A Tale of self-discovery, yoga, culture and spirituality: Elizabeth Gillbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love”

Via on Feb 27, 2010

Eat-Pray-Love-Reading-Elizabeth-GilbertReading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “eat, pray, love” stirred in me many delights and yearnings. I loved it through and through.

Elizabeth Gilbert paints us a world of joy, bittersweet sorrow, and entertainment that I still find overwhelmingly beautiful. It is not often that I can identify so much with the personality of an author and the yearnings of her search. I hardly have anything in common with her situation: She is divorced, lives in NYC, and travels alone to 3 countries in one year of her life. I love her guts. I love that, as a woman,  she can so boldly state that she did not wish to have children and that she was still unhappy with a great man in her marriage and her fancy apartment in New York. I absolutely admire that she can unapologetically say she cannot find happiness in her seemingly perfect life – oddly enough, this was her own picture of perfect life, not pressures of society or friends.

At the age of 34, she decides to give up everything she has built in pursuit of the longing of her heart, even as elusive as it may be.  She defies cultural notions that we should be happy if we are married to a good person and that the maternal instinct should kick in right around 30 for a healthy, normal woman.  When Gilbert’s bouts of depression become intolerable, she sets off for her year of journeys to 3 countries whose names start with an I – suiting her mission to self-actualization even more perfectly if you care to put significance into small coincidences – Italy, India, and Indonesia.

Elizabeth’s prose is unique and poetic; I was engrossed in her world.  Some of her passages read like a symphony, music to my ears. Elizabeth gave me Italy better than any guidebook or travel journal.  She writes with subtlety about her experiences and is herself surprised by the enormous joy she is reaping from it all – watching Italian boys play football in the streets,  choosing her gelato flavors carefully, thoroughly enjoying every bite of her food, taking Italian lessons, and engrossing in life as it unfolds under the Italian sun in the form of daily routine for the average Italian.

Elizabeth’s struggles in the Ashram in India are one of my most favorite sections.  The experience of Ashram by itself would provide difficult enough for anyone taking on a journey of self-discovery, but particularly for Elizabeth freshly off her indolent, carefree days in Italy. The atmosphere and environment of Italy and India and the nature of her journey in each could not be more in contrast.  While in the Ashram, she struggles to adjust.  Sitting in meditation for hours. Waking up at the wee hours of the morning to sit in this silence for what seems like eternity. Doing yoga for a while before returning to silence and to more meditation. The discipline, the sacrifices of instant pleasures for the sake of a higher pursuit. These make up some of the core messages of Elizabeth’s story.

It is in reading others’ journeys that we can identify with their struggles as if we were traversing through them ourselves. Elizabeth Gilbert’s “eat, pray, love” is a best-seller but unlike many best-sellers, it is truly a unique and touching memoir. I commend her for doing such a fantastic job in writing the book, and more importantly, in pursuing that for which her heart yearned without hesitation or apology.

Note: This book review first appeared on Prolific Living in September 2007. You can see the full version here.

About the Author: Farnoosh is a new columnist at Elephant Journal. She created her own blog, Prolific Living, with a vision of embodying the essence of vitality by living a prolific life by conscious eating, voracious reading, diligent yoga, constant traveling, insatiable appreciation of the arts and by imparting that experience to its beloved readers, you!

About Farnoosh Brock

Farnoosh only started pursuing her myriad of passions in recent years where workaholism was finally forced to take a backseat, and balance became a matter of intellectual and emotional survival. She has a relentless love for living life to the fullest via reading, traveling, yoga and eating well, all of which and more she explores on Prolific Living. While she is still trying to figure out what she wants to do for the rest of her life, she is excited and thrilled about contributing to Elephant Journal.

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24 Responses to “A Tale of self-discovery, yoga, culture and spirituality: Elizabeth Gillbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love””

  1. Hi, Farnoosh.

    I haven't read this famous book, but my wife liked it. Should I be worried that she will disappear suddenly one day with just a brief note taped on the fridge?

    What happened in Indonesia?

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

    • Farnoosh Brock Farnoosh says:

      Your wife is crazy to leave you :)!

      Italy was for fun, food, delighting in the fabulous Italian way of life.
      India obviously for yoga but especially for the silent meditations at the Ashram
      Indonesia was the main reason she left. She had years ago gone there on a trip and met this medicine man who told her she would be back to find her fate there. She went back on just that note alone. She hardly knew the man's name.
      I won't tell you what happens in case you decide to read it. (My husband uses that rule and I am usually grateful after the fact, because we never know….!) :)

  2. Farnoosh Brock Farnoosh says:

    ps: And I see you are listening to Crichton's Timeline. I have read and done a review on that too.
    Now aren't you glad I wrote this post to make you angry so we could meet? :)!

