Eat, Pray, Love All in Italy
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book Eat, Pray, Love, did not have to leave Italy to find “eat,”” pray,” and “love.” As we all know, Italy is known for its spectacular sumptuous food. I especially love the variety of healthy food at the Ananda Assisi retreat center. Living at a spiritual retreat center makes it very easy to fulfill the “pray.” Being in a new relationship, I can more easily feel my heart filled with love. Italy is probably one of the most romanticized countries to dream of visiting. However, I did not write this blog to talk about Italy. Instead, I would like to share a couple more profound realizations related to “eat, pray, love.” “Eat, pray, love” does not need to be mutually exclusive. When Ananda Assisi opened, they were trying to figure out how to create a diet that suited the Italian appetite and followed Paramhansa Yogananda’s dietary suggestions. Upon asking Swami Kriyananda what food to serve, he explained the guests would not be concerned with the food if they feel spiritually nourished. After all, Jesus Christ did say, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” And in the book How to Achieve Glowing Health and Vitality, Yogananda shared, "Life and strength do not depend solely on food or exercise, but are sustained from the powers within.” Why not eat the divine nectar of God through prayer and our love for God; through bringing spiritual practices into our life? Being inspired by a talk Swami Kriyananda delivered titled, “How Do We Really Heal,” I wanted to continue to share his message by leading a webinar with the same title. The only challenge was I did not feel I could share the most important point he makes through my own knowing; that love is the most important and powerful component of healing. Swami is not talking about human love, but rather a universal, unconditional, and divine love. In How to Achieve Glowing Health and Vitality, Yogananda described, “God cannot change his law arbitrarily just by the bribery of special ceremonies, blind prayer, or partiality. He can be moved only by the law and by love. Love is law.” I really felt I needed to share the healing power of love from my own experience instead of repeating the words of another. I left the prayer to God to reveal that inner knowing before leading a webinar. In the meantime, I departed California to go on pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, the home of St. Francis. Growing up Jewish, I never researched a lot about St. Francis. Yet he was the only saint I always secretly held a certain fondness for in my heart. Often I heard stories of his challenges of poverty, hunger, cold, sickness, and political disdain. Somehow I only tuned in to the emphasis on the sternness of renunciation and strength of will to overcome those challenges.
One of the last stops on the tour was the Porziuncola, one of the most known temples of St. Francis. Despite the crowds, I was lucky enough to get a seat inside the temple so I could sit and meditate. I was overcome by a sweet warmth that filled me with great comfort and the feeling of home.
Knowing I was hogging one of the few seats in the temple, after about an hour I finally pried myself away. As I walked around the outside of the temple with my hand dragging along the wall, I was starting to come back into my conscious mind. Instantaneously the realization came to me that it must not have been a challenge at all for St. Francis and his followers to withstand the challenges they did. They were so caught up by their love for God that those things probably barely even touched them. Later I saw a painting of a female’s naked body pierced with arrows and blood dripping down. But her face expressed a whole different story. Unidentified with her body, her face was looking up into the light of God with only love and purity glowing on her face. When we reach the state of fully living in God’s love, nothing can touch us. Whatever may happen to our body, our spirits can feel fully nourished by God. When the connection with God runs deep, nothing can get in the way of that. While I cannot say I constantly live in that state, I feel God gave me a glimpse of what the power of love for God looks like. While I write these stories from delicious, spiritual, and romantic Italy, I believe “eat, pray, love” can exist in all of our hearts anywhere in the world.
"The Power to Heal: Discover Your Internal Strength" Webinar. Click here to watch the recording.
A devotional video of The Life of St. Francis with narration and songs by Swami Kriyananda:
How to Achieve Glowing Health and Vitality by Paramhansa Yogananda
Loved and Protected, stories of miracles and answered prayers by Asha Praver
Love Perfected, Life Divine, my favorite book written by Swami Kriyananda Inspired by Marie Corelli’s book, The Life Everlasting. Swami retells the dramatic story of a woman’s discovery of her twin soul—a discovery that propels her to undertake an arduous and perilous climb to the loftiest heights of spiritual awakening. Fueled by her love, the heroine must overcome harrowing challenges before she realizes the goal of her yearning in union with God.