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Elizabeth Gilbert's Spiritual Journey, "Eat, Pray, Love"

Jean has always been an avid reader. She loves books, not only for their knowledge and plots, but as an emotional retreat from the world.

Eat, Pray, Love


A Married Career Woman Decides She Wants Her Career More

Eat, Pray, Love is the true story of traveling writer Elizabeth Gilbert’s painful divorce, and the year long journey she embarked upon to balance her wounded mind, body, and spirit. She and her husband had been married for six years, and had just purchased a larger home in the suburbs of New York.

In earlier times they believed that when Liz was thirty, they would start to settle down, and begin having children, with Liz slowing down her career for a family life. But once they began trying to have a child, Liz’s health began to go downhill. She started having panic attacks, and was diagnosed and put on medication for clinical depression.

She realized that she really loved her career, and did not want to stop traveling to exotic places or cut back on her writing. Liz also faced the fact that she did not want to have children, or want to be married anymore. These revelations came at a steep cost, as she often awoke during the night in tears, hiding from her husband as she lay crying on the bathroom floor. He did reluctantly accept her decision to divorce, but remained bitter and never understood why she changed her mind.

Liz tried to hide her feelings from her husband, hoping they would go away, because she did love him. At first Liz tries not blame her ex-husband or say anything negative about him. It appeared that these decisions came as a shocking and hurtful surprise to her as well.

One night as she lies on the bathroom floor, she begins to pray, although she was never a religious person. She hears a voice that says, “Go back to bed, Liz.” It was the only logical thing to do that late at night, but after hearing what she believes is God’s voice, Liz continues a prayerful dialogue with Him. She does not believe that there is only one path to God, but that everyone has their own pathway to the Divine. However, faith, prayer, and meditation become a very important part of her life after this point.

Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

The Journey Begins

Liz immediately embarks upon an affair to forget the ugliness of the divorce, but it was destined to be a disaster from the start. She finally must decide what she really wants to do with her life, instead of doing what other people expect from her all the time.

Liz always wished she could speak Italian, the only reason being that she thought it a beautiful language. She began taking Italian lessons, and daydreams about living in Italy. A few weeks later, she is introduced to a Guru visiting New York, and realizes that she actually wants to learn how to find spiritual discipline in her life. Liz has the opportunity to attend a meeting where hundreds of people meet with this Guru to chant in Sanskrit, and she loves it.

She resumes an old practice of meditating every day, using the mantra “Om Na Mah Shi Va Ya”, which means “I honor the divinity that resides within me.”, and decides she wants to visit an Ashram in India. Next Liz receives a writing assignment from a magazine. She will be paid to travel to Bali, Indonesia to research yoga vacations and discover if they live up to people’s expectations.

She must also visit a ninth generation Balinese medicine man named Ketut Liyer, and will be allowed to ask him one question. She asks how she can live and enjoy what the world has to offer, while devoting herself to God. He tells her to look at the world through her heart to know God. He informs her that she will lose all her money, and then get it all right back again. Ketut Liyer urges her to continue to be creative, and tells her that he knows she will return to Bali someday, to spend four months teaching him English.

Liz decides she wants to travel to three countries—each to explore a different aspect of her personality. She wants to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India, and how to balance both of these aspects in Indonesia. Her ex-husband is filled with anger and playing hardball now, and wants not only the money from the sale of both of their homes, but the royalties on all the books Liz wrote, leaving her penniless. He really is not entitled to all this, but Liz wants to leave this chapter behind and move forward with her life.

She wrote a heartfelt petition to God, prays with all her heart, and imagines all her friends, family, and people whose lives have been negatively touched by this divorce who would sign this petition. Several weeks later, Liz quit her job, and moved to Italy. She actually had a miracle in her life. It came as the opportunity to travel to all three of the countries she dreamed about, for the purpose of writing a book about it, and her publisher bought it in advance! It also made the Indonesian medicine man’s prediction true, because she made back all of the money she lost in the divorce with the sale of the book Eat, Pray, Love.

