Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Eat, Pray Love--What a Formula
Just before my recent surgery, I visited a dear friend. When I left, she gave me a hug and pressed a paperback into my hand.
"Here. Take this to read while you're healing," she said, smiling. "I'm warning you, though, this author will have you green with envy at both her writing skill and her enlightenment at the ripe old age of 35."
And she was right about both. "Eat, Pray, Love" is the poignant memoir of a woman who, after a gut-wrenching divorce that led to a deep depression, went on a one year journey "in search of everything". The year was divided between three places: Italy so that she could experience pure pleasure; India so that she could experience God; and Indonesia where she would attempt to integrate the two.
The best part about Elizabeth Gilbert's book is that it isn't pious, preachy, or saccharin. Instead, it's funny--mostly because she has the courage to poke fun at her own imperfections. She describes her early days meditating --from 4 to 5 a.m. in an ashram near Mumbai, India, where she will spend the next three months--as analogous to "sixty brutal miles that I have to endure." Her description of the battle between the mind and her "higher self"...
ME: OK, we're going to meditate now. Let's draw our attention to our breath and focus on the mantra. Empty our mind.
MIND: I can help you out with this, you know!
ME: OK, good because I need your help. Let's go.
MIND: I can help you think of nice meditative images. Like--hey, here's a good one. Imagine you are a temple. A temple on an island! And the island is in the ocean!
ME: Oh, this IS a nice image.
MIND: Thanks. I thought of it myslef.
ME: But what ocean are we picturing here?
MIND:The Mediterranean. You know what? Forget the ocean. Here's a better idea--imagine you're on an island in a LAKE, instead.
ME:Can we meditate now, please?
MIND:Yes! Definitely! But try not to picture that the lake is covered with ... what are those things called?
ME: Jet skis?
MIND:Yes. Those things consume so much fuel, though. they're really a menace to the environment. do you know what else uses a lot of fuel? Leaf blowers. You wouldn't think so, but---
ME: Stop! Please stop! You're making me crazy!!!
MIND: ( Wounded ) Sorry. I was only trying to help.
ME: Om Namah Shivaya...Om Namah Shivaya..Om Namah Shivaya...
Here there is a promising eight-second pause in thoughts. But then---
MIND: Are you mad at me now?
Humor along the road to transcendence.