I finished the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert the other day. About a zillion people seem to be reading this book, and with good reason. I loved it. I had heard comments from friends about it before and while I was reading it such as:
"I loved the first two parts but did not like the third."
"I really liked it but am not sure I really got it."
"Quick read. I found it funny more than anything else."
After finishing the book, I find all of these comments surprising and totally different from my read. I felt like I knew the author. To my friend who made the last listed comment, she is a bit younger (mid-20s) and I suspect has never had her heart broken – and god bless her. This book was certainly written with a sense of humor but it was far from funny. It’s not Augustine but it is certainly not a shallow funny beach read. Gilbert wrote sentences I wish I had written, relayed her experiences in ways I found incredibly close to my own, and conveyed her personality in a way that made me want her as a friend. The kind of friend you can talk to about life and meaning and whether or not God exists and what it means to be spiritual…all while splitting a massive plate of fries and a bottle of wine. Or two. A few things in particular stood out:
- Her description of the Yogic path on page 122 is nicely put. I especially like the part about realizing that somewhere deep inside each of us is a "supreme Self" who is eternally at peace (LOVE the supreme self! Like a Yoda for each of us. I shall call mine George). She goes on to discuss how yoga is an effort to be present and a way to access that supreme self, from which we can regard ourselves and our surroundings with poise. Well if that does not make me want to twist into poses, I don’t know what does.
- In continuing to discuss mindfulness (page 132), she talks about how Buddhists talk about our "monkey minds"…through our non-stop thoughts, we swing from branch to branch, unharnessed and undisciplined, allowing our thoughts to rule our lives and emotions. Our thoughts more than reality, I should say.
- On page 174 she talks about a stillness meditation whereby the participant stays completely still for some period of time. No itching, no scratching, no moving. Fascinating. The effort is to not always and immediately react to something happening to you or around you. But to have patience and to realize the wisdom and truth of the phrase "this too shall pass."
- And finally, on page 260 she discusses happiness. She suggests that happiness is not something you fall into but something you work for. It takes effort. My favorite sentence of the book appears here. In discussing happiness, she writes "You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings."
I just love that last sentence. So if you cannot tell, I am a fan. And yes, it is a nice beach read. But who said the beach cannot also be a place for thoughtfulness?