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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thoughts on Eat, Pray, Love

I finished Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert on Thursday evening. This is after starting it on Tuesday evening. When I got to Tuesday and had not started reading, I was a little worried that I wasn't going to complete my first ever weekly goal. As soon as I read about 25 pages, I knew that I would. I had this book in my hands A LOT for 2 days. Any chance I had, I was reading. I could not get enough of her stories and adventures. I kept a pen close by and highlighted the passages that seemed to make the most sense to me. Some of her words touched me deeply and I knew that they were ideas and thoughts that I would like to read many times over. For me personally, this is a book that needs to be read, allowed to process in your head for a while, and then read again. That is exactly what I plan on doing.

Here are some of the ideas or thoughts that I took away from the book. This is kind of a jumbled mess, but it highlights some of my favorite bits of the book. If you haven't read the book, I suggest you do. You won't ruin the book by reading my thoughts. Every person will come away with such different thoughts after reading it. I can see where some people wouldn't enjoy it that much. But I needed this book. I learned so much from her stories and insight. It made me think down deep about myself and changes that I need to make in my life. It was inspirational.

One of my initial thoughts was that I need to do yoga and learn to meditate. I need a way to give my brain a break. I would like to do yoga for the sense of serenity and calmness that it can bring, not as a part of my exercise plan. I will get much more out of the mental side of it. I love the idea of sweeping my mind clean for a bit of time each day and just letting it relax.

Here is how she defines Yoga on page 122: "Yoga is the effort to experience one's divinity personally and then to hold on to that experience forever. Yoga is about self-mastery and the dedicated effort to haul your attention away from your endless brooding over the past and your nonstop worrying about the future so that you can seek, instead, a place of eternal presence from which you may regard yourself and your surroundings with poise. Only from that point of even-mindedness will the true nature of the world (and yourself) be revealed to you." Sounds pretty good to me.

I think that through meditation, I can get closer to God. The author believes in Hinduism. I love her outlook on religion though. I agree with her in the idea that we don't all have to believe in the same ideas in order to get to heaven.  You don't have to have the same beliefs as her for this to make sense, you just need to have a belief that you truly believe in, in my opinion.  I am a Christian and I believe in my God. I want a better relationship with God and I think I can do this by setting some time aside for myself each day to focus only on Him and my prayers with Him. She says, "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." Right now is the time for me to improve my relationship with God, not in a day or week or month, but right now.

For quite some time now, I have been waking up very early in the morning. Way before Lucy is awake. I end up staying in bed until she is awake because I feel like I need to be sleeping, but obviously I have gotten enough sleep or I wouldn't be awake and unable to fall back asleep. I think that maybe I am up at this time because God is telling me that it is the most quiet and peaceful time of the day and it would be the perfect opportunity to sit and focus on my faith - free of distractions. I am really going to start getting out of bed when I wake up, washing my face to wake up a little more, and then sit quietly and focus on God. It is going to take some practice and getting used to, but I am awake already, why not make the time beneficial to my mind and body?

I have, as I have addressed on this blog, a real issue with sleep. For years I have been inflicted with insomnia. I cannot seem to shake it. The acupuncture has really helped, but I still take medicine for it every single day. Before the acupuncture, the medicine was not even working. I don't want to be on prescription sleep aides for the rest of my life. I am over it. I want to be able to lay down in a bed, relax, and peacefully drift of to sleep. Honestly, I can't even imagine what that would be like without my medicine because it has been YEARS since I have been able to do this. I want to be able to take a power nap if I need one, but I can't. The reason why I have such a hard time with sleeping is because I literally cannot shut my mind off. I cannot stop these random and often times bizarre thoughts from racing through my brain. It is not usually thoughts of worry, just totally random and nonstop, rapid fire thoughts of all kinds of things.

The author wrote about how she lived with sleeping problems for several years. Hers was probably more related to depression, but she had a very hard time turning off her head just as I do. She could not let her mind rest. She says that "When I ask my mind to rest in stillness, it is astonishing how quickly it will turn (1) bored, (2) angry, (3) depressed, (4) anxious, or (5) all of the above." I could not agree with her more. It took her quite some time to figure out  how to quiet her mind so that she could meditate and sleep. She wrote about how her mind would race when she was trying to meditate or sleep. In one chapter (pages 134-136), she actually documents the weird thoughts that are going through her head that she is trying to stop but can't. These thoughts are similar to mine. They are random and unrelated and keep changing and blah blah blah. Her description felt like I had written it. She eventually learns how to calm this after a while, so that is my goal as well. To teach my head to chill. If I could get my brain to relax for just a moment, I could get some peaceful, restful sleep. This is why I REALLY need to learn yoga and meditation. I think I can kick the insomnia naturally with these two practices.

