Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eat Pray Love - Prayer

"I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore." (178)

Historically, I'm not a religious person.  I was raised Catholic, went through 12 years of Catholic school, had a Catholic wedding... the whole nine... no, nine's not enough yardage.  But, to be perfectly honest, I don't consider myself to be the least bit Catholic.

My apologies to any friends and family members out there who might be shocked by this.  I'm not entirely open about it.

This is not to say that I don't believe in anything, because I do.  This is not to say that I completely abhor organized religion, though I do a little (mainly due to my personal struggles with Catholic hierarchy).  I consider God an integral part of everyone's lives, and that God can be seen in everyone, but I don't need to wave my personal flag about it.  For me, spirituality is an individual journey.  I realize this is not the case for everyone, just me.

Now, religion is a loaded and touchy subject, so please don't take offense by anything I say from here on out.  I am only speaking for myself.  We each have our own paths.  My path may not work for the next person as his or her path may not work for me.  That doesn't mean we can't end up at the same place at the end of our journeys.

So, a little introduction to my path thus far...

My junior year of high school—don't forget, Catholic school—I met a girl named Leia.  She transferred to our school from the twice-as-expensive prep school on the south side of town.  We met in 1st year German because the teacher sat us alphabetically, and she sat right behind me.  We were the only non-freshman in the class, so we bonded quickly.

The reason I mention this is because Leia was (still is, presumably) Buddhist.  To my rebellious teenage mind this was perhaps the coolest thing I had ever heard.  What?  Someone who lives in the Midwest who's *not* Christian?  It took me a while to wrap my mind around it.  She introduced me to her parents, who answered lots of questions from me, showed me their prayer room, and even took me on a trip with them to visit the temple in Chicago.

The whole experience had a huge impact on my vision of what religion could be.  Since that time, I have been fascinated with Eastern religions and philosophies.  I won't lie and say that I've actively pursued anything—there's a Tibetan monastery just outside of the city limits and I've never been even though they have open prayer meetings on Saturday mornings—but my fascination lives on.

So, reading this portion of EPL had a strong impact on me.  Liz took her amorphous love for God—whoever and whatever that may be—and molded it into something concrete for herself through the guidance of Eastern traditions.  She found tremendous peace in a time of pain and suffering that helped her transcend normal prayer, or perhaps the other way around.  And it made me want to do the same.

Some of my favorite quotes from this section:

"The Yogis, however, say that human discontentment is a simple case of mistaken identity.  We're miserable because we think that we are mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentments and mortality.  We wrongly believe that our limited little egos constitute our whole entire nature.  We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character." (122)

"So I sang the Gurugita to my nephew Nick, to help him sleep.  Sometimes he has trouble sleeping because he cannot still his mind....  I filled the song with everything I wished I could teach him about life....  And, of course, I called my sister the next week and she said that—for reasons nobody could understand—Nick suddenly wasn't having trouble falling asleep anymore." (169)

About her hour of perfectly still meditation: "When it was all over, I stood up, walked to my room and assessed the damage.  I counted about twenty mosquito bites.  But within a half an hour, all the bites had diminished.  It all goes away.  Eventually, everything goes away." (174, emphasis mine)

"The former Catholic nun (who oughtta know about guilt, after all) wouldn't hear of it.  "Guilt's just your ego's way of tricking you into thinking that you're making moral progress.  Don't fall for it, my dear."" (183—gee, I wonder why this resonates with me...)

A quote Liz gives us:  ""All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop," wrote the sage Kabir." (199)

"The Hopi Indians thought that the world's religions each contained one spiritual thread, and that these threads are always seeking each other, wanting to join.  When all the threads are finally woven together they will form a rope that will pull us out of the dark cycle of history and into the next realm." (208)

Now, for the actually book club discussion :)

Richard is a major character in this part of the book. He really is a true friend and is brutally honest. I think everyone has a Richard. Who is that person in your life?

After all that I wrote above, can you believe this is hard for me to answer?  I think I've had a couple over the years, though none were quite as tactless as Richard could be.  Not to give the obvious answer of my best friend and husband, the best example would have to be my friend Joey, also from my high school years.  While he might try and sugar coat it just a little, he never feared telling me exactly what he thought—and it definitely upset me a couple of times.  But through it all, Joey was one of my closest friends.  Oddly enough, he still is.  We lost touch with each other once we went to college, but a couple of years ago he found me on MySpace (just because I deleted my account).  We exchanged phone numbers and one evening talked for close to two hours.  It was as if no time had passed.  We don't talk on the phone much now, but we're friends on FB and he's one of my followers here (Hi, Joey!).  Hopefully someday we can get back to the point where he'll give me the naked painful truth again, but I think we have to talk more frequently for that :)

Okay, this was a really long post.  If you made it this far, thanks!  Give yourself a round of applause! :)


Erika Lynn said...

I think you did a great job on this post! make sure to stop by kissmybook.blogspot.com to put it in the Mr. Linky. I am really glad you are enjoying the book and i love a lot of the quotes you pulled out

RosieC said...

Thanks, Erika. I'm glad you like the quotes, too.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow, that was a deep post! Nice job...Religion is a hard thing to discuss. WTG on putting yourself out there!

Cruella Collett said...

No, no - it's not just you. I too consider religion something personal, rather than something that necessarily needs to be shared with the world (though I understand that it is nice to have a community of people with similar values as you - a church for some; the university for me). I have had a rather atheistic upbringing - my familiy members are all members of the state church (yes, Norway has a state church. It's not something I'm too proud of, but at the same time I'm not sure I'd like to change it either), we attend church for Christmas (that is - I've been working most Christmases the last few years, so I don't typically go to church, but my dad and grandmother sometimes still do), and I couldn't imagine not having a funeral in a church, for instance.

I went through a brief phase as a teenager when I discovered "spirituality". I had a Christian (Lutheran) confirmation, and our priest/teacher was all about "God in everything". So I saw God in flowers and trees and mountains and the sky. If I ever find back to any sort of religiousness (other than Digressionism...), this will be the sort of thing I'd look for. At the moment, though, I'm too sceptical to believe much anything else than what I see, and frankly - very religious people (at least the ones that *need* to preach, regardless of religion) makes me uncomfortable.

So, in conclusion (long posts warrants long comments, no?), I agree that religion should be an individual choice, and something you only share with the world if you feel like it.

Interestingly the Norwegian translation of this book can be translated back into English as "Eat, love, live". A clever move, I think, considering the Norwegian market (my bookshop's religion section consists of five books or so. If people thought this was a book about religion, it wouldn't sell. At all).

reberto.alberto said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RosieC said...

Sharon, thanks. I'm glad you appreciate it.

Cruella, maybe it's that little bit of Norwegian heritage that I have that make us see eye-to-eye so often :) Actually, that's the only set of my 4 immigrant grandparents that *weren't* Catholic. I agree with you about having a religious funeral, but for me the type of church is unimportant. On the other hand, I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to go to a funeral that wasn't connected to some sort of church. Hmm.

That is really interesting about the book title. Would you say the general population has similar views to yours, and/or that the country is relatively secularized? It's such a foreign (har har) thought to me since there's so much public religion here.

Thanks for sharing your story, too!

Talli Roland said...

REally enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book - particularly because I had much the same reaction as you did. Glad you enjoyed reading it!

Hart Johnson said...

Hey, I'm Norsisima too, and I am right on the same page about the religion thing. I was fairly active in 'Young Life' in high school, but that was largely a 'small town in Northern Idaho' seeking of... I guess 'groupness' that balanced the party girl (I did both--the FOMS and all) but a Jewish boyfriend in college, some reading, and then ultimately graduate school knocked religion clean out of me... then a 'hard phase' caused me to look a little more internally--I LOVE the Hopi outlook--that all the strands TOGETHER are necessary, but I most strongly believe that god isn't a BEING so much as a NETWORK--all of life TOGETHER--the parts and the connection between... there is something there to draw from, that we have an obligation to give back to and be good too--every other thing is part of us, too, so by harming another, we only hurt ourselves... something like that.

