If I had to limit myself to choosing just one book to read for a month, I'd choose "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I ordered it thinking it was going to be a pleasant travelogue. And it is. Gilbert is a superb writer. She could pen fascinating essays from Siberia, the Sahara or even the Antarctic. It is truly a "couldn't put it down" book. But "Eat, Pray, Love" is so much more.
After a devastating, long-drawn-out divorce, an on-the-rebound failed love affair and subsequent depression, Gilbert decides to take a year to travel to Italy, India and Indonesia (specifically Bali). She planned to explore pleasure (through food) in Italy, devotion (by living at an ashram in Indian) and a combination of worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence in Bali. As I read it, I found myself earmarking the book, something I don't even do while reading my book club books.
Little did I know that while Gilbert was exploring her spirituality, I was exploring mine. For me, it was literally a self-help book (and I never buy self-help books because they do nothing for me.) In her pages I found peace, serenity, contentment, release from pain, succor, call it what you will, for a difficult situation I'm enduring right now.
I'm going to print some passages from the book here, because they are ones that spoke to me. But I think everyone who reads it will find something to meditate upon. (I will leave the passage about soul friends for another post.) I HIGHLY recommend this book.
Page 120: "I honor the divinity that resides inside me." (Me: God is in me. God is love, therefore I must love myself. I AM good, I have worth, I am someone, I am not to be taken lightly. I may have overstepped the Yogi's concept a bit, but isn't the purpose of any text to take your thoughts to the next step?)
Page 178-179. "I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore.....A harbor of course is a place of refuge, a port of entry. I pictured the harbor of my mind - a little beat-up, perhaps, a little storm-worn, but well situated and with a nice depth. The harbor of my mind is an open bay, the only access to the island of my Self (which is a young and volcanic island, yes, but fertile and promising). The island has been through some wars, it is true, but now committed to peace, under a new leader (me) who has instituted new policies to protect the place....You may not come here any more with your hard and abusive thoughts, with your plague ships of thoughts, with your slave ships of thoughts, with your warships of thoughts--all these will be turned away....This is a peaceful harbor, the entryway to a fine and proud island this is only now beginning to cultivate tranquillity...."
Page 251: "The [Balinese] child is taught from the earliest consciousness that she has these four brothers with her in the world wherever she goes, and that they will always look after her. the brothers inhabit the four virtues a person needs in order to be safe and happy in life: Intelligence, friendship, strength and (I love this one) poetry. The brothers can be called upon in any critical situation for rescue and assistance. When you die, your four spirit brothers will collect your soul and bring you to heaven."
Page 260: "...I also keep remembering a simple idea my friend Darcey once told me--that all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only the big global Hitler-'n'-Stalin picture, but on the smallest personal level....The search for contentment is therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself, but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people."