  3. Gotta love Elephant and all the open-minded people here who can engage in fierce disagreements like this and enjoy it all. Thanks for creating this kind of atmosphere, Waylon.

    • Thank you, Sir Bob. All cred to Farnoosh for commenting back, that's what makes blogs dynamic two-way streets, not juts second-rate magazines.

      Personally, I loved the book (okay, well, the writing in the first chapter, which is all I read) and have loved watching occasional interviews of EG. She's charming, warm, and an amazing writer.

  4. Not A Fan says:

    Cave in the Snow about Tenzin Palmo is about a far more courageous woman's journey of self-discovery. I found Gilbert in the book and subsequent interviews to be shallow, trite and living in a bit of a fantasy world. Having been to all the places she described it sounded more like a self-indulgent disneyland with a few inconveniences than anything else. She uses the people she encountered as props to her own self-glorification. Not a fan.

  5. While I enjoyed reading "Eat Pray Love", I have to say that I partially agree with Anthroyogini in that I find the review above a bit over the top. Having said that, I know a lot of people who really LOVE this book. Personally, I also found "Yoga School Dropout" by Lucy Edge a way superior read. Honestly, I'm a bit baffled by all the fuss… peace :)

    • Farnoosh Brock Farnoosh says:

      Hi Mary, thanks for your comment. I think we take from books what they give us and the review above is really my own impression of the book. I am not advocating it would be all that to everyone else either. :)!
      I am starting to think someone here should write up a post about why this book is such a bad book :))!
      I did that with Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, imagine how many people wanted to disagree with me there ;)!
      http://www.prolificliving.com/blog/2008/07/19/rho

  6. Mary Donnery says:

    Namaste Farnoosh, thanks for the link . …I agree with you, what we get from books is a personal and intimite experience. Btw, I love your website, and the videos are beautiful…peace, love & light :)

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  8. [...] ill, cried a fair amount and called my mum a lot. I practiced yoga, meditated, clung to my copy of Eat, Pray, Love and waited for it to all be over. Eventually, like all things, it came to pass. I fell in love, [...]

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  11. [...] you’ve read or seen Eat, Pray, Love, you might remember the scene where poor Elizabeth is meditating in the ashram, desperately trying [...]

  12. Farnoosh Brock Farnoosh says:

    So glad you are back :)! Wow, I do love Tolstoy and Austen both but have a very literary friend who doesn't like Austen either. Who others among classics do you dig? I will read more Twain for sure……….
    THANK YOU for the book names and for your thoughts. (I had no idea she was paid to do this BEFORE she did it…)
    Here are a list of my growing book reviews and I hope there are some you like. For book blogs alone, I close the comments (maybe I will open them up now that it invokes such discussion ;0) but I love to hear your thoughts on them regardless…..

    Category order:
    http://www.prolificliving.com/blog/category/book-

    Author order:
    http://www.prolificliving.com/blog/book-blogs/

    Cheers and ciao for now!

  13. ant says:

    Gosh, I love your review of this book Anthroyogini! I also love that you brought on a second helping of it! So good!

  14. ant says:

    Very well said. This book is cheap porn. I saw the author on an interview show, and she was far from joyful, vibrant, and liberated. It seems like she wrote this book to seem cooler and happier than she really is. sad.

  15. Farnoosh Brock Farnoosh says:

    Ok then. Robert Jordan it is. I'll check it out. And I am subscribing to that blog to see what else is on your mind! (I was teasing you about "angry" – passionate is more like it!

  16. Farnoosh Brock Farnoosh says:

    Tee, beautiful and accurate description, and I think partly, I liked Elizabeth's courage to take that plunge. A lot of trust, self-discipline, self-confidence, and a little bit of faith. I too recognized a lot of myself in Elizabeth and love to take a year long journey away from everything I know familiar in my life, someday, somewhere!

  17. You're right, Amanda. Such a great atmosphere here on Elephant, even in the midst of intense disagreements.

  18. Farnoosh Brock Farnoosh says:

    Amanda, there IS something about book lovers. In the end, we all love books and we are all looking for the next delicious read and you have given me some to anticipate (once I finish my Tolstoy).
    :)!!

  19. Hi Farnoosh…it's all good–
    … peace :)

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