Is it just me or …?

 I really don’t understand why so many Yoga chicks are into Eat, Pray, LoveSurely, you’ve heard of it? Eat, Pray, Love is Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about eating her way through Italy, whinging … oops … I mean praying her way through a stay at an ashram in India and goofing off … errr… falling in love in Bali. Warning: rant follows.

I’ve written a review of Eat, Pray, Love at Desert Mandala. Being sick, and at home rather than at work, I’ve been amusing myself from time to time reading other people’s yoga blogs and listening to podcasts. I find that a lot of yoga gals seem to like this book which I found tiresome and alienating. I’ll summarise my critique here:

1. Pigging out on pasta is not only gross, it’s bloody boring.

2. Elizabeth was uncomfortable whilst meditating. Big deal.

3. Self pity. Self pity. Self pity. Self pity.

Perhaps I could abbreviate my critique to: ‘self pity’, but that undermine the mighty struggle I had just to finish the section on Italy, let alone the rest of the book. Other people have criticized Elizabeth Gilbert for being in a privileged position, able to take a year off to recover from a broken heart. I don’t have a problem with that. I say: “Good on you, Liz, Bon Voyage!”

But what I don’t understand -what I simply fail to find in this book- is any form of enlightenment, inner realisation, inspiration …. even half decent writing and story telling, let alone how it has a connection to yoga.

What irritated me the most about this book (after the Italy section) is that the book is a wallowing, procrastinating portrait of a woman digging herself in deeper and deeper and not doing a thing about it.

There’s the affair with David and the depression it causes Elizabeth. That she just can’t let go. The whining over her being uncomfortable in the ashram. The fact she won’t finalise the legal settlement with her ex-husband…

Now before someone writes to me and says: what the hell do you know about this stuff?, let’s get this straight.

I have been in this situation, too. Furthermore, I’ve also been depressed; so depressed I’ve tried to end it all. Not once, but twice. Yoga, meditation and the love of my children were the only things that saved me. And ending the affair (please note that I was single at the time, not having an affair when I was married). 

When I finished the book, I wasn’t left with the feeling that Elizabeth had developed or learned anything at all. All she had done was finally cut things off with David (the affair) and fallen in love with a rich Brazilian. No union of self and Atman, no yoga, no spiritual awakening.

Ho hum.

So what is it about this book that I am missing and others see? Is it because I’ve been to both India and Bali, and I find Elizabeth’s portayal of these places so shallow? Or was it the utter grossness of all that eating in Italy that spoiled the book for me? Whatever it is, I just don’t get why yoga gals dig this book.

And my own recommendations for yoga/travel lit reads:

  • The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiesson
  • Buddha or Bust, Perry Garfinkel
  • The Wisdom of Yoga, Stephen Cope
  • Bringing Yoga to Life, Donna Fahri

 Here endeth the rant.


9 thoughts on “Is it just me or …?

  1. Pingback: Pages tagged "eat, pray, love"

  2. I’ll confess to not having read this book, despite recommendations, and I thank you for confirming my suspicions. Unfortunately, for many in modern American Oprah culture, yoga has just become one of many other words for “a way to feel good about being your privileged self-indulgent self.” Your description of Elizabeth’s description of her trip to Bali reminds me of the film the Darjeeling Express, in which the two brothers travel around India having the most superficial “spiritual” experiences they can, are disappointed when nothing much seems to come of these experiences, and don’t seem to recognize it when something truly meaningful happens to them….

  3. a woman’s travel lit book I loved loved loved was Down the Nile by Rosemary Mahoney…..I wrote a bit about it in my blog….she doesn’t whine.

    and thanks for blogrolling me…


  4. Namaste – from a fellow Aussie yogini (Melbourne based).

    I followed you to your blog from Yoga for Cynics and I couldn’t help but comment on this post in particular.

    I’ve read the book. Can’t say I liked it that much but I definitely didn’t dislike it as much as you did. It was a little like warm porridge.

    Elizabeth from what I can see, falls into the category I call “spiritual enthusiat”. In that, she has an idea of being spiritual, being a yogin, but its a pretty picture and doesn’t approximate the reality.

    But let’s face it – most people don’t want the reality of being a yogin because its frickin hard work and usually doesn’t have that happily ever after experience that people want… that this book delivers…

    All that said, you know, I can tell you of one non-yogi friend who was inspired to think about yoga and gurus from reading her book. This friend is the one who made me aware of the book’s existence.

    Not everyone who gets into yoga is gonna go all the way. Not everyone has to either… and as long as people aren’t blowing smoke up anyone else’s arse about how enlightened they are, I don’t think it matters.

    And I don’t think she’s portraying herself as anything more than an author who took a journey.

    Possibly what annoys you about this book, and certainly bothers me – is the way all the ends get nicely sewn up inside a year. I can’t think of one yogi for whom that’s generally the case!

    How it is that other people buy into the book? Well, she picks a few themes. Like – taking off to look after her whims, such as living in Italy and learning Italian. I have a similar wish to run off to Spain and learn Spanish. She has the whole soul searching thing on the level that women’s mags speak to the chicks that buy them. She has the broken romance, and then the happy ever after thing.

    Regardless of whether or not someone is a so-called yogini, they’re still women. And yep, some of em probably still watch those appalling American soaps when they’re home sick.

    Life goes on. Just don’t get sucked into the pap and it’ll be all good.

    Props for the outdoor yoga asana pics!


  5. i have gotten asked about this book the past couple years everywhere i go. i refuse to read it becaue oprah reccommended it and i have a big problem with oprah (sue me-i’m from chicago, i know people who have worked for her)
    so many people i meet in my travels, always women, tell me to read it. because i also have been to india and bali, i must have something in common with her. no way. i ain’t gonna read it. i personally like non-yoga books when i travel. i burn out on yoga cause i teach it every day. right now my favorite author is natsuo kirino. she has 4 books translated into english, “out” and “grotesque” are both fantastic. a whole new world of japanese feminist crime novels.

  6. Hi Bindi & Svasti,

    Do you know that you both left comments on the very day that I donated this book to my son’s school fete? Yes, I let go of the book and must’ve stirred something up out there in ether-land!

    Svasti, thank you for your comments and thanks for reading my blog. If this book has led people to some kind of wholeness, then that’s great. I will hold onto that, now that I have let this book pass out of my life. I am still mystified -absolutely- as to why others find this book so enthralling and meaningful – but I will let it go now. (But silently cringe when I see it on someone’s blogger profile!).

    Bindi, come and visit sometime -my daughter’s off to Phuket in December, and then she moves to Perth to start uni. October-March is VERY hot in Alice Springs, but if you don’t mind that… BTW, Uluru is 450 km away from Alice Springs – it’s an overnight trip to be enjoyable, but amazing to see – although the Olgas are a lot more special to me.


  7. thanks for the invite, amanda. i hope i can return to oz and see the rest of it (besides byron and brisbane). i’m especially intrigued by western oz and the rock, but if the olgas are special, they would be special for me, too. money is an issue, it costs ALOT to fly there from the US. and i just got asked to stay in thailand for another 6 months with 2 weeks left. oye. too much time away from home i think 3 months is enough…then there’s rwanda next year….ugh

  8. ha–I’m with you–thanks for clicking on my blog…I obviously had the same sense you did. Here’s to real women–we deserve more than pizza.

  9. Pingback: Recent Links Tagged With "anthropology" - JabberTags

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