I (like you) have total respect for anyone who practices what they believe with a true heart about it (rather than judgment) and feel religion makes many people BETTER people. But there are also many that use it as a crutch, or an excuse not to think any deeper, and that I have trouble with.

I think you framed this well, and can't see how anyone could take offense unless they are filtering it through a really narrow lens.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, religion. I have such love and hate for it all.

Bethany: What is God like?
Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the shit that gets carried out in His name - wars, bigotry, televangelism. But especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it.
Bethany: Having beliefs isn't good?
Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant.

I attend church. My son is one of the most religious people I know. My husband is a Sunday School teacher. I don't think going to church on Sunday makes me a Christian any more than sitting in my garage makes me a car. Is what I beleive in Christianity? Maybe. But maybe what we all need is just some greater love, some greater peace.

Also as Robert Heinlein put it in Stranger in a Strange Land "The Universe was a damned silly place at best… but the least likely explanation for its existence was the no-explanation of random chance, the conceit that some abstract somethings "just happened" to be some atoms that "just happened" to get together in configurations which "just happened" to look like consistent laws and then some of these configurations "just happened" to possess self-awareness and that two such "just happened" to be the Man from Mars and the other a bald-headed old coot with Jubal himself inside. No, Jubal would not buy the "just happened" theory, popular as it was with men who called themselves scientists. Random chance was not a sufficient explanation of the Universe — in fact, random chance was not sufficient to explain random chance; the pot could not hold itself.”

If you got to the end of this comment you deserve a round of applause. Maybe at the end of the book I will finish out these thoughts and put them in a wrap up.

Anonymous said...

by the way that first part was from the movie Dogma

RosieC said...

Talli, it's nice to hear about others having similar responses. Thanks!

Hart, I love the way you put it, god being a network. When we hurt others, we really do hurt ourselves, too.

In regards to offending people, I have a strong tendency toward open-mouth-insert-foot syndrome, and I'd just rather point out that I don't mean any harm or mean to belittle anyone else's beliefs. I've known a few sensitive people in my time.

RosieC said...

Lily, wonderful quotes. I was wondering about the first one, so thanks for mentioning Dogma. It's been a while since I've seen it (tsk on me, since it's probably in my top ten :)

And I love that you sitting in your garage doesn't make you a car! :) That's such a great way to put it.

And it's only fair for me to get to the end of your comment since you made it to the end of my post :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Cruella Collett said...

A few years ago I would have said that the general population in Norway feel the same way about religion as I do, but now I'm not so sure anymore. For such a small country, Norway is quite regionally diverse. I have some friends from the western and southern part of the country (which has traditionally been referred to as "the Bible belt"), and they have completely different views on how religion interferes with our society. None of these friends are religious, and they have all in various degrees experienced being chasitised for this, particularly those coming from smaller communities.

I come from a similarly small community, but in the eastern part of Norway. I have never thought of religion as any real influence in my life. While I knew it was different in other parts of the country, I only thought this meant that these towns had more people who were religious, not that the societies as a whole were more influenced by it.

That being said, though, I still think that overall Norway is fairly secular (despite the formal non-secular state system). There are a lot of people (I'm willing to bet a majority) who like me have various personal views on religion, who formally are members of the state church, but who aren't actually all that religious. So I'd say we're secular nationally, but that certain local communities very much are not.

As for the title, I think that a direct translation probably would have picked the interest of some people - the religious ones - but probably not people who actually would have enjoyed it (so again, a wise move).

RosieC said...

Thanks, Cruella. That's really interesting. I wonder how much having a state religion leads to greater secularism. We don't have one, but the population is growing less secular. And the choice for translating the title as Eat, Love, Live makes a lot of sense when you put it that way.

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