Our favourite author Elizabeth Gilbert, the eloquent protagonist of the self-growth bible Eat Pray Love, constantly surprises and pleases us with her social-media posts that shine with humility, self-love, compassion and oodles of wisdom.
The bestselling American author of The Signature of All Things (2013) and City of Girls (2019) has had a supremely interesting life, and it’s no wonder that it reflects in the depth and breadth of her writing. She has spent a long time in India, and often shares her thoughts from this part of the world.
It’s not just her books but also her regular comments on humanism and spirituality that are worth collecting and re-reading later. Here are our top 3 Instagram posts from the past few weeks.
It’s Black History Month in America. In honor, I want to share something I said in a recent interview about a time when I was wrong: “I used to think my accomplishments were the result of hard work and talent, along with a bit of good luck. Now I understand that every opportunity I’ve ever been given in life was the direct result of generations of White Privilege afforded to my ancestors (and passed along to me) because of our skin color. Because my family was not rich, I never thought the word PRIVILEGE applied to me. I was wrong. The fact is, my people were always given the best possible chance for success in America—allowed to migrate here, to hold property, to apply for jobs, to open businesses, to get loans, to vote and hold office, to have access to education and health care, and to travel about the country freely in search of a better life.”
“What’s more, my family members have always been protected in our ambitions by a government, financial institutions, and a police force that were united in keeping all the power, safety, and resources in the hands of white people. America has always been rigged in my favor—and that crooked game goes back centuries. So this whole idea that I am some kind of ‘self-made woman’ is not only false, but naive—as well as insulting to generations of hardworking and talented black and brown-skinned people who were not (and in many cases, still are not) given such privileges.”
“White Privilege doesn’t mean success was ever guaranteed to me; it merely means that the odds were always overwhelmingly stacked in my favor. White Privilege doesn’t mean I haven’t worked hard or don’t have talent; it merely means that I was offered the best possible conditions in which my hard work and talent could blossom. And White Privilege doesn’t mean that members of my family never struggled or suffered; it merely means that whatever struggles we faced were not made even more difficult by our skin color. There was a time in my life when I did not fully understand any of this, and I was wrong.”
Let us be humble & open—not defensive.
I’ve just heard the news that the great spiritual teacher and trickster Ram Dass has died. I loved him so much. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but in the last two years especially, I’ve been listening to so many of his podcasts, interviews, and recordings. I delighted in the brilliant playground of his imagination. He was so fluid with language, and so comfortable in the mystery and paradox of human existence. And he was kind, without ever taking himself too seriously.
He was a true hummingbird—flitting from idea to idea, from teaching to teaching, from modality to modality. He was unafraid of contradictions or of changing his mind. He was sometimes criticized for this—for not being more serious-minded in his devotion to one strict spiritual path, but he shrugged off the criticism, saying, “What can I do? It’s my nature to be curious about everything.”
Today I want to share my favorite quote from Ram Dass. It’s something I heard him say in an interview a long time ago, and I’ve never forgotten it: “Embrace the incarnation.” Essentially what he meant was this: He had spent enough time in meditation and transcendental and psychedelic states to understand that what we call “reality” is all an illusion. He knew that we are in fact not these bodies, nor are we these lives. He knew that consciousness is a divine dance—that it’s all projection, that none of this is actually TRUE. He knew that we are all ONE, all God. And yet, he also understood that on another plane we ARE here. We ARE separate beings in these weird meat bodies, with these particular personalities, dramas, and gifts, performing in this strange play.
The trick of life, he said, was to understand that none of this is real, but to embrace the incarnation, anyhow. Throw yourself into life, despite the fact that it’s all a dream. He knew that he was not really this guy named Ram Dass (he was actually God in disguise, just like you and I are) but he played that character beautifully—with big-heated compassion, with endless curiosity, with love and humor, and with a mischievous wink that seemed to say, “It’s all just a game, but ain’t it Grand?” Wow. It sure is. ❤️Thank you.
Are we doing this thing where we compare ourselves to 10 years ago? That’s a thing now, right? OK. I’ll play. Here’s a picture of me 10 years ago, at the London premiere of EAT PRAY LOVE. And here’s a picture of me last week on a park bench. (I like both outfits, but the park bench/wool beanie combo is way more comfortable.) I was a lot more tired in the photo on the left than I am today, and generally more anxious. But I was happy on the day that the first photo was taken. And I’m happy now.
Yet in between then and now, things did not go as planned. Life has taken me by surprise, again and again. I’ve been shocked and heartbroken and lost and found, and lost again, and found again. I wish I had a more wise or dramatic conclusion to offer about my lessons over the past decade than this, but here goes: Things do not go as planned. Life will take you by surprise again and again. There will be great changes. It will be flat-out astonishing at times. Your well-laid plans will collapse, despite all your finest intentions. There will be devastating losses and you might be deeply humbled and grievously wounded. You might even lose what (or who) you loved most in the world.
Strangely, you can be happy anyway. You can walk through all that confusion, and end up grateful. I don’t know why, but it’s true: You can lose so much, and yet still be happy. I think maybe that’s because it’s all such a strange miracle. If you had told me 10 years ago about some of the pain that was coming my way, I would have run off and hid in cave, to try to escape it. I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t know my future. And I’m glad I don’t know what’s coming next, either. I’m just really happy to be here. ❤️Onward, LG
Photos and text: Instagram/elizabeth_gilbert_writer