and emotional hardship and physical discomfort but, really, that’s the only way to find long-term peace within yourself, isn’t it? I’d love to do that!”
And then my next thought was: “Yeah, that would be awesome but you know what? In fact, my life here as it is right now, with all its difficulties and challenges, is my ashram! I don’t actually have to go to India or anywhere (well, of course it would be nice) to experience all that stuff you’re meant to experience there. My life is my ashram and I can go there now. I’m already there!”
That gave me a sense of freedom and hope. I can do it, right here and right now – I can learn about myself, I can practice spiritual devotion, I can fight for my life – all from my armchair. And I also have my triggers and my torments – every time I leave that chair. But I can use all this here to better understand myself and my life. It doesn’t make it in any way easier than being in an actual ashram, besides perhaps the heat because I still live in Ireland (I wouldn’t mind some to be honest)!
At the end of the day, we can always make the best use of our life circumstances. And actually Liz Gilbert started her journey way back when she was in New York, reading that Italian dictionary. But she did realise the opportunity she was presented with at the time, and started weaving her plan. Even if she didn’t know it with her mind, she knew it with her heart. She responded to the opportunity and held tight onto it. Which led her to learn and experience so much.
As of me, I’m still spending good bits of time on my armchair but more often now I dare to venture out in the world. After years of self-inflicted isolation I finally let the light get in the cracks of my heart. And I can see deep in it now that it is better lit.
Have you read Eat Pray Love? And what feelings did it stir within you? Have you already embarked on your journey of personal transformation?