I am a firm believer that you find what you’re looking for in life. If you think you are cursed with bad luck and that the world is out to get you, you will only ever see the crummy things in life; if you think the world is full of great opportunities and that you are deserving of good things, then you will be able to take advantage of all the wonderful things in the world. And you can choose which type of person to be. Despite my belief in positive thought, however, I have felt increasingly lost and unsure of myself this summer (I know, I know, you don’t come here to listen to me complain, you come to talk about books. I’ll make this brief). I’ve been looking for some sort of guidance or advice about what to do with my new post-graduation freedom, and what comes into my life? This blog post on finding inspiration to follow your dreams, and this post on finding the motivation to do what scares you. And of course, this book: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Eat, Pray, Love

Travel is one of the many things on my “someday when I have time, and money, and can speak several languages” list. Reading books about travel only increases that desire (as seen by my post on My Life in France), and Italy has been my #1 country to someday travel to/live in since…well, since ever. Eat, Pray, Love is divided into three sections: her life in Italy eating pasta, her life in India practicing yoga, and her life in Indonesia falling in love. I loved how the book was organized, progressing from the seemingly simple themes of food and beauty to the struggle to find God and balance physical and spiritual love.  The first section is on Italy, and with every meal and every new word she learned, I fell more in love. Pizza, as non-exciting as it may seem, is my favorite food. On the subject of Italian pizza, Gilbert has this to say:

So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered–one for each of us–are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with my pizza, almost an affair (79).

It is not the pizza, or the wonderful stories of Italy however, that made this book so enjoyable. What truly resonated with me were her stories of the spiritual struggles to figure out who she was, and what she wanted: a struggle I have experienced (on a much smaller scale) these last few months. Gilbert sets out on her year of travel because she had suffered many personal tragedies. She needed to get away from everyone and everything she knew and just live. While the book does tackle the topic of God and religion, it does so in a way I found extremely respectful and tolerant. She openly says that this is her personal view, and that there are many many other ways to find God (or live a good life without religion). For Gilbert, however, the path to spiritual fulfillment was one of yoga, meditation, and Karma.

The second segment of the book, which details her four months at an Ashram in India, was my favorite part of the book. These stories focus on meditation and the personal journey Gilbert took to finally reconcile with years of self-imposed bad luck. I cannot claim to be a disciplined practitioner of yoga, although I have practiced on and off for the last two years. Reading about how therapeutic she found it to be reminded me of why I became interested in yoga two years ago, and like my interest in traveling and eat good pizza, has increased my desire to get back into a regular yoga schedule (even if that means early mornings). I have read many books on the subjects of yoga and meditation, both professional fitness books and traditional yogic texts, but this struggling 35-year-old New Yorker was able to explain the joy of yoga better than anything else on my bookshelf. For anyone even passingly interested in yoga or meditation, I highly recommend this book.

Eat, Pray, Love came into my life at the exact right time. While not a great literary work, I found this book to be an honest and unwaveringly truthful account of a woman who fell apart and then rebuilt herself through sheer force of will. She tackles subjects that many people ignore their whole lives–depression, suicide, fate, religion, love, passion, and the struggle between what others expect of us and what we truly want–and shares that struggle with her readers. For anyone confused about the next step in their life or lacking the strength to move on, you could not ask for a better companion on your journey than Elizabeth Gilbert.

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