Fly with the Phoenix

Three lessons from Eat Pray Love
August 31, 2010, 1:30 am
Filed under: Personal Transitions | Tags: , , ,

Like millions of women across the world, I recently saw “Eat Pray Love” with a couple of girlfriends. It was a complete estrogen fest with popcorn (too much butter, excess salt), and it was terrific. While the movie is enjoyable, the book’s better (as is usually the case), but then, the book doesn’t allow us to look at Javier Bardem as love interest Felipe.

But beyond the eye candy and amazing scenery, women transitioning from being part of a couple to single again can eat up the lessons to be found in this story. Those would be: engage in serious self-care, seek your Higher Power, and find your life’s center or balance.

In Bali, Liz (Julia Roberts) puts the lessons learned in Italy and in India into play. She meets Felipe (Javier Bardem) and experiences love in its fullest sense. (Sony Pictures photo)

While most women cannot take off on an around-the-world trek to find herself like author Liz Gilbert did, it’s possible to adopt ideas based on her amazing experience.

Serious self care

The idea behind Italy, the “eat” portion of Gilbert’s journey, was to simply learn to be herself. Can’t fit into your jeans because too much pasta went into your mouth? No problem, get the bigger jeans. That’s a freeing idea for most women. Gilbert also drank great wine, but she also drank in the beauty of Rome and sought out new friends.

When experiencing a major shift in your life, it’s tempting to lock yourself away with the gelato. In fact, Gilbert describes in the book her bought with depression and anxiety during her months in Italy (this was left out of the movie).

She didn’t deny herself simple pleasures, like great food and company, because that’s what she needed. But don’t confuse self-medicating with self-care. Again, it’s about balance. The pasta, pizza and gelato provided her with comfort and the pleasure of a sated palate. Friends validated her and helped to emotionally support after a relationship ended. She became fluent in Italian, and anytime we learn a new skill, we are energized.

When you hurt, wrap yourself with the things that bring you comfort and joy, keeping in mind the healthy boundaries you should observe.

Developing your spirituality

Gilbert understood that life cannot have balance without being tuned in to a Higher Power. She found her spiritual side in an ashram in India (the “pray” portion) with the help of a good friend. And when she finally learned to surrender, she made progress in her spiritual quest.

Most of us operate thinking we’re in charge of the lives we created for ourselves. Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility. No wonder we’re tied up in knots and our inter-personal relationships are dropping like flies off an elephant’s rump.

But when we get closer to our Higher Power and learn to make time regularly to pray or meditate, it eventually becomes apparent that we really aren’t in charge of a whole lot! The key is to not only know this intellectually, but to demonstrate it and surrender our lives. This may look different to those of different faiths and beliefs, and it doesn’t mean we sit on a hillside and wait for something marvelous to happen. We can’t stop living because we are seeking something beyond this world.

Learning to pray isn’t forced–as shown in the movie’s scenes about meditation–but rather learned through practice. Gilbert had a mentor, her friend Richard, to help her on this spiritual sojourn. If you seem stuck and are having trouble exploring your spiritual side, consider working with a spiritual or life coach, or find a spiritual congregation where you live. However, don’t expect this to be a magic pill to swallow and you’ll see a vision. It’s work, and you’ll probably have greater success teaming with someone or a group, but the reward is inner peace and feeling like you have a place in creation.

Putting it together

The best part of this story, for me, happens in Bali, and not just because of her drop-dead gorgeous Brazilian boyfriend. Gilbert, in Bali, finds her balance between loving herself and being able to love the world. Eventually, she learns to trust and love a new partner.

Compare how far she’s come from the rat-race life she lived in New York to a life of abundance and service in Bali. From small acts of kindness like copying the book of spells for her medicine man friend Ketut, to building a house for her friend Wayan and daughter, Tutti.

She can appreciate and beauty of the land and people around her while she continues to meditate, but she now is less focused on herself and reaches out to others.   She’s opened up like a lotus blossom, and this new energy in her life is rife with possibilities.

Note how she has taken what she’s learned in this journey so that she is smart about choices–remember the scene on the beach with the cute, young Aussie. This is something a lot of us forget to do. Listening to our inner spirit, whether you call it intuition or that gut feeling, for some reason is difficult for a lot of women, including me. Through practice, we do get better at it.

I have loved this story since I first read the book a couple of years ago, and I’ve read it over a few times when I need to hear the positive lesson that while we may have our share of heartbreak in this world, we do not come out of these valleys unchanged. That is one of the beautiful things about the life we are given by our Creator. Not even a beautiful Brazilian can top that.


2 Comments so far
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Three lessons learnt from eat pray love
1) Italians talk with their hands
2) It’s better to let your parents choose your spouse & weddings are more beautiful in India than in the US
3) Rejoice when a car hits you while you are riding your bike: it might be Mr. perfect…

Comment by fille

HA! Okay, good points! Excuse me while I go for a bike ride.

Comment by hopefultransitions

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