Monday, September 20, 2010

Eat Pray Love – the best selling book and what I learnt from it

I've just finished reading one of the most interesting books I've read in my life, which, coincidentally, discussed my favorite passions: Italy and yoga as main topics.

What is it about?
At 32 years old, Elizabeth Gilbert was educated, had a home and a husband, and a successful career as a writer. However, she was unhappy in her marriage and often spent the night crying on her bathroom floor. In the midst of an affair she separated from her husband and initiated a divorce, which her husband contested. The affair continued for some time but did not work out either leaving her devastated and alone. While writing an article on yoga vacations in Bali, she met a seventh-generation medicine man who told her she would come back and study with him. After finalizing her difficult divorce, she spent the next year traveling around the world. She spent four months in Italy, eating and enjoying life (Eat). She spent four months in India, finding her spirituality (Pray). She ended the year in Bali, Indonesia, looking for "balance" of the two and found love (Love); in the form of a dashing Brazilian factory owner. Gilbert paid for the trip with an advance she received on a book she planned to write.

The book (published in 2006) is written in a nice and understandable language, with a good sense of humor. The one thing that irritated me, was her very detailed description of the depression she was suffering from; and all I could do watching her (in photos, videos) was imagining her endless crying on bathroom floors with her forehead on the floor and the self-torture.

I could relate myself to so many moments, especially when Gilbert was describing her love for the Italian language and Italian food and also her struggle for mastering the art of meditation. 

This part could've been easily written by me:
It's kind of a fairyland of language for me here. For someone who has always wanted to speak Italian, what could be better than Rome? It's like somebody invented a city just to suit my specifications, where everyone (even the children, even the taxi drivers, even the actors on the commercials!) speaks this magical language. It's like the whole society is conspiring to teach me Italian. They'll even print the newspapers in Italian while I'm here; they don't mind! They have bookstores here that only sell books written in Italian! I found such a bookstore yesterday morning and felt I'd entered an enchanted palace. I wandered through, touching all the books, hoping that anyone watching me might think I was a native speaker.
She writes this while in Rome, living 4 months there and I felt exactly like this when I visited Italy and spent 20 days in various cities, living my daydream.
[...] bel far niente has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing 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. You don’t necessarily need to be rich in order to experience this, either. There’s another wonderful Italian expression: l’arte d’arrangiarsi—the art of making something out of nothing. The art of turning a few simple ingredients into a feast, or a few gathered friends into a festival. Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this, not only the rich. [...]
See the similarities with Armenia? ;)

The book was informative: I learnt quite a lot of remarkable facts about Hinduism, Indian culture, yoga, meditation, Indonesian people, Bali and its traditions... and also gruesome facts about deepest kind of depression and relationship troubles that luckily i haven't ever suffered from.

I like how she describes yoga and meditation in chapter 38.
"Yoga, in Sanskrit, can be translated as “union.” It originally comes from the root word yuj, which means “to yoke,” to attach yourself to a task at hand with ox-like discipline. And the task at hand in Yoga is to find union—between mind and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and the source of our thoughts, between teacher and student, and even between ourselves and our sometimes hard-to-bend neighbors. In the West, we’ve mainly come to know Yoga through its now-famous pretzel-like exercises for the body, but this is only Hatha Yoga, one limb of the philosophy. The ancients developed these physical stretches not for personal fitness, but to loosen up their muscles and minds in order to prepare them for meditation. It is difficult to sit in stillness for many hours, after all, if your hip is aching, keeping you from contemplating your intrinsic divinity because you are too busy contemplating, “Wow . . . my hip really aches.”
Meditation is both the anchor and the wings of Yoga. Meditation is the way. There's a difference between a meditation and prayer, though both practices seek communion with the divine. I've heard it said that the prayer is the act of talking to God, while meditation is the art of listening."
This part illustrates my feelings about making plans for enjoying something in the future, sticking to the past, living with memories and anxiety towards a future event or happening:
[...] The other problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought is that you are never where you are. You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in this moment. It’s something like the habit of my dear friend Susan, who—whenever she sees a beautiful place—exclaims in near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” and it takes all of my persuasive powers to try to convince her that she is already here. If you’re looking for union with the divine, this kind of forward/backward whirling is a problem. There’s a reason they call God a presence—because God is right here, right now. In the present is the only place to find Him, and now is the only time. [...]
The three main ideas I took from this book (they weren't entirely "new", however they got "confirmed" in me) are:
  • Being in the moment (like described above)
  • Enjoying the meal. Truly feeling what I am eating, and eating not for satisfying my hunger, but for enjoying the meal
  • Doing everything the best possible way and the most beautiful way.

And the last quote about soul mates is just.. great:
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave.
The way she describes the countries she's visiting, Elizabeth advertises them so well that hundreds of her readers and fans are choosing to take her path and maybe also write books about it. They visit Rome, India and Bali, even finding the medicine man whom Elizabeth has met and told about.
Since the book became so popular and the movie staring Julia Roberts came out, there's a whole "eat pray love" craze going on. There's a controversial article mentioning that Elizabeth Gilbert has ruined Bali. One of the Italians she met in Rome, Luca Spaghetti, has written his own book telling about their encounter, and has got his own website.
The film also sparked pilgrimage to the Italian ice cream shop where Liz Gilbert used to eat gelatos every day.

I'd absolutely recommend this book to anyone, especially to the book's probably target group - middle aged women who would like to take a journey of self-discovery themselves; those who suffered divorce and loss; fans of Italy and everything Italian (like me), those interested in yoga and India, also for people who like traveling, learning about different cultures and are in the mood for some philosophy.

Interesting fact
Armenia and Liz
While in Bali, Liz describes meeting a Brazilian woman named Armenia, who was "gorgeous, elegantly dressed, charismatic and engaging and indeterminate in age, just insistently sexy". She runs a multinational marketing business called Novica, which supports indigenous artists all over the world by selling their products on the Internet. She speaks about seven or eight languages." As her name was so interesting, i decided to google a bit and found out that Armenia was indeed Armenian! Brazilian too, but Armenian from father's side! Armenia Nercessian de Oliveira. A very beautiful and powerful woman, indeed. Here's an interview with her on the Novica website, where when asked what inspired her to become involved in humanitarian work, she answered:
"My father was Armenian and a survivor of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. My father came to France as a refugee and in 1930 he immigrated to Brazil. Coincidentally, my second assignment with the United Nations was in the international protection of refugees."
Yes, she had 16 years of experience in humanitarian work in UN.
I can't wait to see who played her in the movie.Was she Armenian-ish at all?

Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert is an American novelist, essayist, short story writer, biographer, and memoirist. She is most known for her 2006 memoirs, "Eat, Pray, Love", which as of July 2010, has spent 180 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and was also made into a film by the same name in 2010.

Her 1997 GQ article, "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon", a memoir of Gilbert's time as a bartender at the very first Coyote Ugly table dancing bar located in the East Village section of New York City, was the basis for the feature film Coyote Ugly.

If you are interested, you can download the e-book in .epub and PDF formats here. 

The Movie
More than 7 million copies of this memoir have been sold in 40 different languages, and now die-hard devotees will get to see Liz's travels come to life on the big screen. The movie that just premiered in LA is featuring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem and others and has been one of the most anticipated movies of this year. It even happened that Julia Roberts converted to Hinduism during the shootings.

Here's something from Oprah's, on Eat Pray Love book and movie.

The movie trailer

In Russia it will arrive to cinemas on October 7, my guess is that somewhere around that time we'll get it too.

Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on genius, translated by my friend Gohar who has had recommended this book to me last year, but i forgot it then. A great talk!


Unknown said...

I have not read this book yet, nor have I seen the movie. I'm not sure what I'm waiting for? Perhaps something in me is not ready yet? I've been reading "Secrets of a Mysterious Older Woman" by Constance Feathers which is her memoir of her life after divorce. She does a caberet show, marries a Count and lives in a barn in France. It's a wonderful book, and powerful too. I've decided to be a MOW (please see link, lol)!

That's wonderful that you mentioned Novica. I have purchased beautiful gifts from there and they are so full of energy and mystery. Love it!

Thanks for the post and I may have to pick up this story now. =)

Anonymous said...

I really like this book. My only reservation about it was that it's a bit hard to relate to a very wealthy woman who was capable of just dropping everything in her life and having enough money to run away to these different places. Maybe it was hard to sympathize with her??? I did try to ignore it though....
Thanks for the review (by the way, I'm from the USA and when I was there this summer the movie came out to not-so-good reviews, I'm thinking of not seeing it so that it doesn't ruin the book).

thiternik said...

I saw the trailer some month ago and was still waiting for the movie..but after this post I'm going to read it for sure!

I am sort of finding myself here in lost Mauritius and perhaps this will guide me somehow..

Thank you Arpi for such wonderful posts every time! and thank's for the pdf link!

MichelleLadlow said...

Fantastic review..... I loved the book too. I listened to the audio version which went for 13 hours. Wonderful !!

P.H. said...

I read this book these days and I really love this. Today is my first time to visit your blog. Your article is great(Lots of passages you quoted from the book are also my favourite )! I am from Taiwan, a Chinese speaker, and try hard to practise English. is such a good book, not only it is informative but also makes me reflect on myself more. Plus, Gilbert really has good sense of humor and her words are quite understandable for a English-learner. Nice to visit your blog and enjoy your post♥