Saturday, January 3, 2009

Eat Pray Love (then Blog), Part I: Italy

I want to start this blog with the book that focused all this effort in the first place. Eat Pray Love marked the rebeginning of friendship and honesty for me after a nearly disastrous backsliding into fear and self-loathing.

With a bit of dismay I admit I have not traveled to any of the countries Liz visited (although I have been to Israel, and as another "I" nation that might make a good starting place for a sequel someday). But I will.

What I immediately and lastingly liked about this book was her structural approach: beginning with the end (the 109th bead), dividing the book into three sets of thirty-six (108 is a great number) chapters, and her ability, amid all that structure, to allow coincidental and interconnected people and events to unfold and pour out. Freely.

Reading the book offered a numerologically cathartic experience. I'll save that for a later post, as it might be nice to get people into the room and happy to be talking before spilling everything I might think there is to think about it.

It was suggested to me by a dear friend with whom I recently reconnected. We compared notes on our marital struggles, and talked a great deal about which feeling was more powerful - the urge to go or the need to stay. Needless to say, arriving so quickly at page 10, "I don't want to be married anymore," read like a splashing bucket of cold water. It was unsettling (and coincidental, maybe...) enough to hook me (although opening with 108 already had me).

That said, let's start with Italy. I found her stay intensely pleasurable to read about, albeit less impactful than later sections. The most striking sequence for me was the Thanksgiving dinner, on pages 108-109 (naturally). Liz wants to say everything she's feeling about the weight the dinner has lifted from her life, but all she can muster is Italian: sono grata. Why is it that words in foreign languages can take on more meaning than their English equivalent? Is it the effort of translating in your head? The tacit admission that "my native words aren't good enough for my nascent emotions?"

About my friend who gave me this book: we had hurt each other in the past, and hadn't spoken in nearly fifteen years when we reconnected. How easy it was to skip past small talk into the what's important voice with which we used to speak to each other. We forgave each other, spilled stories about emotional stuggle, and thanked each other for "being here," as we'd put it. Present. In the life of the other, despite the geographical obstacles. "Sono grata" came off the page, and through me right to her.

In response, she pointed out Luca's words, "Your tears are my prayers." It reminded me of a time when I was noticing how many years it had been since I'd had a real, hard, full-bodied cry. In my head, I was calling it an "orgasm in the heart." In a sense, I was praying for my own tears. The next day, I received them - although they were someone else's. A near stranger, who'd read something I'd posted on a forum, felt she had to let me know how it made her feel. That is indeed another story, but it was an act of gratitude on the part of the shedder to let me know that my words had found a place. Liz' Thanksgiving experience bound up tears and gratitude in a way that echoed my renewed friendship. The idea that giving thanks would undoubtedly bring more for which to feel thankful.

Appropriately, I finished the book just a few days before Thanksgiving, and as the wave of New Year's reflection, resolution, and planning breaks, I'll take this opportunity to thank you for reading and posting here. Benvenuto!


  1. "Eat, Pray, Love" is a great book to start with! I also found the Italy chapter pleasureable, but not my favorite "I" place. However, I enjoyed when in Italy we learn about her stuggle with the choices she has made. We learn that we may have many similarities or stuggles to her. We admire her for going it "alone" to find her authentic self. AND we understand why she gained weight, and don't blame her one bit, while in Italy.;)

  2. It's been awhile since I read EPL. At the time, I was going through an incredibly profound SHIFT in my life so there will always be that association. I have to look back on my journal to jog my memory about the specific quotes that resonated with me but I have to admit that because it was such a dark time, it's difficult to do. Yes, your tears are my prayers was significant for me because I was also learning about Compassion. I was also reading Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron, which introduced me to the idea that my suffering is what allows me to connect to the suffering of all. So even as my newly broken heart crippled me, there was a part of me that was sooooo deeply grateful for now being "more whole." I could never again be the cold obsidian, as I had been previously described. This place of excruciating pain was partly because of my own Present as well as the realization of my Past. I had caused the same pain (if not more) in others, unknowingly and callously. I had to forgive myself, just like Liz did on the island of Gili Meno. I had to take into my heart the parts that I was most ashamed of and that were difficult to look at. For me, they were the parts that were cruel.

    I believe that this was around the same time as the dream. I had spent the evening in meditation. Chodron espouses the practice of Tonglen meditation, which is different than the style of meditation I had done in the past. Instead of breathing in good and breathing out bad, Tonglen instructs one to breathe IN suffering and breathe OUT love. Connect with the world's suffering and breathe out your love for the world. So I was contemplating how this, my breathing/love could possibly have an effect on anyone else, especially if they were geographically and emotionally separate from me. This is where my head was as I went to bed. In the morning, I got an email from someone geographically separate from me that said he had a dream, in which he stood before me and said, "Breathe out so I can breathe you in."

    In that line, "Your tears are my prayers." Whose tears and whose prayers? All. We are all one, in suffering and joy. Thich Nhat Hanh's "Interbeing."

    My life mirrors Liz. Then, I wrote in my journal, "This is the PRAY part."

  3. Nocksrocks, welcome! I look forward to your comments on India. Ria, your post reminded me of the Gates of Prayer High Holy Days text, there is a meditation with the words, "you are as close to me as breathing, yet you are farther than the farthermost star."

    Tomorrow (or later tonight) I'll post my thoughts on India.

  4. thank you for favouret posting