This is how she describes her mind on page 132 (and I often totally feel this way): "Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the 'monkey mind' - the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit, and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. This in itself is not necessarily a problem; the problem is the emotional attachment that goes along with the thinking. Happy thoughts make me happy, but-whoop!-how quickly I swing again into obsessive worry, blowing the mood; and then it's all over again; and then it's the remembrance of an angry moment and I start to get hot and pissed off all over again and then my mind decides it might be a good time to start feeling sorry for itself, and loneliness follows promptly. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions."

And finally, I want to talk about what the author was trying to find in her life. She was trying to find pleasure, holiness, and a balance of the two in order to live her life to the fullest. I think one of the biggest things I took away from the book was learning to be more content in my life. You are happier, laid back, and more relaxed when you are content. I have so much already. I am so blessed. But we live in a society where you can never have too much. Where you are always trying to out do someone or get more. When you chase this idea of always wanting more and more and more or having what the other guy has, you will never be content because what you have will never be enough. Some people are going to ALWAYS have way more than you, but there are also millions and millions of people who have way less. Don't try and live anyone else's life by trying to have what they have or act how they act. Live your life. Be content with your blessings and situation. I want to be more content. I have plenty, in fact, I have excess of almost everything. I don't constantly need more "stuff". This is easy to say, but hard to live. Heres to trying!

Here is a passage that reiterates this idea from page 95: "It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly." This makes so much sense. My life isn't going to be perfect, but neither is someone else's.

These are a few of my favorite quotes from the book. They just make so much sense to me.

From page 115: "You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight." For Elizabeth Gilbert, it was learning Italian. This made her soul happy. We all need to find something in life that gives us total happiness.  Everyone deserves happiness.

I love this about always chasing time - I always find myself saying how I am so behind and don't have time for things (page 155): "Life, if you keep chasing it so hard, will drive you to death. Time-when pursued like a bandit-will behave like one, always remaining one county or one room ahead of you, changing its name and hair color to elude you, slipping out the back door of the motel just as you're banging through the lobby with your newest search warrant, leaving only a burning cigarette in the ashtray to taunt you. At some point you have to stop because it won't.  You have to admit that you can't catch it.  That you're not supposed to catch it.  At some point, you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you."  It is time to live in the present and stop focusing on the lack of time to do things.

Her thoughts on praying on page 177:  "Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine.  If I want transformation, but can't even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I'm aiming for, how will it ever occur?  Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention.  If you don't have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift."  I find myself lazy in my prayers - always saying about the same thing and putting little to no thought in it.  I am going to start articulating my prayers in a much clearer manner.

About controlling your thoughts and not letting them control you on page 178: "On first glance, this seems like a nearly impossible task. Control your thoughts?  Instead of the other way around?  But imagine if you could?  This is not about repression or denial.  Repression and denial set up elaborate games to pretend that negative thoughts and feelings are not occurring. What Richard is talking about is instead admitting to the existence of negative thoughts, understanding where they came from and why they arrived, and then-with great forgivenss and fortitude-dismissing them."  Richard is a man in the book who helped her in India with her holiness.  She also says, "Every time a diminishing thought arises, I repeat the vow:  I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore."  She said she repeats this vow around 700 times a day.  I love it.  I don't want to think negative and unhealthy thoughts, but they come so easily.  If I am more aware of them, I think I will be able to learn to control them.

I find that I often times speak before thinking, and it has been known to get me in trouble.  She says on page 190, "Learning how to discipline your speech is a way of preventing your energies from spilling out of you through the rupture of your mouth, exhausting you and filling the world with words, words, words instead of serenity, peace and bliss."

This is my final passage that I love - there are so many more but this is already so long!  About happiness on page 260, "People universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you're fortunate enough.  But that's not how happiness works.  Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.  You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.  You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.  And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.  If you don't, you will leak away your innate contentment.  It's easy enough to pray when you're in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your sould hold tight to its good attainments."  I LOVE THIS so much.  We have to work for happiness.

I know that I went on and on and on about this.  I just wanted to share a fraction of how powerful this book can be.  I truly believe that this is a book that can change your life in a magnificent way, if you let it.

15 comments:

Stepping On Legos said...

Wow, you've sold me on the book! I almost picked it up today but passed. I can't wait to read it now! Thanks for taking the time to detail out all the things you were inspired by. They spoke to me, too!

Dan Millman wrote a novel (and then series of self-help books) that the movie Peaceful Warrior was later based off of. I find similar messages about living in the moment and attaining true happiness. Check out the movie or the book. Whenever I watch the movie, I feel more centered and in a better place to work toward that goal.

