by Elizabeth Gilbert
First sentence: “When you’re traveling in India — especially through holy sites and Ashrams — you see a lot of people wearing beads around their necks.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
I — honestly — expected to be underwhelmed by this book. Really. I’m highly suspicious of anything really popular, especially if they spawn parodies like this one. It can’t be everything everyone says it is. Right?
Well, call it the blessing of low expectations. Or perhaps it was a good time in my life to read it (who knows what I would have thought if I’d read it when it first came out), but I liked it. Not super-love, going-to-change-my-life like, but it was enjoyable to read. And fun. And, yeah, it made me want to go to Italy. And take a yoga-influenced vacation (though maybe not quite spend a month at an Ashram). (Bali didn’t make much of an impression on me, mostly because it was almost too personal on her end for me to truly relate. Though I’m glad she found peace and love.) It made me grateful for the friends I have. And that I’m in a good, healthy marriage. It made me think about the way I talk to God, the way I approach my spiritual life. And it made me want to do good in the world.
Since I’m reading this so far after it came out (catching the second wave with the movie coming out later this summer; yes, I am curious to see what they do with the book), you probably all know about Liz’s (I’m sorry to be personal here, but after finishing the book, you feel like she’s your best gal pal that you’ve managed to hang out with for a while) year-long journey where she, in short, eats for four months, prays for four months, and then spends four months trying to find a balance between the two and falls in love.
So, I’m going to leave you with some quotes and ideas that really struck me.
First is too long to type out. But, when Liz was in Italy, she made friends with an American, Maria, and her husband Giulio. Liz was contemplating that while she loves Rome, she could never really fit in there. And Giulio puts forth this idea that it’s because her word doesn’t fit with Rome’s word.
“He went on to explain, in a mixture of English, Italian and hand gestures, that every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. If you could read people’s thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever that majority thought might be — that is the word of the city. And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don’t’ really belong there.”
I love this idea. I don’t know why, really; perhaps it’s an urge to identify things, to label things, to stick them in a box, but I love the idea that you can boil any city, any family, any person down to one word. (And yes, I have thought of mine.) It is, in Liz’s words “a kooky theory, impossible to prove” but it has captivated my fancy.
And a couple that aren’t too long:
AS you. If there is one holy truth of this Yoga, that line encapsulates it. God dwells within you as you yourself, exactly the way you are. God isn’t interested in watching you enact some performance of personality in order to comply with some crackpot notion you have about how a spiritual person looks or behaves. We all seem to get this idea that, in order to be sacred, we have to make some massive, dramatic change of character, that we have to renounce our individuality. This is a classic example of what they call in the East “wrong-thinking.”… To know God, you need only to renounce one thing — your sense of division from God. Otherwise, just stay as you were made, within your natural character.
and a quote from Ketut, the wonderful, wise, funny, healing man from Bali:
Why they always look so serious in Yoga? You make serious face like this, you scare away good energy. To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver. Practice tonight at hotel. Not to hurry, not to try too hard. Too serious, you make you sick. You can calling the good energy with a smile.
Hubby asked, while I was reading it, if it was a self-help book? It is but only to the extent that she is helping herself and is inviting us along for the journey. It really is, in the end, just that: a book about one woman’s journey. And it’s an interesting journey, with an interesting (if a bit self-indulgent) woman. You can’t get much better than that.