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my interview with elizabeth gilbert and a “big magic” giveaway

Big Magic

Could there be a better way to start the new year than with Big Magic?

I’ve been a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert since I discovered Eat Pray Love  — long before it became EAT PRAY LOVE — and audibly gasped when I saw the three words that pretty much guide my life. Her novel, The Signature of All Things, is the book that made me passionate about reading again during a disturbing dry spell, and I’ve seen her speak at two Oprah events and, most recently, in San Diego at a sold-out event I wrote about for the Del Mar Times.

Her latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, is another must-read but for different reasons. Her self-proclaimed “manifesto” is a guide to getting rid of all the excuses that are holding you back from being the creative person you want to be.

I finished it in a day and have recommended it to so many friends who have also gobbled it up and thanked me for this life-changing book. It’s the kind of book where you nod your head, and end up highlighting almost every sentence. It’s profound and practical and written as though your best friend is talking to you.

In my head, Elizabeth Gilbert is my best friend so doing a phone interview with her was absolutely one of the highlights of last year for me. Although the book came out in September, I wanted this interview to be my first post of 2016 so her words would inspire you to read Big Magic, stop making excuses and get out there and do the thing that makes you happy. Because inspiring is one of Gilbert’s great gifts.

Speaking of gifts, I’m also giving away a copy of Big Magic to one lucky subscriber so be sure to read the rules to enter after you read what Liz (yes, we are BFFs now) has to say: [Read more…]

Meggan Watterson on “Eat Pray Love” and The New Spiritual Seeker

Meggan Watterson is the founder and executive director of REVEAL, a non-profit that empowers and inspires the next generation of female spiritual leadership. She has a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, and is the author and editor of the forthcoming REVEAL Generation: Voices of The Fierce Divine Feminine. I am truly grateful that she’s sharing her profound perspective on Eat Pray Love with us. This is real soul food, and it’s the kind of article you need to send to all the women in your life.

As a feminist theologian, I was hooked 15 pages into reading Eat Pray Love and here’s why. Gilbert prays to God for direction and she gets an answer. Immediately. And her answer comes not, as she reassures, in a freaky loud and booming Old Testament type voice; it’s simply in her own. But it’s her voice, as she has never heard it before, “perfectly wise, calm and compassionate.” It’s what her voice would sound like, she relates, “if I’d only ever experienced love and certainty in my life.”

Rather than a more typical or traditional religious conversion experience, Gilbert understands this defining moment of hearing her own “omniscient interior voice” as the experience of the beginning of a religious conversation.

Gilbert goes on to travel to Italy, India, and Bali but, for me, the true adventure starts when she begins this divine conversation from within. That moment shifts the trajectory of her prayer- instead of casting off or out her prayers to some divine source above or beyond her, her prayers echo down into her cavernous core. The source of wisdom and unfaltering love is found deep within her. It takes most pilgrims years, a lifetime even, to get to this truth that Gilbert experiences before she steps on a plane or tastes her first Italian gelato treat.

The contemplative traditions have claimed this truth the world over, so what’s new about Gilbert’s religious conversational conversion experience with the divine that dwells within her? Gilbert represents a new form of spiritual seeker, a seeker of the fourth wave of feminism, one who refuses to abandon or deny the body as she draws nearer to God.

There is a pervasive desire among emerging female spiritual leaders to honor, acknowledge and even indulge in the wisdom and power of the body as they seek to cultivate their relationship with the divine. Women no longer want to separate their spirituality from their sexuality.

Take, for example, my cosmic twin and Harvard Divinity School peer, Sera Beak. At 29, she wrote The Red Book, A Deliciously Unorthodox Approach to Igniting Your Divine Spark. She urged women of our generation to not only claim their spiritual authority as women, meaning to hear the divine from within, but to also claim their bodies as sacred.

As the founder and executive director of REVEAL, I am profoundly encouraged by the cult-like following of Eat Pray Love. The spiritual barometer in culture has risen. This gives me hope that women are ready to go within, and they are willing to believe (again) that as a sex we have something unique to say and to share about the experience of encountering the holy.

Gilbert refers to the voice of wisdom within her as her “omniscient interior voice.” My masters of theological studies and masters of divinity have demanded my lexicon contain less secular words. I refer to the voice I hear within me as the soul voice. The experience of it requires it.

The experience of hearing my soul voice is profoundly (and sometimes irritatingly) paradoxical. It’s hysterical when I’m the most stressed out and it’s filled with levity when I’m as heavy as a piece of lead. It’s the voice that offers balance when my life is most out of whack and it’s the voice that leads by empowering me to be bold enough to make choices for myself.

I can recognize the soul voice within me because it is most fierce when it comes to truth telling and yet never insists on its own way. The soul voice offers every kind of encouragement and yet is often the most challenging. The soul voice will suggest I do that one thing I want least to do, not to annoy me (smile), but to get me to face fears, to grow, to change. The soul voice — as compared to the voice of the ego — is not about drama.

For example, when Gilbert prays for God to tell her what to do, she expects to hear sublime advice about her imminent divorce, real drastic changes she must make, or hard and fast lines she must draw in her love life. Instead, she hears a simple directive, “Go to bed, Liz.” That can only be the soul voice. In that moment, this was the most sagacious, the most loving, and compassionate advice she could receive. She just needed to take care of her self. The wisdom of what to do with her life, with matters of her heart, would follow without drama and without deadlines. Her soul knows this.

Every woman has to take the journey to meet with her soul voice alone — and find that authentic truth that waits within her. Every journey taken is as different as the soul voice found.

