Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love made an impact on my life at the tender age of twenty-four, after a harsh break up with someone I thought I would marry. Knowing what I know now, I am beyond happy that it didn’t work out and consider it a blessing in disguise, especially since the years since then have been some of the best in my life. Had I gone in a different direction, I fear that my life wouldn’t be what I always dreamed it would be, and I would have wound up disappointed.
For as long as I can remember, India has been a place I’ve wanted to visit, and while reading Gilbert’s story, it continued to increase my desire to one day make the trip there. In my mind, I knew I’d get to India, it was just a matter of when. As I read her experiences, I began meditating for the first time and adopted the mantra: Om Namah Shivaya. Those three Sanskrit words became my everything over time, preventing panic attacks and easing my anxiety, as well as helping me focus while meditating. I knew that one day I wanted to study more and figured India would be the ideal place for that.
Because of this, my time in India reminded me a lot of Gilbert’s time in the country, mainly because what she and I both did were quite similar. She focused on mediation, while I perfected my yoga. Still, both were cleansing and clearing in their own ways. However, Gilbert came to mind again on the second half of my trip, when I seemed to eat my way through the country. The food in India didn’t disappoint, and I joked that I would gain back all the weight I had lost in Rishikesh, especially because I wasn’t doing three hours of yoga each day.
The only hole in the plot of this story was that there was no love, at least not in the traditional sense. Though, we did joke about it an awful lot, all the way to my last day in India, stating that maybe during my seven hour layover in Delhi, my last hope, I would find my dream man. But, it wasn’t meant to be, and honestly, I’m glad. Sure, I am ready to fall in love again, but my trip to India was for me; I needed it to heal, to grow, to transform. I am so happy that was exactly what happened, and that I did it on my own and with the help of a few special people who I met on my journey.
But, as far as the rest of the trip was concerned, I had a very Gilbert experience, except instead of traveling to three different countries, I found it all in India.
Before I left, one of my friends asked, “You like Indian food, right?” I laughed because part of the reason I travel is to try the different cuisines around the world. India was one of the places I was most excited about because of the food, especially because I would be spending seven weeks, visiting both the north and the south. While most of what I ate in Rishikesh was controlled by the yoga school, we made sure to sample plenty of local delicacies. From the lassis at the market in town to the best street stall for momos and eating all the paneer I could get my hands on, you could say that I tried it all while I could. With Diwali and our graduation, I was also able to try so many of the sweets India has to offer, including cashew burfu, ras malai, mysore pak, jilebi, and soan papdi.
But, the real eating happened in Bangalore. From thalis for lunch and a visit to Food Street, we made sure to indulge in everything there was, within vegetarian limits of course. Two of my favorites included a puffy bread called channa batura and idli, which is a soft paddy made from rice.
My version of Gilbert’s pray was a bit different, as I was working toward the goal of getting my yoga teacher certification. Still, I knew it was going to change me, I just felt it, even before I left. I realized that I was going to transform because of the experience I was going to have: four weeks to focus on myself. There wasn’t just alone time, thank goodness, but there was plenty of it. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with too many demons, but the philosophy discussions, meditation, pranayama, and asanas definitely opened me up in a way I haven’t been opened in a long time.
I currently feel more open and clear than I have in a long time, and I have my time in Rishikesh to thank for that. Focusing on bettering my mind, body, and soul was my goal for the year, and this month allowed me to do just that. I may still be a long way from enlightenment, but to me, it isn’t just about that. It’s learning to better understand myself and mind and to listen to what my basic needs and wants are. My goal is to be more in touch with myself and now I have more of the tools I need to stay there.
While Gilbert gets lucky in Bali and meets her gorgeous Brazilian husband, I didn’t have the fortune of meeting my dream man. Trust me, I kept my eyes peeled for him, searching through the man buns and barefoot men in Rishikesh and the business men of Bangalore, but he never appeared. This was probably a good thing because I wanted this trip to be about me, and just me.
But, what I realized along the journey was that the reason I had stayed single for the past two and a half years is that my heart chakra was completely closed. Whether you believe in this or not isn’t important, but I know it was because as soon as it opened up, I felt it. I can’t even remember a time I felt this open, it’s like my heart is ready to love again. There was a lot of pain and disappointment when my last relationship ended, as I invested a lot of myself into it, and I never want to put that much expectation into something again. I will keep myself open and ready to love, but stay in the present moment. Just in case, I bought a rose quartz crystal to wear close to my heart, just so it doesn’t shut up again.
Aside from this realization, I also believe that this trip for myself was really about self-love. I have always loved and put myself first, but this trip was the first time I did something good for me. The trip wasn’t just about exploring a new culture, it was about diving deeper into myself and understanding that person a bit better. I ate well, didn’t drink, went to sleep early, detoxed, cleansed, and exercised three hours each day. Now, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been and I feel like I’m constantly glowing. This was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.
After the year I have had, this trip was exactly what I needed. I faced a lot of challenges and caused a lot of waves, but I stayed true to myself and refused to abide by the rules. For too long, I’ve done what I thought was right and lived by what other people wanted, but now, I’m living for myself, no matter what. Lucky for me, the people I love most are on my side and couldn’t be more supportive.
After this Eat, Pray, Love adventure in India, I feel ready for anything. I am ready to take on the world, to not only go after my dreams, but to move on from the past and stay actively present in my life. I am so excited to see where I land.