Currently, I am reading the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and I am surprised by how much I enjoy it. Usually, I will post about a book only after I have read it, but there is a passage in the book that I found so interesting that I have decided to share this little snippet.
After an acrimonious divorce with her husband, and an impassioned fling with her friend David, Elizabeth Gilbert leaves her life in New York to travel for a year. She starts out in Italy for four months where she acquaints herself with the country through the language and food; then, she travels to India to seek spiritual awakening. In India, Gilbert calls an ashram (spiritual hermitage) outside of Mumbai her home. Each day she meditates, prays, and works at the ashram. She lives in a dorm and meets a variety of characters including her guru (which is someone who is enlightened and can guide others to enlightenment), her roommate (an Australian mother of five), and Richard from Texas, (who is a jack of all trades – and most of which are illegal). Although Richard with his rough exterior and brass way of speaking does not seem to be the ‘yogi’ type (here meaning those who are practitioners of meditation in Indian religions), he possesses a wisdom and clarity that often shines through his course exterior.
During her stay at the ashram, Richard notes Gilbert’s brooding tendency. When he inquiries about her past, she spills the details of her love affair with David. David had always been a friend of Gilbert’s in New York and after Gilbert’s divorce, David became the light to which she gravitated toward. Connecting on an emotional and physical level, the pair quickly kindled a radiant connection. The relationship was not always copacetic however. Gilbert’s stress and grief over her divorce led her, perhaps, to rely too heavily on David—this was an unwelcome dynamic in their relationship. For other reasons that Gilbert does not elaborate on, the two quarreled frequently and dropped the relationship on a few occasions. It was not until Gilbert sent David a final letter in Italy that the two finally relinquished any hope that their love could be saved. Gilbert was heartbroken and she carried this pain with her to India.
At first, Richard would tease Gilbert about the relationship with David. Whenever Gilbert’s mind seemed to wander to sadder territory, he would playfully ask, “how is David doing?” much to her chagrin. However, one evening sensing that David weighed quite heavily on Gilbert’s mind, the two had a conversation about soulmates that went something like the following. Crying, Gilbert admits that the reason that it is so hard for her to get over David is because she believed him to be her soulmate. Richard insightfully questions the meaning of the term ‘soulmate.’ While many people see the ‘soulmate’ as one’s ‘perfect fit,’ Richard conceptualizes the notion as someone who is rather your ‘true mirror.’ To Richard, a soulmate is someone who shows you your weaknesses and helps you find your strengthens. This person isn’t necessarily your perfect fit, rather your empowerment and partner. In a sage-like way, Richard contends that soulmates are not necessarily forever. Sometimes these people come into your life, touch you in some meaningful way, and leave. The departure may devastate you—break your heart open—but it will leave a cavity of light to allow goodness to work its way in.
Some people believe that everything happens for a reason. While this phrase is often said in a spiritual sense, one may also take it literally (e.g. I did not get into my dream college because my test scores were too low; I got lung cancer because I am a chronic smoker; I had a miscarriage because my fertilized egg improperly implanted in the uterine lining, etc.). According to Richard, David’s purpose in her life was not to remain forever, rather to give Gilbert the realization that her marriage was not worth saving and that love could be found elsewhere. David is out of Gilbert’s life now. The relationship is in the past, but Gilbert still feels like there is a hole in her heart.
Gilbert whines that she still loves him and misses David. Curtly, Richard replies along the lines of “so, love him, so, miss him, and then, swiftly, drop him.” Richard encourages Gilbert to release David from her heart and mind and allow that space currently filled with sorrow to be open to new love, new experiences, and new memories. Once this space is open, it will be like a vacuum into which goodness can spill.
The only true permanence in life is ‘you’ and your beliefs. The better you become acquainted with and love yourself and you can come to terms with the various entrances and exits in your life the freer you will become.
Eat, Pray, Love is filled with nuggets of wisdom. To be honest, on the outset, nothing about this book appealed to me (summary: woman runs away from home, finds god, feels better) but I picked it up anyway because many famous authors, publications, and Hollywood find this to be a meaningful story. I was skeptical, but, ultimately, open minded. I am very glad that I picked this book up.