Body Mind Spirit = Whole


Travels Through Italy

Liz makes friends easily wherever she goes, so she finds people she likes as soon as she moves to Italy. Twin brothers, Dario and Giovanni, teach her Italian in return for English practice. Liz loves the way Italians stay up late and roam about outside, whether they are families with children or lovers. She adores the fountains and gardens. But if she has to pick what she loves the most about Italy, besides the language, it’s the food. She eats fabulous artichokes, zucchini blossoms with delicate cheese sauce, many kinds of pasta, and gorges herself on gelato. She gains twenty-three pounds after four months in Italy, and is just starting to feel good.

Best of all, she is able to go off of her medication. She hangs out with someone named Luca Spaghetti. He suggests the best eateries around. Two things Liz finds most endearing about Italian men is that when they “go out” after a soccer game, they go to eat cream puffs at a bakery, and they like to live near their mothers. She sometimes feels guilty taking off all this time for pleasure, but Luca tells her Italians worked hard to survive in the world and are masters of “il bel far niente”, the beauty of doing nothing.

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When we try to comfort someone in the United States, we often say, “I’ve been there.” One time Giovanni tries to make Liz feel better with his equivalent, “L’bo provato sulla mia pelle", or “I have experienced that on my own skin.” She spends the last part of the Italian leg of her trip in Sicily, which is sadly very scarred by poverty. The Mafia has been the only successful business there for centuries. Liz still finds great food, and despite the sad history of corruption and foreign domination in Italy, the Sicilians have a saying that “Only beauty can be trusted.”

Find Your Balance of Energies


Meditation in the Ashram in India

Liz arrives at the ashram at 3:30 AM, and hears a Sanskrit hymn she recognizes, the morning arati. It is sung every day in the temple as day begins at the ashram. It is one she has memorized from her studies in New York. From there she begins to meditate for the first time in four months, and continues until sunrise. Yoga, in Sanskrit, is “union.” To find union between mind and body, between a person and God, between our thoughts and their source, and between ourselves and other people.

Although it helps the body stay limber, yoga is supposed to loosen the muscles and minds to prepare them for meditation, because one must sit in complete stillness for hours to still the mind. Life at the ashram is hard and disciplined. All the time is spent chanting, meditating, and doing chores, and Liz must scrub the floors for hours every day. She is starving because of the vegetarian diet she must follow after all the overeating she did in Italy. She makes a friend, Richard from Texas, who calls her “Groceries” because he never saw anyone eat so much. He is a reformed alcoholic and drug addict who spends time at the ashram every year and they become friends.

The most difficult part of ashram life for Liz is a chant she must do every morning called the Gurugita. It is 182 verses long, or an hour and a half to chant. Liz has such an aversion to the chant, but finally she manages to think positive thoughts during it. She has another episode where she hears God say, “You have no idea how strong my love is!” Then she sees colors of blue and gold as her kundalini rises. She forgives and accepts all the negativity of the last years, and came out of the meditation feeling “Like a warrior queen!”

Love in Indonesia

Liz arrives in Indonesia feeling both philosophic and philanthropic. She did not plan this part of the trip, beyond wanting to see the medicine man. She is able to spend several hours a day with him, so she sees how he heals others with herbs and touching pressure points. She is able to make him good copies of his recipes and procedures. A new friend Mario helps her rent a bicycle to get around, and she rents a small cottage in the forest which has beautiful wildflowers and wildlife there.

Liz also befriends a woman named Wayan with one daughter of her own and one she adopted. When Wayan is going to be evicted from her business, thus making the family homeless, Liz emails everyone she knows and raises money to help them. Now Wayan and her two girls can buy land and a new home from which she can run her business.

Liz also gets to know an interesting Brazilian man named Felipe, whose interest in her is growing. Liz continues to meditate and pray every day, and it is getting harder for her to ignore Felipe’s interest in her. He is older than her, a self made man, who owns a jewelry business in Bali. He has grown children in Australia. He needs to be in Brazil often, because the gemstones are located there, as well as his family. Liz’s family lives in the U.S.

