I finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert this weekend. I was skeptical. Everyone I know who read this book either LOVED it or HATED it. I was hoping to love it, and I pretty much did. I had a hard time identifying with Liz in the beginning. I found myself saying, if you don’t want to get pregnant and have children, stop trying. Tell your husband the truth. Be open. But, it’s hard to criticize when you are not or have not been in that situation. It’s easy to say, I would do this, or I would do that, but you never know what you would really do in a situation until you are there living it.
Below are some of my favorite excerpts from the book:
We are taught to be dependable, responsible, the top of our classes at school, the most organized and efficient babysitters in town, the very miniature models of our hardworking farmer/nurse of a mother, a pair of junior Swiss Army knives, born to multitask. . . Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that’s not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today . . . Of course we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spen the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure). Americans don’t really know how to do nothing. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype – the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax.
Il bel far niente: the beauty of doing nothing / This is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement. (page 61)
The Yogic path is about disentangling the built-in glitches of the human condition, which I’m going to over-simply define here as the heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment . . . The Yogis say that human discontentment is a simple case of mistaken identity. We’re miserable because we think of ourselves as mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentments and mortality. We wrongly believe that our limited little egos constitute our whole entire natiure. We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character. We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme Self who is eternally at peace. That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine. Before you realize this truth, say the Yogis, you will always be in dispair . . . Yoga is the effort to experience one’s divinity personally and then to hold on to that experience forever. Yoga is about self-mastery and the dedicated effort to haul your attention away from your endless brooding over the past and your nonstop worrying about the future so that you can seek, instead, a place of eternal presence from which you may regard yourself and your surroundings with poise. Only from that point of even-mindedness will the true nature of the world (and yourself) be revealed to you. (page 122)
Learning how to discipline your speech is a way of preventing your energies from spilling out of you through the rupture of your mouth, exhausting you and filling the world with words, words, words instead of serenity, peace and bliss. (page 190)
The notion is that human beings are born . . . with the equivalent potential for both contraction and expansion. The ingredients of both darkness and light are equally present in all of us, and then it’s up to the individual . . . to decide what will be brought forth . . . (page 251)
. . . people universally think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometime even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations 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 swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment. (page 260)
. . . all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people . . . Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. 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. (page 261)
To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life. (page 298)