How to Achieve Self-Enlightenment

Posted in Uncategorized by Steph Auteri on November 21, 2007


Okay. I know. I know that Eat, Pray, Love isn’t actually a self-help book. But from my earliest days, as a kindergartner, swiping John Saul books from my father’s closet…as a junior high school student, stealing moments of reading time while I was supposed to be doing my homework…as the woman I am now, still the same big old booktard I always was, fiction and creative/narrative nonfiction have always held a type of inherent truth for me that scrapes against the heart and the pit of the stomach in a way academically written how-tos never could.

And so I ask you to indulge me for the moment in the use of the memoir as a source of self-enlightenment.

Elizabeth Gilbert was a woman with all the trappings of success: the husband; the well done-up home; the writerly career. Following a divorce, however, and a depression that left her feeling lost, she began to re-evaluate her life, and to re-evaluate the definition of success itself. In the end, she resolved to leave her conventionally successful life behind, and to pursue something deeper.

What follows from this is quite the impressive journey — written in lovely language, and with plenty of humor — in which Gilbert travels to Italy to indulge herself, to India to find the benefits of pure devotion, and to Bali, to study under a medicine man.

Aside from the fact that Gilbert’s story makes for an incredibly fascinating read, there is more to notice here.

  • Re-evaluate what you’re working toward: As the author of Your Money or Your Life asked, are you working for a living, or working for a dying? Does your work fulfill you, on a more personal level? Are you putting more energy into it than you’re receiving in payback? When I looked at the career I had made for myself in publishing, moving quickly from marketing assistant to marketing coordinator to marketing associate, I had to consider where it was all leading and, as a result, admit to the fact that the outcome wasn’t even desirable to me. It led me to take a career risk, and I’ve been grateful I took it ever since.
  • Find what makes you happy: In Gilbert’s memoir, she literally takes a (very extensive) journey, eventually finding her way to a more balanced and happy life. Not all of us have the ability to do something so drastic but, in keeping within a somewhat practical plan, we can still experiment with the things that interest us, whether through part-time jobs, internships, freelance gigs, continuing education classes, etc.
  • Incorporate what you’ve learned into your life: These life experiments can aid you in finding something you love, or make it very clear to you what you hate. Both are very useful. For example, through my time at three very different jobs, I found that I loathed the corporate environment, but enjoyed working for small presses. And so my search becomes more targeted. I find that working from home full time makes me lonely. So I mix things up a little. Take what you learn from your forays into different worlds and juggle things around until you find yourself living your ideal life.
  • Career isn’t everything: My bullet points seem to focus mainly on career. It’s a problem of mine, as I tend to self-identify by what I do for income, more than anything else. It’s a flaw, I suppose. But endless productivity and the search for self-fulfilling work are the things that drive me and energize me. But I’d like to make it clear that Gilbert’s story is obviously more about the life/work balance, and that it’s important to fill your life with more than just “work.” Become a belly dancing hula hooper, a nightlife photographer, or a creative tutu artist. Plan date nights with your significant other (otherwise, you may never see them). Take time out to read something for pleasure. For the love of god, live.

Out of curiosity, what are some of the things you wish you had the time to try on for size? I seriously do want to take hula hoop dance lessons, and I have the materials together for the purplest tutu ever. I also want to go hang gliding. What do you daydream about when you’re trying to escape from your day-to-day?


4 Responses to 'How to Achieve Self-Enlightenment'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'How to Achieve Self-Enlightenment'.

  1. MeatPipe said,

    But as a man in western society, we are sadly defined by career success which makes us that much more (potentially?) attractive to wimminkind. We no longer beat one another with clubs nor piss on one another to display dominance—we waft our money clips around, and sadly that’s the new survival of the dominant genes.

    I would like to ballroom dance again, btw. And maybe get into the white slave trade. Tee hee 🙂

  2. stephanerd said,

    ha! my mother desperately wishes i had chosen all the men in my life based upon career success. alas, i am only drawn to poor, starving artists like myself. it’s crap for my shopping habit.

    ooh, ballroom dancing. that’s a good one. i think about trying that every time i watch so you think you can dance.

  3. MeatPipe said,

    If only I could find more female folk like yourself. Unfortunately most relationships today (imho) are governed upon the “what can you offer me” maxim, which is usually something intrinsically material. More power to you and Mr. Stephanerd, you guys are obviously the exception that proves the rule (in the corrupted sense of the phrase).

    At the very least, learn the waltz. It is by far the easiest to master and doesn’t require any formal training—just a generous amount of space and a partner willing to take and give a few footsie-follies.

  4. hoolybop710 said,

    Lately I have been trying to find any kind of information for my project, but unsuccessfully. Now it seems like I finally found a lot. This is the greatest site among all internet-sources.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: