Beliefnet
Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir, "Eat, Pray, Love" has clearly touched a chord. Her tale begins with an unhappily married Gilbert sobbing on her bathroom floor, praying for answers. A God-like voice speaks to her, delivering a simple, soothing commandment: "Go to bed, Liz."
 
From there we follow this likable, suffering, seeking narrator on a pilgrimage for internal peace and resolution through three countries. There's the gustatory passions of Italy (eat), four months meditating at an ashram in India (pray), and to Bali, where meets a sage and a Brazilian man (love).
 
Recently Gilbert spoke to Beliefnet from the antique store she now owns with her husband in New Jersey. As lucid, warm, and funny in person as on paper, she talked about her spiritual practices, what can mend a miserable heart, and how she feels about possibly being portrayed by Julia Roberts.
 
How has the success of the book changed your life in surprising ways?

The success of it has probably been the biggest surprise. You have to understand that the book came out of the darkest, worst, most horrible, obnoxious time of my life. I mean, the book and my journey begins with me, in my bathroom, four o'clock in the morning, sobbing on the floor one inch away from the bathroom tiles.
 
And then, suddenly, it turned into something that people are using and wanting and enjoying and at the very least, finding entertaining, it's just impossible to have imagined that something like that could have come out of such a dark place. So it's a surprise and an honor and a joy and a little bit surreal, a little strange.
 
How are you different after "Eat, Pray, Love"?

I still have the same interests. I'm still a writer. I'm still creative. I still have the same sense of humor. I still have the same way of relating to people.
 
But, internally, it's a totally different landscape. And I think the main difference is this relationship that I forged with myself in all those months spent alone, particularly in India, in those long, tedious, difficult, emotionally painful hours in the meditation chamber sitting—as my friend Richard from Texas said—on my lily white ass and trying to find some sort of center in all that maelstrom of thought and confusion and worry and anxiety and resentment and that whole soup that I was bathed in before I left.
 
And to watch the evolution over time, over those months and see myself go from somebody who quite literally could not spend five minutes in silence in her own company without crying out of her own skin to somebody who could sit for four or five consecutive hours and be undisturbed by my own existence on earth—it seems like a simple thing but isn't.
 
In that silence and stillness, I met this other voice that I never had before, which is this older part of me, this calm, sedate, affectionate, forgiving, wise soul that watches my comings and goings and my spastic fears and desires and anger and all the stuff that pulls on me and intercepts me before I get dragged too far away from myself.
 
And she just says, very sweetly and with a kind of amusement, do you really want to go through this again? Because if you do, I'll do it with you. But, maybe we don't want to do this again. Maybe we want to actually remember what we learned and do a different thing. That's the central miracle of my entire life, I would say, is meeting that voice. I think that's the highest attainment of my life. And hopefully, that's mine to keep. But, I don't take it for granted. And I know how easy it is to be swept away from that. That's what spiritual practice is for. It's to solidify that channel and to make sure that you get to have it.

How did you integrate what you learned from your trips into your daily life?

Madness would follow anybody who tried to keep the schedule of an Indian Ashram in their normal life living in New Jersey. First of all, you would become an obnoxious human being if you were trying to do that. And secondly, it's impossible.
 
The whole point of spiritual retreat is that everything else is stripped away and you are only focusing on your soul and your soul's journey and you're surrounded by fellow pilgrims and everybody's in this current and they're helping each other and they're pulling each other along. At the ashram I saw a lot of people who had been living in spiritual communities for 20 or 30 years. And while with some of them, I felt like they were meant to be contemplatives, with other people, I got the sensation that you're kind of hiding out. And I didn't want to do that.
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