Though I stumbled upon Elizabeth Gilbert’s eat pray love by chance in the famous Portland bookstore, Powell’s City of Books, it had already been on the New York Times Bestseller list for over two years. I loved the story then and still do, so when I was asked to contribute to a discussion about meditation and the “India” chapter of the text at a local book group meeting, I was happy to comply and offer a bowl of my rice pudding for the dessert table. This book has already been reviewed and written about extensively, so I’ll simply add some quotations that were particularly noteworthy from the India chapter:
From section 38 ~ Why practice yoga?
Yoga, in Sanskrit, can be translated as “union.” It originally comes from the root word yuj, which means “to yoke,” to attach yourself to the task at hand with ox-like discipline. And the task at hand in Yoga is to find union—between mind and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and the source of our thoughts, between teacher and student, and even between ourselves and our sometimes hard-to-bend neighbors.
From section 70 ~ regarding religion:
I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted.
Your job, then, should you choose to accept it, is to keep searching for the metaphors, rituals and teachers that will help you move ever closer to divinity.
From section 68 ~ the effects of practice:
But it was pure, this love that I was feeling. It was godly. I looked around the darkened valley and I could see nothing that was not God. I felt so deeply, terribly happy. I thought to myself, “Whatever this feeling is — this is what I have been praying for. And this is also what I have been praying to.”
Here’s a wonderful section (64) where she comes to terms accepting her personality:
. . .if God wanted me to be a shy girl with thick, dark hair, He would have made me that way, but He didn’t. Useful, then, might be to accept how I was made and embody myself fully therein.
. . . that doesn’t mean I can’t take a serious look at y talking habits and alter some aspects for the better — working within my personality. Yes, I like talking, but perhaps I don’t have to curse so much, and perhaps I don’t always have to go for the cheap laugh, and maybe I don’t need to talk about myself quite so constantly.
And from section 58 on Prayer ~
Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur?
From section 56 on types of meditation practice:
Now that I have my own personal issues with the very word detachment, having met spiritual seekers who already seem to live in a state of complete emotional disconnect from other human beings and who, when they talk about the sacred pursuit of detachment, make me want to shake them and holler, “Buddy, that is the last thing you need to practice!”
From section 49 – How to reach contentment:
Life, if you keep chasing it so hard, will drive you to death. Time — when pursued like a bandit—will behave like one; always remaining one county or one room ahead of you, changing its name and hair color to elude you, slipping out the back door of the motel just as you ‘re banging through the lobby with your newest search warrant, leaving only a burning cigarette in the ashtray to taunt you. At some point you have to stop because it won’t. You have to admit that you can’t catch it. That you’re not supposed to catch it. At some point, As Richard keeps telling me, you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you.
If you’ve read the book, we’d love to hear the passages that spoke to you. If you haven’t read this funny, insightful, and moving memoir, here’s a link.