The April selection for the Book Club was one of my old favorites, Eat Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. A memoir of a woman in her mid thirties, on the path of self discovery.
In an earlier post I mentioned how I came across the book, and what I took away from it. I have read the book a couple of times pre-2013, but this time round I had a very different experience with the book. I will base my review on the take-away I got from reading this memoir this time round.
So, if you have read the book, you will notice that the book is divided into three segments – Italy (pleasure), India (devotion) and Indonesia (balance between both). Elizabeth makes a very interesting association between the layout of the book and the traditional Japa Mala – 108 beads divided into 3 segments of 36 beads each (This is how Elizabeth has captured her experience in each country, by devoting 36 chapters to each country). There is a special long bead, the 109th bead (or pendant) that is used to pause and offer thanks. She dedicates this to the many characters that came into her life to guide her along the way (something I think we all should do).
After her devastating divorce and failed rebound relationship with David, Elizabeth decides that it is time for a Time-Out. It is time to discover herself, and takes a year out to travel to these three destinations and discover what life has in store for her.
I sort of went on my own jouney back in 2012. However, Elizabeth only spent 4 months in each country. I happened to stay for 2 in Australia (my Italy) and it has taken me 3 years to get into the “ashram mode” post Australia. Nonetheless, our journey have been similar thus far.
Elizabeth starts of in Italy, where she indulges in the little pleasures that the county, its people and the culture have to offer. She makes friends here who help her discover various aspects of herself. She goes through a through emotional cleansing, and is humbled to “eating eggs and asparagus on the floor“. She allows herself to live free from any appearances (she is okay with putting on weight following her indulgences), no deadlines to meet (drops out of her language school) and allows herself to be an untroubled spirit in Italy. At the end of it all, as was the case with me, she makes a profound realization:
You were given a life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.
In India, at the Ashram, Elizabeth allows life to flow through her. She arrives to understand and master the art of meditation, and in the process to discover her inner and true self. It is here, at the ashram, that she is finally able to release her husband and any ill-feelings toward him, and embrace life in its purest form. Again, life brings her in contact with Richard and a poet-come-plumber who act as her guides on her journey to self discovery. Although from my past readings I was drawn towards Richards conversations with “Groceries”, this time round I find my self looking attentively for her meditative experiences. Having embarked on my own personal yoga journey not too long ago, I too struggle with a zillion thoughts that come into my mind during these times. My most favorite quote from this segment remains:
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit…but a true soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to you own attention so you can change your life…
And this is where our journeys on similar pathways seize to be similar. Elizabeth proceeds to Indonesia, where she transcends to a higher journey of the self: finding balance between both the physical world and the spiritual realm, leading to perfect peace and harmony.
Again in Bali, she meets two very prominent characters who aid her towards completing her journey and finally opening up to, and ready to receive, love once again in her life. In return, Elizabeth completes the circle by giving of herself to Ketut (helping him with the photocopies) and Wayan (buying her a house), and as a reward, life brings her in contact with Felipe.
The most important lesson that comes through from this segment, is from one of her conversations with Ketut:
You learn to smile even in your liver?
“One Woman’s Search for Everything” is how the book has been described on the cover, and it stands true. I was amazed at how this time around, the book held different parts for me to take away from. Earlier, I was on a quest in search of signs and answers to life. Now, I am at peace with where I am, hence the meditation parts stuck out more prominently this time.
This book has a lot of take-away points for the reader depending on which stage they are in their life journey. Unfortunately the Book Club was postponed to this weekend, and I shall be away on a Climb, so I will try and get their reviews and append them here later.
If you are planning to read Eat Pray Love, or if have you read it already, please feel free to comment your two cents on the book.