aka Ruthie O. Grant, Ph.D.

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Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert
Excerpts compiled by Dr. Parthenia Onassis Grant

Eat, Pray, Love teaches the art of pleasure and devotion and how to balance the two.  The following are quotes I felt were profound enough to share with those who love reading great books as well as those who do not take the time to enjoy reading a good book, but who just might after perusing the following feast of food for the mind.

When you set out in the world to help yourself, you inevitably end up helping everybody (274) 

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort … You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings … It’s easy to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments  …all the sorrow and trouble in the world is caused by unhappy people … I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me.  The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world.  Clearing out all of your misery gets you out of the way.  You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else.  Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people (260-261).

If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy [or whatever] you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a doorway.  And guess what the universe will do with that doorway?  It will rush in – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed.  Stop using David to block that door.  Let it go. 

“But I wish me and David could –“ 

He cuts me off.  “See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishing too much, baby.  You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” (150) 

We must get our hearts broken sometimes. This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something (277). 

I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential.  I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and then I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism (285)

When that patriarchic system was (rightfully) dismantled, it was not necessarily replaced by another form of protection …I have given myself away in love many time, merely for the sake of love.  And I’ve given away the farm sometimes in the process.  If I am truly to become an autonomous woman, then I must take over the role of being my own guardian … my own husband … and my own father, too.  That is why I sent myself to bed that night alone.  Because I felt it was too soon for me to be receiving a gentleman suitor (286).

He wanted absolutely nothing from me whatsoever except permission to adore me for as long as I wanted him to.  Were those terms acceptable to me? (288) 

Darling, for you, I am even willing to suffer.  Whatever pain happens to us in the future, I accept it already, just for the pleasure of being with you now (292). 

I have never been loved and adored like this before by anyone, never with such pleasure and single-minded concentration.  Never have I been so unpeeled, revealed, unfurled and hurled through the event of lovemaking (294) 

To feel physically comfortable with someone else’s body is not a decision you can make.  It has very little to do with how two people think or act or talk or even look.  The mysterious magnet is either there, buried somewhere deep behind the sternum, or it is not.  When it isn’t there (as I have learned in the past, with heartbreaking clarity) you can no more force it to exist than a surgeon can force a patient’s body to accept a kidney from the wrong donor.  My friend Annie says it all comes down to one simple question. “Do you want your belly pressed against this person’s belly forever – or not?  (294). 

For some reason, I feel the same way about you that I felt about my kids when they were small – that it wasn’t their job to love me, it was my job to love them. You can decide to feel however you want to, but I love you and I will always love you.  Even if we never see each other again, you already brought me back to life and that’s a lot. (311)  

A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life … they tear down your walls and smack you awake … soul mates come into your life to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.  The process is too painful (149) 

I looked at each thought, each unit of sorrow, shame, anger and grief and I acknowledged its existence and felt … its horrible pain. And then I would tell [it] “It’s OK. I love you.  I accept you.  Come into my heart now.  It’s over … You are forgiven. You are a part of me.  You can rest now. It’s over. 

When all of this was finished, I was empty. Nothing was fighting in my mind anymore.  I looked into my heart, at my own goodness, and I saw its capacity … my heart was not even nearly full … my heart could easily have received and forgiven even more. Its love was infinite. 

I knew then that this is how God loves us all and receives us all, and that there is no such thing in this universe as hell, except maybe in our own terrified minds.  Because if even one broken and limited human being could experience even one such episode of absolute forgiveness and acceptance of her own self, then imagine … what God, in all His eternal compassion, can forgive and accept … I also knew that I would have to keep dealing with these thoughts again and again … until I changed my whole life.  And that this would be difficult and exhausting to do.  But my heart said … “I love you, I will never leave you, I will always take care of you (327-328). 

When I get lonely these days, I think:  So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it for once in your life.  Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings” (65). 