Kate said...

Kelly,

I was getting ready to head for bed and I jumped on the computer to see if you finished the book. I was completely curious to see how you liked it...judging from the size of the post, you got as much as I did out of the book! Life-changing, isn't it?!! It's a book that you just can't stop talking about and feel everyone should read. It was my #1 Christmas gift to all the women in my life and it's amazing how each one that has read it has come away with something completely different.

Being a mother to four children and still young, I've lost over the years who I AM. Self discovery is really hard to find between diaper changes and soccer practice. The book has led me down the road to inner peace and a stronger connection with God. I will write "my review" on my blog in the upcoming days--so check and see what changes I have made.

Wouldn't it be so much easier to meet for coffee and pick each other's brains about this book? We should do a Bloggy Book Club! Ugghh..I sound like Oprah! =)

Good luck slowing your mind and sitting in peace with God!

**You've inspired me to set a goal for the week. Posting it on my blog will hold be accountable in completely my task. Thanks so much for the idea!

Carissa74 said...

I am glad that someone liked this book! I am not sure why I didn't like it, I LOVED the first part about Italy and the last part but the Middle part while she was in India drug bad for me. Keep up the great work with the weekly goals! Oh and I LOVE the idea of the bloggy book club that Kate gave!

Kerry said...

what a fantastic overview of this book! I'm going to try and pick it up- not sure if it's out here in Holland.

I've been practicing yoga for a while and the morning is a perfect time. If you learn the sun salutations it's a wonderful way to start the day :)

Kristin said...

What a great post, Kelly!

It seems that a lot of the same passages that struck a nerve with you also had a similar effect on me, especially her thoughts on prayer and meditation. I really need to learn to "turn it off" and focus on the present, and all the amazing blessings we've been given. And more than anything, I've got to do a better job at carving time out of my day to just sit and talk to God...like you, I don't find that to be the easiest thing in the world, but I know it will bring so much to my life and how I carry myself through it.

And, I just love what she has to say about happiness, and the role we play in controlling our own. In church yesterday, our pastor asked us a simple question...What feeds your spirit? Seems simple enough, but I've had to admit that I'm not really sure I like the answer. I've really got to start focusing on feeding my spirit with relationships, experiences, and an attitude that serves to change my outlook on the stressors in my life, as well as those that make me a better person overall. This particular question truly resonated with me yesterday, and I'm not sure it would have had, had my heart not already been opened by this book.

Your right, it is truly life changing! Thanks for the great post!

Norah said...

Thanks for the great post. I have the book and plan to start reading it today.

Megan said...

I loved the book as well. I found several passages that have helped deal with the roller coaster of emotions that is adoption. I can't wait to read it again. I'm glad you loved it!

Megan

Rachel said...

Wow, now I really, REALLY want to read it. I'm glad you were able to to take so much from it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Kelli said...

I can't wait to read this book myself. I too have had sleep problems for as long as I can remember and would love to be off my sleeping pill. This book could hold some answers for me!

Emily said...

i LOVED this book as well. i really think it is a book everyone should read.

i tried to really be good abt consistent meditation last year. i actually went to a church for a meditation group a few times. so it was sort of a christian meditation thing. but the only christian element was that they read a bible verse at the beginning and end of each session. which was good for me b/c i didn't want it to be an extremely religious thing. anyway, eventually i stopped doing it. but, this is a reminder to me to GET back to it.

that is so great you took so much from it. it says so much abt a person if they are able to sit back from their life and realize things they need to make it better.
xo

Brenda said...

Now I have another book on my list I must get! Loved your description of it. On your sleeping issues... Have you tried changing your diet? Carol Alt talks about insomnia in her book till she followed a raw diet. The eat clean diet is another one. Basically it's just all fresh foods! But it's supposed to help with everything. Changing my eatting habits has helped me.

Jen said...

I think relaxation plays a huge role in the whole sleep dilemma. I did not sleep for almost a year and a half after we lost our baby. If it came in a bottle and promised sleep...I took it. It got so bad that nothing seemed to work. I did find that exercise helped...but a lot of it had to do with lowering the volume at night--taking a few hours before sleep to do things that are quiet...like a hot bath or reading something light that I don't mind putting down. I am still not sleeping the way that I was before...but it has gotten better.

I am sure that Justin being away a lot plays a big roll...I find that when Jeremy is on call..I cannot sleep until I know whether or not he will be home for the night. If I am expecting him I wake at the tiniest sound.

Michelle said...

Great Review. You sold me. I'm off to Amazon. Thanks!

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