It took me a long time to finish this book. In fact I stopped reading it while I was halfway through Book 1/Italy/”Say It Like You Eat It” because for some reason it just didn’t call to me. Or perhaps it was too difficult to read because I myself was gaining all that weight but didn’t have the fabulous excuse of an Italian adventure, but rather just the lousy excuse of enjoying being a couch potato after being such a “Type A” personality all my life. Or her agony/suffering/darkness in the beginning may have reminded me of those dark years of my life which, though I have surpassed and has made me into the person I am today, still squeezes my heart in pain & knocks the air out of me whenever I remember how it felt to be in that darkness. But basically I read this book very slow because all throughout I also needed to reflect on my own existential crises.
What made me continue?
I was inspired to start reading it again by my trip to Bali last March, wherein we stayed a night in Ubud. During that trip I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert‘s next book Committed, which was definitely apt because I still feel “newly married” and adjusting to this new life as a housewife and losing my identity as a marketing workhorse. Stay tuned for a separate post on Committed.
When I got home from Bali, I picked up where I left off with Eat Pray Love. I couldn’t wait to get to Book 3/Indonesia – and to feel that Bali vibe again. Yes I am one of those people who have always wanted to live by the sea for a month or 2 (I wouldn’t mind a place like Ubud either) just because I find the sound of the waves therapeutic and the sea air makes me forget that I have asthma and all my allergies.
I can relate to the author in so many ways (as do millions of other people), which is the beauty of Liz’s writing. She is able to put into such beautiful words the thoughts that we don’t dare say out loud, and we feel normal and beautiful again. We are not so bad after all.
In an alternate life I could have been a band groupie or surfer chick, whose days are spent by whichever beach we thought of the week before. But life is funny and without even thinking it was a possibility for me, here I am a diplomatic wife, who will never be able to live that bohemian lifestyle. It is not, after all, fitting for a diplowife.
“The philosopher Sufi said that God drew a circle around the exact spot you are standing on. I was never not going to be here. This was never not going to happen.”
When I read this line, I feel free of my longings and musings for that alternate life. I feel like it’s all going to be okay. That, if those 1-2 months of life by the sea (or Ubud) where I can be artsy, reflective & bohemian, is going to happen, then it will. Besides why can’t I be all those things right now? What’s stopping me? Nothing. Just my expectation that it doesn’t fit with my lifestyle. Well fuck that. I can live a life of creativity & wonder no matter what. (Somehow I always think of my creativity teacher, the awesome Jim Paredes, with the words “creativity” and “wonder”) But why do I always forget this? Why is it so easy to be lulled into complacency – that life is what happens to you and not what you make of it?
Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, you strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep on swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment. It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when you’re crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.
I must confess I haven’t been feeling “right” since I moved from Manila, but was too busy traveling back and forth to figure it out. Now that I’m more settled in, I’ve had some time to think about it. I’ve been living in limbo, neither happy nor sad. The lack of deadlines or a work schedule had me lulled into this sleepwalking state. On the outside it seems normal & functional. But my emotional, psychological state is a wreck. And after working so hard to be happy & healthy emotionally, I just let it go. I forgot to write – writing in my journal was my form of daily prayer to God, Universe or whatever you choose to call Him/Her. It was how I said “thank you” for all my blessings and remembered the little things. It was also how talked to my “Self,” to center and reassure. No wonder I was feeling out of sorts! I finally bought a new journal and a brown pen to match. I think the old journal also held too much of the past and too many sad memories so this was my symbolic way of letting them go. Time to get back to “Diligent Joy!”
1. Eating in moderation & exercise
Part of my sadness has been all the weight I’ve gained, which has led me to not feel good about myself. Or maybe I didn’t feel good, so I let myself go, which led me to not feel good about myself further, so I emotionally ate… etc.,etc. It’s a vicious cycle!
She (Guru) encourages us to eat in moderation and without desperate gulps, to not extinguish the sacred fire in our bodies by dumping too much food into our digestive tracts too fast… It only stands to reason that you’ll have trouble gliding lightly into transcendence when your guts are struggling to churn through a sausage calzone, a pound of buffalo wings and half a coconut cream pie.
I love food, I love cooking it, taking pictures of it and just enjoying it. And I love that Liz loves it too. I feel totally the same way about buffets – I have very low EQ (Emotional Quotient) when it comes to them!
Plus, meals are served buffet-style, and it never has been easy for me to resist taking a second or third turn at bat when beautiful food is just lying out there in the open, smelling good and costing nothing.
Basically I’ve a big appetite and I’m not really embarrassed by it. However I am not practicing enough discipline and doing enough physical activity, not just to lose weight, but to keep myself fit. Definitely have to do more tennis.
2. Yoga & Meditation
I’ve started to do yoga at home before. I’ve always been embarrassed to take exercise classes, just because I’m a one-on-one kind of girl (hence my interests in non-team sports like surfing and tennis) so this is not an option for me. I think I’ll go back to yoga but instead of doing “pretzel like exercises for the body,” I’ll do it for my mind as well.
The ancients developed these physical stretches not for personal fitness, but to loosen up their muscles and minds in order to prepare them for meditation…. But Yoga can also mean trying to find God through meditation, through scholarly study, through the practice of silence, through devotional service, or through mantra…
My Thai friend, S, once told me she tries to practice 30 mins of meditation a day. And the main goal is to strengthen her control of her mind, and this makes her able to control her mind during stressful situations in her life. Sometimes she is only able to do it for a few mins, but this is good enough for the day. This is definitely something I need because I can totally relate to this portion of Gilbert’s book:
“Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’– the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit, and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined.”
“If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind”.
3. Going on an Artist’s Date at least once a week
(Image: Indonesia Archipelago)
Her story about the time she went to Gili Meno to be alone reminded me of the time in my life wherein I stopped seeing my friends for an entire month. It all started with an assignment in Jim Paredes‘ creativity class to have an artist’s date at least once a week. An artist’s date, is a date with oneself doing whatever one loves to do without any influence from any outside forces. So if you love watching movies then go for it, alone. If you love having coffee/eating at this particular resto/writing/etc. then do it! Alone. And I realized after doing so many things in my life to please other people or to look good in other people’s eyes, I did not know who I was without other’s expectations. So I decided that I would have an artist’s date with myself for a month. An entire month of just going to class and doing everything by myself. I would always ask myself “What do you want to do, if you only had yourself to consider?” or “What would you eat if no one else had a say?” It was a wonderful month – writing, reflecting, talking long walks, movies, eating, coffee… I got to know myself finally and I felt so at peace. I’ve forgotten to have an artist’s date over the years and it’s one thing I need to bring back!
4. Be more gentle and forgiving of myself
I loved it when she quoted the Bhagavad Ghita:
“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”
I have to keep telling myself that I am wonderful just the way I am and I don’t have to try to be like anyone else. My holiness is in becoming more me and loving myself the way I am.
“I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it – I will love you through that, as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you, too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than depression and I am braver than loneliness and noting will ever exhaust me.”
5. Let go of my resentments and grudges
As smoking is to the lungs, so it resentment to the soul…even one puff is bad for you.
I am great at keeping grudges, sometimes to the point of not even remembering why I had that grudge in the first place, but still feeling negatively towards someone. I need to let go! Let me point out though, that this does not mean I should just let everyone who ever hurt me or was a negative force back into my life. That would just be plain stupid. It means that I should not let the negative emotions associated with these experiences continue to reside and take up space in my heart. However the decision to not have those negative people in my life and instead fill my life with people I love should still hold.
6. Stop being afraid
I will never forget how many times Jim Paredes said this, “there is no fear in the now!” When you are focused in the present there is no fear or regret. Regret comes from thinking of the past, while fear comes from thinking of the future. So it is in enjoying the moment now that we can find true happiness.
“I knew then that this is how God loves us all and receives us all, and that there is no such thing in this universe as hell, except maybe in our own terrified minds. Because if even one broken and limited human being could experience even one such episode of absolute forgiveness and acceptance of her own self, then imagine – just imagine! – what God, in all His eternal compassion, can forgive and accept..”
7. Stop being such a control freak – let go!
I think this says it all…
“To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life”
There are so many other quotes from Eat Pray Love that I would have wanted to include, but as it is, this post is already much, much too long! Maybe will post more thoughts & quotes next time I reread the book!