Monday, March 10, 2014

Elizabeth Gilbert's awakening: why did no one notice?

I'd heard a lot about EAT, PRAY, LOVE when I started to read it, but, since it was a best seller, I figured it couldn't be very deep and stayed away.  Am I a literary snob, or what?  Anyway, I was wrong. 

On pages 98-100 (paperback edition) Gilbert has an awakening. I couldn't help wondering why, in all I'd heard about this book, I never heard this. I mean, I haven't yet gone with her to Bali, where she finds true love, so I don't know what happens in the end, but an awakening seems pretty important -- certainly more important than romantic love. 

So I've been wondering why this seems to be the most under-reported awakening ever, despite the fact that the book itself is one of the most read books ever.  And what I've concluded is that if you haven't known what she describes, you don't know that it changes everything -- and I do mean everything.

A few years after my 1980 awakening, I wrote a paper about it and what led up to it.  Fortunately, I had my journal entry of that day for help. When I now read over what I wrote in 1986, I still think I captured it as well as a wordless non-event can be captured in language. But I noticed again and again that when I shared this paper with people who hadn't been awakened, they would read right over the critical part and think the story was about something else!  The first time this happened, I was dumbfounded, but now I'm used to it and even use the paper as a kind of test to see where people are spiritually.  (I gave it to my second teacher, Adyashanti, when I first met him, and he passed the test with flying colors!)

So what I'm saying here is that we all rely on our own experience to interpret what we read, and especially to find meaning.  Gilbert, basing her discussion on yogic philosophy, calls the awakened state (not really a state, but she refers to it that way) a "fourth level" of consciousness," beyond waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.  My first teacher called it a fifth dimension.  Either way, it's not only beyond the realm of our ordinary experience, but more, beyond the way we ordinarily experience life because, in that moment, subject and object are annihilated. And so, when we come back to talk about it, we are talking in metaphors, because language assumes subject-object relationships. Still, Gilbert does a good job of describing it -- better than I did -- and it's too bad more people didn't notice.

It's said that they took most of the enlightenment section out of the film so that they could show more of Julia Roberts at the beach.  Imagine my surprise.

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