Next year will be the 10 year anniversary of Eat Pray Love and because of this Elizabeth Gilbert and her publisher are coming our with an anthology, a collection of essays of women’s stories who were inspired by this beautiful book.
I made by submission and even though it was not selected I thought I would share it with you all anyway. Think of it as an executive summary of my life between 2013-2015.
There I was like many other women in 2007 reading ‘Eat Pray Love’. I was happily in a relationship with a man who years later would become my husband. I thought it was a lovely story but at the time it didn’t and wouldn’t resonate or mirror anything I was or would be going through, after all I was in love and we planned to get married.
If only I knew the seed that this book had planted in my life.
While watching Elizabeth Gilbert in an interview and hearing other women share their experiences about following their truth and how they really hurt someone caused my heart to sink. I thought to myself ‘that is my worst nightmare’, the idea of leaving and hurting my partner whom I had committed myself too.
Fast forward six years later, there I was walking through our big, recently purchased, empty house as my husband runs around taking measurements. He could not be happier and I earlier that day professed to my mother “I don’t think I want to be married anymore”.
What was happening? My life looked successful as I headed towards completing everything I had set out to obtain. I was married, in a good nine to five job, we had just purchased a big home we planned to start renovating and with plans to start a family within the next year. What more could I want?
I couldn’t ignore it any longer and in the most difficult conversation I had ever had to have I left.
Although it was painful and even though I chose to leave my heart still broke but even amongst that pain I knew I had to leave. It was like something was calling me and even with a path of uncertainty ahead I had to answer it.
Very shortly after leaving my husband I entered into a short but lustful affair with an unavailable man. It was a cheap and easy escape from the reality I was living and distracted me from really looking at what was going on in my life, why it was happening and what was there for me to learn from it? This rush of lust was distracting me from the call upon my life.
Then came the catalyst, the true wake up call to not only end the distraction but to put a final end to the mediocrity and smallness that I was living. I remember my husband’s phone call as he asked me to sit down. My immediate thought was something had happened to my grandmother. He then said “Nicholas (my 17 year old brother) killed himself”, I spiraled amongst the shock and trauma knowing my life had been forever changed.
The shock stayed with me for weeks, however even amongst the trauma, chaos and horror I knew this was a call to put an end to the way I was living my life and to change all of myself. The following year was all about healing, I began to see my therapist more regularly and even spent three weeks in Ubud, Bali much like Elizabeth Gilbert and attended a spiritual retreat.
When I returned from Bali my environment was the same but I was different and it no longer fit. I explored my interests as well as my bank account and discovered that I could get a work visa for Australia and take some time to travel. My journey would start off with a ten-day meditation retreat in Malaysia, another retreat in Bali, and followed by three months living in a tantric yoga community, quite a different choice than Ms.Gilbert’s commitment to celibacy.
This journey began by releasing my old life. I got all my possessions from my one bedroom apartment down to two suitcases by donating and selling everything I owned. I resigned from my job. There I was at the airport having with me everything that I now owned all fitting on an airport luggage cart. In a daze and with faith in my heart, my friends sent me off as I said good-bye to my old life. The unknown was now my travelling companion.
I arrived in Malaysia and was taken out to a Vipassana retreat centre. Here I would spend the next ten days doing ten hours of meditation a day, eating only two meals a day and refraining from both talking to and making eye contact with anyone. The ten days were a roller coaster to say the least. I went through every emotion possible and observed the sheer insanity of my thoughts. I remember crying uncontrollably with fear and uncertainty of the path I was on and heading towards. By the end of the ten days I felt clear and lighter; although it was tough there was a sense of accomplishment in my ability to look at and witness the insanity of my thoughts disappear without becoming attached or anxious about them.
I then jetted off, returning to Bali to assist on another retreat. Bali again didn’t fail to disappoint. I experienced and witnessed healing, I spent time with traditional Balinese healers, a priestess, a high priestess and sacred sites. Bali affirms to me what I already know and gives me a tangible experience of the divine. I can’t argue with the knowing that there is one ultimate, divine source and that I somehow play apart.
I spent the first of my three months in Thailand in a 30 day yoga intensive. I started to notice how I held emotions in my body and how during and after certain poses I would start to cry. I began to notice how I struggled to embrace my femininity. There were women who walked around in long skirts, baring their midriff and moving in such a way where they appeared to be so open. I became very aware of my restrictedness, tightness and how closed off I was. Just the mere thought of dressing more feminine, moving with confidence in my body and being more open was scary, intimidating and daunting.
I began my first tantra course and noticed how my tightness put up a wall between me and both men and women, which manifested in not being approached by anyone; there I was closed off and restricted on the outside but crying out for connection on the inside.
After some loving suggestions I began to dress more feminine. I started to wear dresses for no particular reason and put on jewellery just because I wanted to feel good. I challenged myself to flirt more. I even started sleeping naked to masturbating more frequently.
With the awakening of my feminine self, I continued taking tantra courses. As my courses and my time in Thailand began to end I found myself opened beyond my wildest dreams. What made me fall in love with tantra in the first place is the reverence for women, how it acknowledges and places value upon the colourful, fierce and manifestation qualities of the divine feminine. I fell in love with myself as the divine feminine.
I participated in various partner and group activities: fantasy sharing, eye gazing, being massaged my three men on the most self-conscious area of my body (stomach) and straddling a man while we both practiced intense, almost orgasmic breathing in a group of 50 other couples. Safe to say my sexual self was beginning to emerge.
During one final ceremony we partnered up and conducted various rituals, I remember being asked along with all the other women to stand up while our male partner remained seated and to strike a particularly powerful pose. The men were asked to observe and revere the woman before them. There I was fully in my femininity and being revered in the process. We all then sat in a circle and were guided through a meditation, in this very moment I was in a complete state of bliss, observing myself and my life’s perceived imperfections. Seeing how everything was beautiful and ideal, I had tears streaming down my face. This is where I was being pulled to go, the call I felt when asked to leave my marriage. This, I thought to myself, is where it wanted me to go, this is what it was wanting me to discover.
I loved my life, my body and everything I am and was in that very moment. This is who I was and desired to continue to be. In that moment I expressed gratitude to everyone and everything that got me to this exact moment.
Eat, Pray, Love was the permission slip to venture off, to abandon a life that didn’t serve who I was meant to be. Permission to go out, discover and create a life I love. Although I may not have used the permission it granted right away, it was there waiting for me all along.
Through embarking on my own Eat, Pray, Love Journey I was guided to and given my most treasured gift, myself.