Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

I didn’t think I would read this, knowing that I would probably find it frustrating to read about searching for God in all the wrong places (mostly in herself). I really just read it to get a sense of why it was so popular, and to get an understanding of what most pluralists believe (she’s generally quite happy to mix and match different belief systems, thinks it’s completely valid and at one point even encourages others to do so). It seems that experience and happiness are major driving factors in pursuing spirituality in today’s culture.

Her journey is sparked in a big way by her desire to come out of some extremely hard situations. She dabbles in meditation, prayer, mantras and various cultural practices in Italy, India and Bali as she travels for a year in search for balance and peace. As she travels, she is her own worst enemy (as she battles depression and anxiety) but also her own greatest ally – there’s a line near the end that goes, “I was the administrator of my own rescue.”

I couldn’t help but be annoyed at the way she approached her spiritual journey. She is aware of the basic premise of the major religions of the world but sees no difference in them; it seems there is no absolute truth, truth is just whatever you want it to be, but she writes with such assurance that this is the way to… well, I don’t really know. She writes about her past and present, but shares no particular thoughts or plans for the future, and there isn’t really any mention of what happens after death or why she is following this path, in terms of long-term, eternal significance.

There are some things I need to keep thinking about and looking into in terms of what she does experience. It seems that something is actually happening to her when she meditates, some really bizarre things that I’m not sure I can explain. I’ve been learning more and more this year that the spiritual realm does interact with ours (e.g. learning from our African brothers and from the gospel of Mark about demons and spirits). We, in the Western world, like to explain things away with science and mental health and don’t like to think about other-worldly happenings. It makes me wonder what is really behind the unexplainable things that people experience.

I was a bit rebuked, as well, by the way she went about this year of her life, and the preparation before it. She pursues her path whole-heartedly and perseveres through the hardest parts, particularly prayer and meditation. She spends hours and hours in prayer (to God, herself, whoever is listening) until she reaches a state of consciousness that allows her to pray uninterrupted. She is diligent in her practices, spending an hour each morning and night in prayer/meditation. She goes to great lengths to put herself in an environment that will have fewest distractions.

While hers is more about communing with her inner self (which is God, apparently) rather than about a right relationship with a loving and just God, I could learn a lot from this. I don’t have the barriers she did to reaching God – while she had to deal with a lot of personal issues in order to ‘find’ God, Jesus Christ has guaranteed that I can approach God with confidence and he hears my prayers. Change is hard, particularly changing bad habits that are  well and truly set in, but I need to pray harder and work harder at not letting the devil work against what God is doing and to not be complacent in my own salvation and justification. If I believe in God as much as I say I do, I should let that shape the way I actively rely on God.

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