She never expected to fall in love with anyone so soon, and this is a very complicated scenario to contemplate. Having been so hurt, she is wary of jumping so quickly into a relationship. But she and Felipe decide they have something special and want to try to work out some kind of international relationship. Does it work? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

It seems people either loved or hated this book. I loved it. Elizabeth Gilbert writes in a very conversational way and has a great imagination and sense of humor. She normally was a men's sportswriter, so this is the first "love" book or book she wrote for women. I can relate to her struggle to find balance in her life. Many people felt that she seemed like a big whiner, but she did have clinical depression, and became strong enough to beat it and make a happy life for herself without medication. I realize any divorce is very hard, and most people do not get a year off from their job, all expenses paid, to take time to heal in three different countries. But it is a true story, and I am sure the publisher would not have done this if Liz did not do exemplary work.

Is it convenient to fall in love at the end of the story? Of course it is. But again, that is the way it happened. I thought it was well written, and enjoyed hearing about the three different countries. I also got motivated to meditate again myself after reading the section on India. I recommend this book, and hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Love is the Most Important


Elizabeth Gilbert's Life After Eat, Pray, Love

Elizabeth's life changed quite a bit after she wrote Eat, Pray, Love. The man she met in Indonesia, described as Felipe, was actually named Jose Nunes. They got married in 2007, bought a home, and then opened a business in Frenchtown, New Jersey, called Two Buttons. It was a large Asian import store. Both continued hectic travel schedules during their marriage.

Gilbert wrote a study of marriage through the ages, titled Committed, a sort of continuation of her relationship with Jose, but mostly about marriage customs in different cultures and times in history. It was not commercially successful, as people were expecting a more personal picture of Liz's life, similar to Eat, Pray, Love.

Jose and Liz separated in 2016. They said it was an amicable split made for very personal reasons. Then two months later, Gilbert made a Facebook post that she was in a relationship with her girlfriend, writer Rayya Elias, and that this was the issue which broke up her marriage to Jose.

Rayya was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and apparently this was when Liz realized how strongly she cared for Rayya. So they gathered friends and family, and had a "commitment ceremony", romantic, but not legally binding, as Rayya passed away on January 4, 2018.

Elizabeth Gilbert definitely has a way of making quick decisions. She certainly lives a very changeable and dramatic life!

Questions & Answers

Question: Why did the medicine man give Liz that image in "Eat, Pray, Love"?

Answer: A medicine man in some cultures is a psychic seer. So he was able to look into Liz's future and see what was there--quite accurately. She did make all her money back. The Ex was very vindictive, but apparently was a professional student who spent all her money on dreams and lived off her. She was a sportswriter for men's magazines. She wrote "Committed" after "Eat, Pray, Love", but it was a more serious study of marriage in modern times and cultures, with just a little about how her life with Felipe turned out. Sometimes we make plans and think we will be ready to carry them out at a certain age we pick out of the air, but then the time gets there, and we realize our ideals changed, or we don't really want what we thought we would want at that point in our lives. She was lucky the book advance gave her all the money back!

Question: Why does the medicine give Elizabeth Gilbert that image and what does it mean in Eat, Pray, Love?

Answer: I am not sure I understand your question. When Gilbert and her husband decided she would cut back on her career and have children, and buy a home in the country, she experienced severe depression. Apparently, she thought she wanted this or was supposed to want it but didn't. She was prescribed depression medication but was able to go off of it by the time she got to Italy and was divorced. The ex-husband was very mean about it, he got both houses and all royalties on what she wrote. He was a professional student who hung on her coat tails.

© 2011 Jean Bakula


Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on June 13, 2016:


It's clear you never read the book. Elizabeth Gilbert is a famous sportswriter for men's magazines, and the book was the story of her nervous breakdown, after living with a man who was a Peter Pan and couldn't hold job, and kept returning to school, all on her dime. When he sued for divorce she lost EVERYTHING. But her publisher asked her to write a book about her travels, and she made back all her money.

