Friday, September 17, 2010

Read, Rave, Love

Well, after an astonishingly long read-time, I have finally finished 'Eat Pray Love,' by Elizabeth Gilbert.
And let me tell you, the long read-time was not due to disinterest, it was the product of an extremely busy and stressful schedule.

I loved this book. And while reading it, I fell in love with Elizabeth Gilbert. She is a breath of fresh air, and an inspiration. She reminded me, by way of this book, that life is not to be wasted, and that you have the control not to waste it. She also taught/reminded me the importance of time alone -- meditation -- for spiritual and mental stability.

I was also extremely pleasantly surprised, because honestly, as I have stared at this book on the Barnes & Noble bookshelf for about a year, I've thought, 'Wow, that looks like a really nice self-help book, but I don't know if it will be interesting enough for me to really get into it.'

I couldn't have been more wrong - there is so much personality and dimension to this book, it is hard sometimes to believe that it's a work of nonfiction.

I won't go deeply into detail about everything I loved about this book. But I will give you a list of quotes that inspired me, and continue to inspire me. Elizabeth Gilbert's writing is fresh and genius. I'm not silly enough to believe everyone will actually read all of these quotes, but maybe if  you peruse a few, it will talk you in to reading this fantastic woman's journey of emotional and spiritual healing. I think you'd be glad if you did.


'To find the balance you want,' Ketut spoke through his translator, 'this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it's like you have four legs, instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.' (page 27)

This feeling reminded me of when I was four years old and couldn't read yet, but was dying to learn. I remember sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office with my mother, holding a Good Housekeeping magazine in front of my face, turning the pages slowly, staring at the text, and hoping the grown-ups in the waiting room would think I was actually reading. I haven't felt so starved for comprehension since then. (page 38)

Maybe the voice I am reaching for is God, or maybe it's my Guru speaking through me, or maybe it's the angel who was assigned to my case, or maybe it's my Highest Self, or maybe it is indeed just a construct of my subconscious, invented in order to protect me from my own torment. (page 53)

Tonight, this strange interior gesture of friendship -- the lending of a hand from me to myself when nobody else is around to offer solace -- reminds me of something that happened to me once in New York City. I walked into an office building one afternoon in a hurry, dashed into the waiting elevator. As I rushed in, I caught an unexpected glimpse of myself in a security mirror's reflection. In that moment my brain did an odd thing -- it fired off this split-second message: 'Hey! You know her! That's a friend of yours!' And I actually ran foward toward my own reflection with a smile, ready to welcome that girl whose name I had lost but whose face was so familiar. In a flash instant, of course, I realized my mistake and laughed in embarrassment at my almost doglike confusion over how a mirror works. (page 54)

Moreover, I have boundary issues with men. Or maybe that's not fair to say. To have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right? But I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. (page 65)

This much I do know -- I'm exhausted by the cumulative consequences of a lifetime of hasty choices and chaotic passions...So that's why I've quit. (page 66)

Where am I getting the space to store these words? I'm hoping that maybe my mind has decided to clear out some old negative thoughts and sad memories and replace them with these shiny new words. (page 70)

'Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.' He gives me some tissues from a box in the back of the car. He says, 'Let's drive.' (page 86)

'That's just your ego, trying to make sure it stays in charge. This is what your ego does. It keeps you feeling separate, keeps you with a sense of duality, tries to convince you that you're flawed and broken and alone instead of whole.' (page 140)

'Just as there exists in writing a literal truth and a poetic truth, there also exists in a human being a literal anatomy and a poetic anatomy. One, you can see; one, you cannot. One is made of bones and teeth and flesh; the other is made of energy and memory and faith. But they are both equally true.' (page 144)

He says, 'Give it another six months, you'll feel better.'
'I've already given it twelve months, Richard.'
'Then give it six more. Just keep throwin' six months at it till it goes away. Stuff like this takes time.' (page 148)

Destiny, I feel, is also a relationship -- a play between divine grace and willful self-effort. Half of it you have no control over; half of it is absolutely in your hands, and your actions will show measurable consequence. Man is neither entirely a puppet of the gods, nor is he entirely the captain of his own destiny; he's a little of both. 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? (page 177)

'Groceries, you need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you're  gonna wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control. Drop everything else but that. Because if you can't learn to master your thinking, you're in deep trouble forever.' (page 178)

This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don't have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn't have the specific ritual you're craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet. If you bring the right earnestness to your homemade ceremony, God will provide the grace. And that is why we need God. (page 187)

Here's how you can tell if you've reached the turiya state -- if you're in a constant state of bliss. One who is living from within turiya is not affected by the swinging moods of the mind, nor fearful of time or harmed by loss. 'Pure, clean, void, tranquil, breathless, selfless, endless, undecaying, steadfast, eternal, unborn, independent, he abides in his own greatness,' say the Upanishads. (page 196)

Most of us, even if only for two minutes in our lives, have experienced at some time or another an inexplicable and random sense of complete bliss, unrelated to anything that was happening in the outside world. One instant, you're just a regular Joe, schlepping through your mundane life, and then suddenly -- what is this? -- nothing has changed, yet you feel stirred by grace, swollen with wonder, overflowing with bliss. Everything -- for no reason whatsoever -- is perfect. (page 197)

Sean, my Yogic Irish dairy farmer, explained it to me this way. 'Imagine that the universe is a great spinning engine,' he said. '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 can 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.' (page 207)

The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefitting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people. (page 261)

Armenia laughed, but then seemed to consider the question seriously and answered, 'Well, I always tried to look nice and be feminine even in the war zones and refugee camps of Central America. Even in the worst tragedies and crisis, there's no reason to add to everyone's misery by looking miserable yourself. That's my philosophy. This is why I always wore makeup and jewelry into the jungle -- nothing too extravagant, but maybe just a nice gold bracelet and some earrings, a little lipstick, good perfume. Just enough to show that I still had my self-respect.' (page 265)

Still, when I am around this scene, I feel somewhat like Dorothy in the poppy fields of Oz. Be careful! Don't fall asleep in this narcotic meadow, or you could doze away the rest of your life here! (page 312)

Saint Anthony once wrote about having gone into the desert on silent retreat and being assaulted by all manner of visions -- devils and angels, both. He said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company. If you are appalled, he said, then it was a devil who had visited you. If you feel lightened, it was an angel. (page 326)

This went on for hours, and I swung between these mighty poles of opposite feelings -- experiencing the anger thoroughly for one bone-rattling moment, and then experiencing a total coolness, as the anger entered my heart as if through a door, laid itself down, curled up against its brothers and gave up fighting. (page 327)

*All images taken by me last night, when I was reading and practicing photography, instead of sleeping.*


Stephanie said...

excellent post. I read this 4 years ago when it first came out, I highlighted in it and re-read it several times through-out my journey the last 4 years. I was so excited when the movie was announced. ( I did go on opening day)

JW said...

I KNEW you would love this book. I just knew it. I did love it, too, mainly for the little nuggets of truth I found in it and hope to take with me. I also marked several sections. But, unfortunately, I remember wanting to mark so much more but being without a writing instrument at times.

I'm starting to think I should reread it, or at least sections. I have a hard time rereading books.

And, unfortunately, I did not love the movie. I felt like the book was her way of using her journey to help the rest of us understand certain things about ourselves and life. I felt like the movie was just taking us on her trips.

Meagan Shackelford said...

i also spent a long time reading this. about 3 months. but not because i lacked interest or was busy but because i didn't want it to end. when i finally finished it i almost cried. i felt like i was losing my best friend. i loved this post. it made my day.