Friday, May 11, 2007
This is the title of the most magnificent book by Elizabeth Gilbert.
It is a story of her journey, her search for balance, happiness, pleasure and devotion. It is - I repeat - magnificent. The book has us following her on a year and a half long journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia. She sets on this journey in her early thirties after a nasty divorce, and she kindly takes us along for the ride. In fact, she courageously takes us along even before the traveling bit begins, through the dismal landscape of her darkest moments and deepest depression as she struggles to leave behind a life that by any outsiders' standards might look beyond perfect. But the book is far from a downer. It is uplifting, pee-your-pants FUNNY, endearing, tender, difficult, brave, honest and deeply spiritual.
I suppose it is no surprise Elizabeth's story has touched me so deeply, especially at this time that we are getting ready to embark on a journey of our own. The book just happened to find me when I was browsing at Barnes&Noble looking for something else entirely. I had never heard of her or the book before, but it was clear I was to read This Book, at This Time. I couldn't put it down. I identified with so much in it that sometimes I had to remind myself I wasn't reading about myself. Many of the details of my life are, of course, totally different from hers, but so much is also the same. (Right down to her "digestive emergencies" that had me laughing in tears... I was reading this on a TRIP, in the midst of one of my own "emergencies"! It wasn't pretty, but at least I know I am not alone!!)
More importantly though(!), through her book, I heard someone else asking the same questions, voicing the same longing, doing the same searching I find myself doing. In this book, I heard the voices of so many of my favorite teachers; Shunryi Suzuki, Charlotte Beck, Pema Chödron, Neal Donald Walsch... but spoken by someone who also struggles, questions, fails (as if we really can fail), is taunted by her own mind (oh, how I can relate here!), and who finally comes to a place of supreme calm within herself. (Now, this, I don't relate with so much - yet...) In my own (sporadic and undisciplined) practice, I haven't quite gotten past that point yet where my mind settles down. So many times I have wished I could just somehow hack my head off and be left only with my heart and my body on the meditation pillow - to STOP the incessant chatter within! What can I say...... I have a ways to go. But, as she puts it, "that's why it's called meditation PRACTICE".
Her honest and sometimes agonizing but always beautiful account of those magical months of searching and finding has deeply touched me. It made me laugh and cry, and it inspired me at a pivotal point in my life. It has helped me remember to seek with courage. And to keep sitting on the pillow. Because I, also, am a "big fan of [God's] work" - and the peace I am searching for can only be found within.
(Did I mention the book was magnificent?)