I have just finished Liz Gilbert’s book Eat Pray Love, and I feel like I have been living it as I have travelled. I was sceptical about the book at first (before I read it), but it has proved a great companion on my travels, and has provided a fantastic grounding place for me.
EATING: I identified so much with her description of depression as she seeks a way to live again after a traumatic divorce. This month it is two years since my partner Ngaire died, and among other things this four month journey I am on is about finding a place to stand without her alongside me. Like Liz Gilbert, here I am in Italy eating my way around the city, discovering magic places and delights along the way, while processing that sense of loss, alongside a desire to move on.
PRAYING: As Liz Gilbert meditated her way to wholeness in India. I have struggled to find my own sense of identity and centredness as I have been travelling. On a journey we are disconnected from our normal life – we are flung into situations where we are challenged by other people’s worlds, different perceptions and different languages. We are no longer comfortably in the ‘familiar’, so our sense of ourselves is challenged and stretched, and we have time to reflect on who we are. It is both scary and liberating, I have found it a great opportunity to stretch and grow and ‘feel’ myself in new ways.
And as for actually praying – surprisingly I seem to have been doing that too in my own way, as I have entered into the religious life of the countries we have visited – responding to the call to prayer in Morocco, lighting a candle at a small chapel on the Camino de Santiago, or joining in the Mass at St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. We have sat through lots of Masses where I barely understand a word, but they have been a chance to sit still and reflect on life and travel and the give myself to what the present and the future is offering me.
LOVING: I have just finished the final section of Eat Pray Love – Liz finds love with her beautiful Brazilian man in Bali. This is a bittersweet ending for me as there is nothing I would like better than such a happy ending (though perhaps not with a Brazilian man!). I wish her well – the journey continues I am sure, as it does for me.
I particularly enjoyed her lesson from her local spiritual guide to meditate with a smile – even smile in your liver – he told her that smiling makes her beautiful. There is no doubt that smiling lifts the heart and creates a fantastic energy that communicates to others. It is something I find myself doing as I rest and go off to sleep or as I explore somewhere – smile. Like the TV ad in NZ – smile and it comes back to you.
One of the things I have realised is that many of the amazing gifts and events in my life have come because I have tripped over them, not because I have gone looking for them. Love, travel, work, friendships, skills – they have been opportunities I have been given along the way. So the mantra I began my trip with, I will continue to carry with me – Openness to love and life and what the future offers.