Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I am reading...

I am currently three-quarters of the way through Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia". It is an autobiographical novel, and nothing short of spectacular. It is the story one woman's journey out of despair and confusion, and her quest for spiritual enlightenment and understanding.

Here is a passage that really spoke to me... In it, Liz is at an ashram in India, trying to "lose some of her life's baggage", so to speak. Interestingly, one of the most spiritual and influential people she meets during her time in India is a lanky, irreverent older man from Texas, Richard. He nicknames her "Groceries", because of the heavy emotional load she constantly carries around with her. This conversation that Liz and Richard have marks a monumental turning point in her journey towards spiritual self-understanding:

There is so much about my fate that I canot 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 the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.

This last concept is a radically new idea for me. Richard from Texas brought it to my attention recently, when I was complaining about my inability to stop brooding. He said, "Groceries, you need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you're gonna wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your 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."

This is an amazing book. I have never been a "self-help manual" fan. I don't have the patience to read them, quite frankly. But I know that the story of Elizabeth Gilbert's experiences and realizations is going to affect me for a long time to come, and hopefully I'll grow a little more self-aware as a result.

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