Elizabeth Gilbert's Spiritual Journey, "Eat, Pray, Love"
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
I was going through a lot of changes in my own life when I read this book, and especially feeling that I wanted to explore my own spiritual path in more depth. I began taking courses in meditation and metaphysics. So I really identified with Liz's character. I recommend this book for anyone caught in a rut!
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.
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
© 2011 Jean Bakula