You meet some people who seem to be able to gracefully accept the terms upon which the universe operates and who genuinely don’t seem troubled by its paradoxes and injustices.  I have a friend whose grandmother used to tell her, “There’s no trouble in this world so serious that it can’t be cured with a hot bath, a glass of whiskey and the Book of Common Prayer.” For some people that is truly enough.  For others, more drastic measures are required (154) 

After Buddha awoke into enlightenment he said “This cannot be taught.” But then he changed his mind and decided … to teach the practice of meditation to a small handful of students.  He knew there would only be a meager percentage of people who would be served by (or interested in) his teachings. Most of humanity, he said, have eyes that are so caked shut with the dust of deception they will never see the truth, no matter who tries to help them. A few others … are so naturally clear eyed and calm already they need no instruction or assistance whatsoever. But then there are those whose eyes are just slightly caked with dust, and who might, with the help of the right master, be taught to see more clearly someday.  The Buddha decided he would become a teacher for the benefit of that minority – for those of little dust” (155) 

At some point, as Richard keeps telling me, you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you (155). 

Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend. ( 55) 

The very fact that this world is so challenging is exactly why you sometimes must reach out of its jurisdiction for help, appealing to a higher authority in order to find comfort.  (53).

Keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have four legs, instead of two. That way you can stay in the world.  But you must stop looking at the world through your head.  You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God (27). 

[An Italian view of Americans]: “Americans don’t know how to do nothing …” Italians understand “the art of making something out of nothing … l’arte d’arrangiarsi.”  The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement. (61). All Americans are repressed, which makes them dangerous and potentially deadly when they do blow up ... a savage people” (61, 58) 

A major obstacle in my pursuit of pleasure was my ingrained sense of Puritan guilt.  Do I really deserve this pleasure?  This is very American too – the insecurity about whether we have earned our happiness …Advertising understands this: You deserve a break today … this Bud’s for you … because I’m worth it.” (62) 

Look around at these good Italian men.  See how open they are to their feelings and how lovingly they participate in their families.  See the regard and the respect they hold for the women and children in their lives.  Don’t’ believe what you read in the papers, Liz. This country is doing very well (110). 

 “I disappear into the person I love … the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else … I was at a party and a guy I barely knew said to me, “You know, you seem like a completely different person, now that you’re with this new boyfriend.  You used to look like your husband, but now you look like David.  You even dress like him and talk like him.  You know home some people look like their dogs.  I think maybe you always look like your men (65).” 

The Bhagavad Gita – that ancient Indian Yogic text – says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection (95). 

“Dear God I could use a break from this cycle, to give myself some space to discover what I look like and talk like when I’m not trying to merge with someone.  And also, let’s be honest – it might be a generous public service for me to leave intimacy alone for a while … Think of it this way – if you’d had ten serious traffic accidents in a row, wouldn’t they eventually take your driver’s license away? Wouldn’t you kind of what them to?” (66) 

I’m choosing happiness over suffering.  I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet to come surprises (85). 

Do not apologize for crying.  Without this emotion, we are only robots (86). 

Because the world is so corrupted and nothing in this world can be trusted … this is why Barzini says Italians will tolerate hideously incompetent generals, presidents, tyrants, professors .. but will never tolerate incompetent opera singers, actors, cooks, tailors .. In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud sometimes only beauty can be trusted.  Only artistic excellence is incorruptible.  Pleasure cannot be bargained down.  And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real … What can you do in such an environment to hold a sense of your individual human dignity.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe nothing except, perhaps, to pride yourself on the fact that you always fillet your fish with perfection, or that you make the lightest ricotta in the world town? … The appreciation of pleasure can be an anchor of one’s humanity (114-115) 

YOGA in Sanskrit, can be translated as “union.”  The task at hand in Yoga is to find union – between mind and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and the source of our thoughts, between teacher and student, and even between ourselves and sometimes hard-to-bend neighbors … The ancients developed these physical stretches not for personal fitness but to loosen up their muscles and minds in order to prepare them for meditation … Yoga also means trying to find God through meditation, through scholarly study, through the practice of silence, through devotional service or through mantras (121). 

