Title: Eat, Pray, Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m clearly ages behind on popular fiction. Eat, Pray, Love was published in 2006 and released as a film in 2010 — 5 years ago! But I just read it for the first time, so here’s a review for the rest of you like me.
Eat, Pray, Love describes Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey to find happiness, peace, and balance in her life following a divorce and nasty break-up. She spends a year living in Italy, India, and Indonesia (Bali), writing about her experiences along the way. In Italy she dedicates her time to pleasure — taking in the sites, eating delicious food, and learning the language. India is for devotion, so she spends her entire time at an ashram, meditating and finding her way to deity. Indonesia is her key to balancing pleasure and dedication, the place where she learns to love again.
I liked the book. Initially though, I couldn’t explain why. Gilbert’s entire journey is about spiritual discovery, filled with meditation, visions from gurus, and conversations with herself. As a fairly conservative Christian, those ideas are far from my own spiritual practice. Gilbert approached her year from a tumultuous relationship history; I am at the beginning of a beautiful marriage, divorce the farthest thing from my imagination. Eat, Pray, Love isn’t didactic–you can’t walk away with steps to follow (I like steps).
But it is beautiful. Authentic. It rang true with my own limited experience of life. Gilbert describes her emotional journey with honesty, but not indulgence. Her accounts of crying jags, crippling self-doubt, or the temptation to return to her lover are real, but brief and followed by humor or exploration of the surrounding country. This is no schoolgirl’s journal or makeshift therapy office. It is introspective, humorous, peaceful, and wonderfully written.
And some of her experiences spoke to my own; for instance, her 3 months of sheer pleasure in Italy seem so similar to my own summer. I have more free time now than I have in 5 years. I don’t know what to do with that time. I feel guilty about it. I search for ways to fill it profitably. Gilbert’s description of her own guilt and eventual healing reminded me how badly I need this break.
Although her spiritual practice is different from mine, they share a few similarities. Quietness and withdrawal are vital to any spiritual practice. In a world of constant technology, I struggle to sit quietly and focus on study and worship. Choice is another important concept. At one point, she practices sitting meditation in the ashram’s garden, only to realize that the mosquitoes are also occupying the garden. She chooses to sit through their attack, empowered to realize that she has never before not slapped at a mosquito. I function so often in reaction mode — it was good to be reminded that I can still choose my actions.
Verdict? It’s a good read. If nothing else, read through it to evaluate the balance of pleasure and prayer in your own life.
Have you read Eat, Pray, Love? Share your thoughts on it!
What are you reading right now? I’d love some book recommendations that I can use to fill all that extra time I have right now!