It's unlikely she was hanging out with a local bartender, she was living with her husband in the suburbs at the time they divorced, and prior to that was often traveling. Don't be such a troll.

Karl on June 10, 2016:

the ACTUAL story of Elizabeth Gilbert is that she gave her husband an STD from cheating on him with a bartender in Greenwich Village.

Then Liz insisted on a divorce because she wanted to get with bartender. But Bartender had heard the old saying: "if she'll cheat WITH you, she'll cheat ON you.... and when she came around looking for a new financial-support horse to ride.... ditched her pronto

ONLY THEN, realizing that she was Damaged Goods in America, did she start to roam the world.

She only got a new husband by finding a VERY AGED Third World guy, who needed a Green Card. Yes, that is true.

The script as done in Hollywood is pure fiction.

Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on September 17, 2015:

Hello Swalia,

Thank you for reading my review. The part that takes place in India is my favorite too. I meditate, but have not participated in ashram life yet. It's on my to do list though, and sounds very rigorous. We must also share a love of reading, I think the book is always better. Take care.

Shaloo Walia from India on September 15, 2015:

I absolutely loved the book especially Liz's experiences with meditation and living in an ashram. I have experienced that stage- meditations and living in an ashram and it's quite tough in the beginning.

I liked the movie too though the book was definitely better.

Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on January 29, 2013:


I know what you mean, I almost always like the book better than the movie. I did see the movie about a year after I read the book. It was OK, but just that. I think for me it was the part about Liz's trips to the ashrams and meditation practice that most interested me, as I practice myself. The author actually is a sports writer who usually writes about men in sports, so considering that, she did a good job with Liz. In the movie, the husband seemed to be a Peter Pan. Thanks for visiting.

C from Denmark on January 28, 2013:

For this book, I actually liked the movie more than the book. Which very rarely happens for me.

I was not very impressed with the book at all unfortunately, but thank you for a well written good review about the book! It is still not my favorite, but it did make me think again about some of the things in the book, and giving it a bit of a "second chance" for a while :)

Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on September 15, 2011:

Thanks for the compliment on the hub. As I said, people loved or hated this book, no in between. I liked the part in the Ashram in India best, it got me meditating again! I guess Liz was pushing her feelings away, and big time! She says it felt like another person going to Home Depot, so excited about furnishing their 2nd home in the country. Serious money there too. She does admit to deep depression and was on medication. It's hard to get out of a marriage, especially a long one, when all your money is tied together, or kids are involved. So at least they realized it early on. I thought the guy was a drifter sort. I saw the movie, and it did suck. But in it, he's changing jobs again, and decided to go back to school. She was supporting them both. When you are first in love that's romantic sounding, but it gets old fast. Most people don't get a paid year to heal though, she really is a lucky person. Maybe she has good karma? She is a good writer, and a good speaker, she has a few things on YouTube, as now people ask how can she follow up EPL in her career? Committed wasn't that good.

ayu on September 14, 2011:

To be honest, I think your review made the book seemed much more interesting. I myself find the book unbearable in the middle of it as I don't understand why she suddenly stopped wanting to be married?

Don't bother watching the movie! I don't know, I just don't get the book at all. Though I must say she is definitely really lucky to be able to get that break of a year doing nothing!

Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on May 31, 2011:

Well, then you had the experience, which is better. It hard to write a book, now you don't have to bother :). I read the hub about your spiritual teachers, it was good and made me want to go on a retreat. ASAP! Jean

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on May 30, 2011:

No Jean, I didn't mean that I actually wrote the book-yet. I had the idea to do a book about my spiritual growth and the places that I had travelled to. I had gone to Alaska, met a man who introduced me to a particular spiritual teacher (wrote a hub about the spiritual teachers I met) and got into a relationship with him. We moved to California for awhile and where I was involved with another spiritual school. When her book came out my kids bought it b/c they were aware of my love for India and desire to be at an Ashram in that country; as well as my travels and spiritual journey in other states here. They felt it was a similar story. That is what I meant when I said, "that was supposed to be my book" LOL

Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on May 30, 2011:

You wrote your own book? I hope you try to get it published. We are all on our own journeys. I also wrote one of emotive prose or poetry to teach people how to read the Rider Waite tarot. It's such a niche topic, and I am now sending out another batch of query letters. I don't want to pay to have it published, I wanted to be a writer, and guess I need the validation. But I bet your book is good. EPL is a good book, and the movie is just so/so. I loved the part where she's in India. Plus many can't just go thru a bad divorce and bop around the world for a year to heal, then fall in love again, having someone to lean on. Liz was lucky with money, even when she lost it, she found more.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on May 29, 2011:

Jean-I have yet to read the book, although my two wonderful daughters gave me a copy as a birthday present one year because it reminded them of me...nor have I seen the movie. Why? Jealosy. Yep-that was supposed to be MY book, LOL. I was supposed to have been the one who wrote all of the insights during the journey on my own spiritual quest and before one word of my memoir came out there was E.G. and her book that everyone raved about b/c she was this renowned travel writer and an Oprah guest. Well, that's my story and I am sure that I am missing a very good book, but thus far-still sits on my shelf.

Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on May 22, 2011:

Thanks John!

The movie isn't as good as the book, although Julia Roberts plays the part well, and my son even watched it with me and said it wasn't bad if you need a guy's view. If you like to read you may get more out of the book. It motivated me to begin meditation again. My fave part was the one that takes place in India, where "Liz" takes her one third year to explore her spirituality. I've been reading your music hubs, you are quite knowledgeable. Have you played the piano long?

John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on May 22, 2011:

Thanks Jean.

When I saw the trailors for this movie, I said to myself, this is a chick-flick. However, after reading your hub, I think I'm going to watch it. It sounds much more interesting than I gave it credit for...voted up.

Take care,


Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on April 20, 2011:

Always a pleasure Micky. I have a friend who lives in Seattle who loves biking. He's been on two "Bike and Barge" trips in France and apparently loved them. The barge drops you off and you ride whatever agreed upon distance, then they pick you up, and you eat (eat well from what he says) and sleep on the barge, until the next day of biking.

Micky Dee on April 19, 2011:

Beautiful Jean. Thank you dear.

Jean Bakula (author) from New Jersey on January 21, 2011:

Thank you for visiting Deborah. I love the part about India the best. I think people settle for less in their lives more than we realize, and was happy and inspired that Liz found the strength and will to get out of a life that did not make her happy or fulfilled. From what I here, it's too bad the movie didn't pick up on that. Take care.

Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on January 20, 2011:

This is a great review of one of my favorite books. The first time I read this book, I realized that I could indeed leave an abusive marriage. I am rereading it, and still find it moving and profound. Haven't seen the movie yet. Thanks for a great write up.


Jewels from Australia on January 17, 2011:

Many have said the same Jean, the book is much better.

Jean Bakula on January 17, 2011:

Thanks Jewels.

My experience is the opposite, I read the book, but still haven't seen the movie. Usually a movie doesn't measure up to a book for me. But I am disappointed to hear that this one fails to make real the search to find wholeness that eludes Liz for so long. I liked the story, so I won't watch the movie! I think you would like the book, it is very descriptive and her search is portrayed there as a very earnest one which struck a chord with me--hence the review! Jean

Jewels from Australia on January 16, 2011:

I've not read the book but watched the movie. Apparently the movie does no justice to the book which was well read and enjoyed by many.

The movie reviews were not good. I think rightly so in light of how it didn't portray deeply enough Liz and her desire to seek something different and hopefully more fulfilling in her life which felt lacking if not empty. That is something many many many people go through, only a handful will do something about it. Hollywood failed to get depth, but as an easy watch movie it is fine but don't expect it to change your life.

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