But in my experience, the soul voice is that one voice that is always and in all circumstances waiting to be the voice of unconditional love inside us. It’s the voice that longs for us to listen and to follow its audacious call to dare us to live out our potential.

REVEAL is so concerned for women to become intimate with their soul voices, because the soul voice asks that we each in our own ways love ourselves enough to live our best and most realized lives. The soul voice leads us to transform not only ourselves but also the world around us with love, with joy, and with the taste of gelato fresh on our lips.

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.

“Eat Pray Love”

The highly-anticipated big-screen adaptation of Eat Pray Love opened this past weekend with respectable — but not knock-out — box office numbers, coming in second behind the testosterone-loaded The Expendables. Why didn’t the film version of a book that ruled the New York Times Best Seller list for more than three years have a bigger impact? Maybe because not every book needs to be turned into a movie. Maybe because the star power of Julia Roberts — as much as we love her — overpowers the story. Or maybe because women are so busy, they just don’t have time to go to the movies!

My friend, Susan, and I went to an advance screening last week, and were thrilled to be able to take some of our San Diego readers with us. We hope they’ll post their opinions here, but meanwhile, we decided we’d each review one section of the movie. Here are our thoughts, and we pray (ha ha ha!) you’ll share yours, too. Don’t forget — your comment gets you another entry into our Eat Pray Love t-shirt giveaway.

Susan on Eat

When trying to decide, at the screening, which one of us would review which section, I said, “Well,  it’s obvious I should review Eat because I’m sitting here with a piece of pizza in one hand [given to me by one of our amazing subscribers] and popcorn in the other!”

I had not read Eat Pray Love before seeing the movie but I was certainly familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey to Italy, India and Bali to find herself and discover the meaning of her life.  I wasn’t going to know if the movie stayed true to the book that resonated so deeply with so many people, and I thought that would help me be more objective about the movie.  I was excited to be reviewing the Eat portion of her journey since I love both Italy and eating, but it took a while to get there because the filmmakers had to set the stage for why she needed to embark on her journey to begin with. We needed to see and feel her unhappy marriage,  her divorce from her husband and her new relationship with a younger man which starts out promisingly but ends up with her once again feeling stifled, unfulfilled and empty.

When she finally began her year-long journey of self discovery, I found I was feeling a bit annoyed with her decision to head abroad to find herself rather than stay in New York and do the hard work there with therapy and/or spiritual awakening (like the rest of us would have had to do).  I was letting my annoyance get in the way of how I viewed her stay in Italy.  Italy was supposed to be about relaxing, “learning to let go” and experiencing pleasure mainly through delicious food.  To me, it all felt a bit contrived: how quickly she made friends and how easily she made the transition to living in a foreign country. She didn’t seem to struggle at all (suddenly, she was fluent in Italian) and I didn’t sense as much “letting go” as I thought I would.  It was hard for me to see past Julia Roberts looking beautiful and slim (no weight gain that I could see) in this “learning to let go” period of Gilbert’s journey.  The cinematography, however, was stunning and it made me want to get back to Italy as soon as possible.

After the movie was over and I sat and analyzed Gilbert’s entire journey, I realized that this had been her personal  journey to take in whatever way she needed to take it.  Just because most of us can not leave for a year to fix ourselves and find our “center” doesn’t mean I should judge the way in which she did it.  The fact still remains , though, that I much preferred the Pray and Love sections.


Lois on Love

Love may be all you need, according to the Beatles, but in Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert has to go through a lot of pasta and meditation before she’s ready to even consider that philosophy. The order of her journey is no coincidence; if you’re lucky, love is always the happy ending.

As my husband and I approach our 29th wedding anniversary next week (feel free to tell me I don’t look old enough to have been married that long, thank you), I have mixed feelings about Liz’s decision to leave her husband in the movie – although I don’t remember feeling that way when I read the book years ago. She doesn’t want to try to make the marriage work, and because the movie doesn’t give you enough background about his faults, you get the idea that she’s a little selfish and self-absorbed, and just  isn’t ready to share her life with someone else. It’s impossible to say whether he would have been the right man if she met him later in Bali, or whether she would have divorced Felipe (Javier Bardem) if he was the one she had been married to at the time.

So it’s hard to find a real message in this. Is love about timing? Is it about needing to love yourself before you can love someone else?

Although the Bali section of the movie, where Liz meets Felipe, is gorgeous to watch – the lush scenery, the rich textures and colors, Javier Bardem – it just feels superficial. Of course Bali is the right place to fall in love and of course Javier Bardem is the right man to fall in love with. But what has Liz really learned about herself on her journey that literally brings her to this place in her life? The movie never fully explores her transformation.

It’s a sad fact that movies are rarely as good as the books upon which they’re based – so it shouldn’t be a disappointment that the celluloid version of Eat Pray Love can’t compete with Elizabeth Gilbert’s life-changing memoir. Reading the book is like being invited to share Liz’s very personal and raw diary – she analyzes, obsesses, questions and feels deeply, and causes the reader to do the same. Watching the movie, on the other hand, is more like enjoying a beautiful travelogue in which Julia Roberts interacts with some of the most interesting men working in film today. You “ooh” and “ah,” then go home, no richer for the experience.

There’s a line in “Les Miserables” that makes me cry every time, that goes, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” It nails — in less than a dozen words — what Eat Pray Love still can’t really express in two-plus hours.

My husband and I may never take a boat ride to our own private island in Bali, and neither one of us is likely to have a magical encounter with an elephant in India. We will, however, spend our wedding anniversary getting ready to send our daughter off for her freshman year in college, packing up our son to move off campus, giving our elderly dog her insulin shots and then sitting down together to plan our empty nest over a couple of slices of take-out pizza. That, to me, is real love.

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.