The Yogic path is about disentangling the built in glitches of the human condition, which I’m going to over simply define here as the heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment … Desire is the design flaw … We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character.  We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme Self who is eternally at peace.  That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine.  Before you realize this truth, say the Yogis, you will always be in despair, a notion nicely expressed in this exasperated line from the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus: “You bear God within you, poor wretch, and know it not (122). 

We are all one and divinity abides within us all equally …everything is God in disguise.  But the Yogis believe a human life is a very special opportunity, because only in a human form and only with a human mind can God realization ever occur … Our whole business therefore in this life,” wrote St. Augustine, rather Yogically, “is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen” (123) 

A great Yogi is anyone who has achieved the permanent state of enlightened bliss. A guru is a great Yogi who can actually pass that state on to others.  The world guru is composed of two Sanskrit syllables.  The first means “darkness,” the second means “light.”  Out of the darkness and into the light … You come to your Guru, then, not only to receive lessons, as from any teacher, but to actually receive the Guru’s state of grace ... You come to a Guru with the hope that the merits of your master will reveal to you your own hidden greatness (123,124). 

Prayer is the act of talking to God, while meditation is the act of listening.

Ham-sa is Sanskrit for “I am that, I am Divine, I am with God, I am an expression of God, I am not separate, I am not alone, I am not this limited illusion of an individual (141, 142). 

The resting place of the mind is the heart. The only thing the mind hears all day is clanging bells and noise and argument, and all it wants is quietude.  The only place the mind will ever find peace is inside the silence of the heart. That’s where you need to go (141). 

Look for God, suggests my Guru.  Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water (156). 

Wars are fought over two things: “How much do you love me?” and “Who’s in charge?” (157). 

Swamiji demanded enthusiasm, commitment and self control (166) 

There, then.  He is your Krishna, your beloved. In your service to your nephew, you are serving God. (170) 

Stay put, Groceries, he said. “Forget about sightseeing – you got the rest of your life for that. You’re on a spiritual journey, baby. Don’t only go halfway to your potential. You got a personal invitation from God here – you really gonna turn that away? … You go sit your lily-white ass down in that meditation cave every day for the next three months and I promise you this – you’re gonna start seeing some stuff that’s so damn beautiful it’ll make you wanna throw rocks at the Taj Mahal (171) 

If you can plant yourself in stillness long enough, you will, in time, experience the truth that everything (both uncomfortable and lovely) does eventually pass. “The world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world,” says an old Buddhist teaching. In other words: Get used to it. 

So I did it.  In stillness, I watched myself get eaten by mosquitoes. To be honest, part of me was wondering what this little macho experiment was meant to prove, but another part of me well knew – it was a beginner’s attempt at self mastery.  If I could sit through this non-lethal physical discomfort, then what other discomforts might I someday be able to sit through.  What about emotional discomforts, which are even harder for me to endure.  What about jealousy, anger, fear, disappointment, loneliness, shame, boredom? (174).

In the search for God, you revert from what attracts you and swim toward that which is difficult … the devout of this world perform their rituals without guarantee that anything good will come of it … Devotion is diligence without assurance … the decision to consent to any notion of divinity is a mighty jump from the rational over to the unknowable .. Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch.  Faith is walking face first and full speed into the dark … I couldn’t care less about evidence and proof and assurances.  I just want God.  I want God inside me.  I want God to play in my bloodstream the way sunlight amuses itself in water (175-176). 

There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under my jurisdiction.  There are certain lottery tickets I can buy, thereby increasing my odds of finding contentment.  I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with.  I can select what I eat and read and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life – whether I will see them as curses or opportunities (and on the occasions when I can’t rise to the most optimistic viewpoint, because I’m feeling too damn sorry for myself, I can choose to keep trying to change my outlook).  I can choose my words and tone of voice in which I speak to others.  And most of all, I can choose my thoughts (177). 

