As a nonfiction reader, this book is out of my genre, so I was surprised that I absolutely enjoyed the book.
Some critics say that Gilbert was self-absorbing and full of her own feelings and emotions. I totally agree with that, but, since I can relate to all her feelings and emotions, I don't find them selfish, but rather spiritually enlightening.
Best read so far this year!
On Travel (very similar to my style)
Still, despite all this, traveling is the great true love of my life. I have always felt, ever since I was sixteen years old and first went to Russia with my saved-up babysitting money, that to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless, newborn baby--I just don't care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it's mine. Because it looks exactly like me. It can barf all over me if it wants to--I just don't care.
I have my own set of survival techniques. I am patient. I know how to pack light. But my one might travel talent is that I can make friends with anybody. I can make friends with the dead. If there isn’t anyone else around to talk to, I could probably make friends with a four-foot-tall pile of sheetrock. That is why I’m not afraid to travel to the most remote places in the world, not if there are human beings there to meet. People asked me before I left, “do you have friends there?’ and I would just shake my head no, thinking to myself, but I will.
"There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? and Who's in charge? Everything else is somehow manageable. But these two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief and suffering."
"It's better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else's perfectly."
"Virginia Wolf wrote, 'Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword.' On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where all is correct. But on the other side of that sword, if you're crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, 'all is confusion.' Nothing follows a regular course. Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will be more perilous."
"People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master..."
"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."
"Life, if you keep chasing it so hard, will drive you to death. Time - when pursued like a bandit - will behave like one, always remaining one county or one room ahead of you, changing its name and hair color to elude you, slipping out the back door of the motel just as you're banging through the lobby with your newest search warrant, leaving only a burning cigarette in the ashtray to taunt you. At some point you have to stop because it won't. You have to admit that you can't catch it. That you're not supposed to catch it. At some point, you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you."
"Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be... a prudent insurance policy."
"[My guru] says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you are fortunate enough. But that's not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it..."
"He showed me a sketch he'd drawn once during meditation. It was an androgynous human figure, standing up, hands clasped in prayer. But this figure had four legs, and no head. Where the head should have been, there was only a wild foliage of ferns and flowers. There was a small, smiling face drawn over the heart.
"To find the balance you want," Ketut spoke through his translator, "this is what you must become. You must 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." "
"The great Sufi poet and philosopher Rumi once advised his students to write down the three things they most wanted in life. If any item on the list clashes with any other item, Rumi warned, you are destined for unhappiness. Better to live a life of single-pointed focus, he taught. But what about the benefits of living harmoniously among extremes? What if you could somehow create an expansive enough life that you could synchronize seemingly incongruous opposites into a worldview that excludes nothing?"
On Spiritual Belief
"In the end, what I have come to believe about God is simple. It's like this--I used to have this really great dog. She came from the pound. She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me, "What kind of dog is that?" I would always give the same answer: "She's a brown dog." Similarly, when the question is raised, "What kind of God do you believe in?" my answer is easy: "I believe in a magnificent God.""
"I'm here. I love you. I don't care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me."
"'Go back to bed', said the omniscient interior voice, because you don't need to know the final answer right now, at three o'clock in the morning on the Thursday in November. 'Go back to bed', because I love you. 'Go back to bed', because the only thing you need to do for now is get some rest and take good care of yourself until you do know the answer."
On Love (I know I never loved anyone, but reading this, I guess I never will)
It all comes down to one simple question: "Do you want your belly pressed against this person's belly forever --or not?"
"If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will protect upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else."
"The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didn't want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland."
On Child (cannot agree more)
"Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit."
"Until I can feel as ecstatic about having a baby as I felt about going to New Zealand to search for giant squid, I cannot have a baby."
"As I got older, I discovered that nothing within me cried out for a baby. My womb did not seem to have come equipped with that famously ticking clock. Unlike so many of my friends, I did not ache with longing whenever I saw an infant. (Though I did ache with longing, it is true, whenever I saw a good used-book shop.)"
Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that’s not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment … Americans don’t really know how to do nothing. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype — the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax.
For me, though, 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. Planet Advertising in American orbits completely around the need to convince the uncertain consumer that yes, you have actually warranted a special treat. This Bud's for You! You Deserve a Break Today! Because You're Worth It! You've Come a Long Way, Baby! And the insecure consumer thinks, Yeah! Thanks! I AM gonna go buy a six-pack, damn it! Maybe even two six-packs! And then comes the reactionary binge. Followed by the remorse. Such advertising campaigns would probably not be as effective in the Italian culture, where people already know that they are entitled enjoyment in this life. The reply in Italy to "You Deserve a Break Today" would probably be, Yeah, no duh. That's why I'm planning on taking a break at noon, to go over to you house and sleep with your wife."
"You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight."
"I think I deserve something beautiful."
"The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life's achievement."
"Please go to this pizzeria. Order the margherita pizza with double mozzarella. If you do not eat this pizza when you are in Naples, please lie to me later and tell me that you did. -- 'Giovanni'