Friday, June 7, 2013

Elizabeth Gilbert: God Dwells Within You, as You

I find it interesting that I can often commune with God more directly (although unintentionally) through my pleasure-read books. I have this wonderful list of serious books to read this summer--most of them spiritual--and yet, God is using a fun and witty account of one woman's journey to speak into my own spiritual journey. God is cool that way!

Quote from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love:

". . . it seems I have not quite yet absorbed the truth of their most insistent statement:
'God dwells within you, as you.'
AS you.
If there is one holy truth of this Yoga, that line encapsulates it. God dwells within you as you yourself, exactly the way you are. God isn't interested in watching you enact some performance of personality in order to comply with some crackpot notion you have about how a spiritual person looks or behaves. We all seem to get this idea that, in order to be sacred, we have to make some massive, dramatic change of character, that we have to renounce our individuality. This is a classic example of what they call in the East 'wrong-thinking.' Swamiji used to say that every day renunciants find something new to renounce, but it is usually depression, not peace, that they attain. Constantly he was teaching that austerity and renunciation--just for their own sake--are not what you need. To know God, you need only to renounce one thing--your sense of division from God. Otherwise, just stay as you were made, within your natural character.
So what is my natural character? I love studying in this Ashram, but my dream of finding divinity by gliding silently through the place with a gentle, ethereal smile--who is that person? That's probably someone I saw on a TV show. The reality is, it's a little sad for me to admit that I will never be that character. I've always been so fascinated by these wraith-like, delicate souls. Always wanted to be the quiet girl. Probably precisely because I'm not. It's the same reason I think that thick, dark hair is so beautiful--precisely because I don't have it, because I can't have it. But at some point you have to make peace with what you were given and if God wanted me to be a shy girl with thick, dark hair, He would have made me that way, but He didn't. Useful, then, might be to accept how I was made and embody myself fully therein.
Or, as Sextus, the ancient Pythagorian philosopher, said, 'The wise man is always similar to himself.'
This doesn't mean I cannot be devout. It doesn't mean I can't be thoroughly tumbled and humbled with God's love. This does not mean I cannot serve humanity. It doesn't mean I can't improve myself as a human being, honing my virtues and working daily to minimize my vices. For instance, I'm never going to be a wallflower, but that doesn't mean I can't take a serious look at my talking habits and alter some aspects for the better--working within my personality."

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