“Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert is the little miracle that saved my life. It also taught me how to finally take charge of my life, and since I bought it in 2006, I’m STILL awakening to new lessons from Liz Gilbert’s story. I had hit rock bottom right before I found “Eat, Pray, Love”. I was in a severe depression after breaking up with the love of my life, the “one”. Believing life was over without him, I thought about suicide. I couldn’t imagine life without him, and I was tired of being such a depressing burden on my friends that I believed everyone was just better off without me. Then one day, in a fog, I went to the bookstore and came upon “Eat, Pray, Love” in the “Recommended Reading” section. The moment I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down. I stayed up the whole night going through all the emotions of my breakup all over again because it was as if Liz Gilbert was writing about MY PAIN, not hers, but MINE. I wept until I felt like I had no more salt in my body to produce one last tear. I was heaving as I sobbed on my floor. I was a certified mess. Then, just when I couldn’t take the pain anymore, I became silent, and out of nowhere, my inner voice said, “Go to Bali. Find Ketut Liyer. Heal.” So, after spending the whole night reading the book, I then proceeded to get myself a ticket to Bali! Now, for someone who used to be afraid of doing things alone, this was remarkable. For someone who took a-lot of time when planning a vacation, this was insane. This book made me do what was then unthinkable for me- buy a ticket to a place where I would be traveling ALONE. I didn’t discuss this WITH ANYONE. I didn’t even bother to think about what was going on at work on the week I booked for my trip. All I knew at that moment was that I was going to Bali to heal and hopefully find purpose again. After securing a ticket to Bali, I passed out and slept.
When I woke up and realized what had happened, the fear and doubt settled in.
I can’t go to Bali by myself. I don’t know anyone there. I have no place to stay.
What about work? What if I have important stuff going on the week I plan to be away?
How the hell am I going to find Ketut Liyer?
I know nothing about Bali. I don’t even know where it is on a damn map. How am I going to get around by myself?
With worry setting in, I started to rethink the trip. Then I started thinking about why I was going in the first place, and the sadness hit me once again. When the crying started (for the millionth time), I realized I couldn’t go on like this anymore and that I had to go. Even if joy was a far reach, then I was hoping that this trip would somehow numb the pain.
As it turns out, all the worry about work was for nothing, as my supervisor was happy for me to go. My work colleagues knew I was in pain and thought it was a great idea. My friends, although worried about me travelling alone in the state of mind I was in, were encouraging. And so the day of my departure came. Excited and a little nervous, I got on the plane ready for some much needed healing.
Although my stay I Bali was brief, the next few days were life changing for sure. Why? Because of the following experiences and life lessons.
Lesson number one: I had to let go of fear and let trust in. In order to find a place to stay and find Ketut Liyer, I would have to ask for help. All the worrisome thoughts I had before the trip were so unnecessary, as I was able to find a lovely place to stay and a driver who would help me find Ketut Liyer!
Awesome experience number one: If what happened in the wee hours of one particular morning was a meditative or spiritual experience, then I knew I wanted more. Before “Eat, Pray, Love”, I was skeptical about meditation. I didn’t quite understand how to meditate, and I found it hard to believe that it could create the inexplicable bliss Liz Gilbert described in her book. However, one early morning, when light was just breaking through, I heard beautiful gamelan music playing. It was so lovely and somehow magical that it put me in a sort of trance or meditative state. And while I lay there in bed listening to that lovely music, time stopped, if that makes any sense. Once the music ended, I came out of my “trance”, and felt calmness in my body that I hadn’t felt in a long time. While I didn’t feel joy, I certainly didn’t feel sadness. I think I had finally reached a “neutral” state, and it was such a welcome relief. No more anger, no more resentment… just calm. I believe that was my first step towards healing.
Awesome experience number two: Meeting Ketut Liyer! I was immediately struck by how peaceful, gentle, and soft-spoken he was. Too embarrassed to go into all the details of my breakup, I did express to him my heart was broken and that my spirit needed healing. He listened with compassion, always smiling. He then proceeded to give me a blessing, a kind of short prayer of his wishes for me. I was overcome, then, by this rush of gratitude, because out of nowhere, I realized that in time, my heart would be whole again. Whereas just a few weeks earlier, I saw no point in life, here I was, sitting with this gentle soul, being wished a life of love and joy. I cannot express how overwhelming the experience was, but what I know for sure is that this man’s compassion healed me. And so this experience brings me to…
Lesson number two: I can be alone, travel alone, eat alone- and be COMPLETELY FINE. Before Liz’s story, I had NEVER considered traveling by myself, let alone being by myself. For a long time, I was involved in a series of monogamous relationships, never really being “single” for an extended period of time. However, “Eat, Pray, Love” and my trip to Bali introduced me to… MYSELF- and I really liked being with her, and only her. So “Eat, Pray, Love” made me enter a serious relationship with myself, if that makes any sense, and in doing so, taught me how to love, respect, and honor ME. Why was this such a crucial lesson? Because I believe, now, that until I learned how to be alone and truly love myself, I wouldn’t be able to be a good partner in any relationship. From her story, I saw that when Liz finally learned how to take care of her needs did love- the “right” love, come her way.
“Eat, Pray, Love” helped me find a strength I never knew I had. It introduced me to meditation, a spiritual practice that I continue to this very day. “Eat, Pray, Love” helped heal my spirit and make me whole again. It made me embark on a trip to Bali where I began the process of mending my heart and appreciating myself… being kind to myself. I saw not only the value of my life, but I relished in it. This book made this previously cynical and jaded woman see the possibility in EVERYTHING. I was blessed enough to meet Liz Gilbert at a book signing shortly before I left for Bali, and she wrote, “To Caroline- who is on her way!” God bless her, because she had no idea the journey her book took me on and continues to take me on this very day whenever I re-read it. “Eat, Pray, Love” has been crucial in my personal development, and I am forever grateful that Liz made such a deeply personal story accessible to us all, for we are all the better for it.