He said, “Groceries, you need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you gonna wear every day.  This is a power you can cultivate.  If you want to control things in life so bad, work on the mind.  That’s the only thing you should be trying to control. Drop everything else but that because if you can’t learn to master your thinking, you’re in deep trouble forever” (178). 

“The way my marriage ended is just an open wound that never goes away.” 

“If you insist,” said Richard. “If that’s how you’ve decided to think about it, don’t let me spoil your party (183). 

Dear Lord, please show me everything I need to understand about forgiveness and surrender (185). The rules of transcendence insist that you will not advance even one inch closer to divinity as long as you cling to even one last seductive thread of blame. As smoking is to the lungs, so is resentment to the soul; even one puff of it is bad for you…. This is what rituals are for.  We do spiritual ceremonies … to create a safe resting place for your most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us, weighing us down … If you bring the right earnestness to your homemade ceremony, God will provide the grace.  And that is why we need God (187). 

Keep cultivating gratitude … Next lifetime you might come back as one of those poor Indian women busting up rocks by the side of the road and find out life ain’t so much fun … keep cultivating gratitude … (188) 

Remember what they say, the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else (189). 

Swamiji called silence the only true religion … God dwells within you, as you … to know God, you need only to renounce one thing – your sense of division from him (190-191) 

Your treasure – your perfection – is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the world and go and enter into the silence of the heart. The supreme energy of the divine will take you there (197). 

According to mystics the search for divine bliss is the entire purpose of human life. This is why we all chose to be born, and this is why all the suffering and pain of life on earth is worthwhile – just for the chance to experience this infinite love.  And once you have found this divinity within, can you hold it?  Because if you can … bliss (197). 

Why have I been chasing happiness my whole life when bliss was here the entire time? … You may return here once you have fully come to understand that you are already here (200). 

Flexibility is just as essential for Divinity as is discipline … practice holding equilibrium internally – no matter what insanity is transpiring out there (206) 

The hub of calmness – that’s your heart. That’s where God lives within you. So stop looking for answers in the world. Just keep coming back to that center and you’ll always find peace (207)

What I’m seeing in some of my friends ... is a longing to have something to believe in. But this longing chafes against any number of obstacles, including their intellect and common sense.

To meditate, you only need to smile.  Smile with the face, smile with the mind, even smile in your liver and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy … [when you make a] serious face … you scare good energy away (231).  This smile will make you a beautiful woman. This will give you power to be very pretty. You can use this power – pretty power – to get what you want in life (241). 

Never argue about God with people. Best thing to say is, “I agree with you” (241). 

He keeps his body strong, he says, by meditating every night before sleep and by pulling the healthy energy of the universe into his core.  He says that the human body is made of nothing more or less than the five elements of all creation – water, fire, wind, sky and earth – and all you have to do is concentrate on this reality during meditation and you will receive energy from all of these sources and you will stay strong … Everyone is out of balance; everyone needs equilibrium restored. (142) 

Man is a demon, man is a god. Both are true … both dark and light are equally present in all of us … it’s up to the individual (or the family, or the society) to decide what will be brought forth -  the virtues or the malevolence.  The madness of this planet is largely a result of human being’s difficulty in coming into virtuous balance with himself.  Lunacy (both collective and individual) results.   

So what can be done about the craziness in the world? 

Nothing, Ketut laughed, but with a dose of kindness.  This is the nature of the world. This is destiny.  Worry about your craziness only – this will create peace for you.” 

But how should be find peace within ourselves? I asked Ketut. 

“Meditation … the purpose of meditation is only happiness and peace … very easy. (251)

Yogic sages that that all the pain of a human life is caused by words, as is all the joy (325) 

His hands … were all pimped out with giant, gold rings and magic stones.  About seven rings total.  All of them with holy powers (315). 

In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices (334).