When the book “Eat, Pray, Love” came out, the meditations it offered on life—layered with humor, wry wit and an intriguing travelogue—contained enough richness and depth that it was a hit with readers because it not only entertained but offered insights into life in modern times. The story shed light, in several ways over a yearlong period, on the pauses we may need to take in order to discover new ways of being, to always be a conscious creator of things in our lives. (Whether Julia Roberts and the movie do those insights justice, well, I will leave that to the reviewers!)
The personal experience of Elizabeth Gilbert, and her faithfulness in laying it out there plainly in her book, provides an opportunity for readers to take pause (without taking a year off!) and engage in the discovery of the negative emotions (anger, hurt, sadness) that build in her—and us—when focusing solely on the immediate, while avoiding or losing touch with what is important over the longer term.
That’s how we sabotage ourselves, I sabotage myself. When negative emotions trigger me to sleep through my actions, to react reflexively, and do things that aren’t good for me, then I become an unconscious creator of negative behavior; I sabotage myself by allowing negative emotions to take charge and cause damage, by turning me toward unhealthful choices.
There is a point in the book, when Gilbert struggles to be still during her meditation, to avoid her natural reflex to reach out and slap (instead of just sitting with the feeling of) a mosquito trying to bite her. It is one of those small moments of consciousness and, yes, a symbolic gesture of awareness—it is not dramatic.
Without dramatic moments to jolt our sensibilities, most often we must rely on small instances of awareness. A turning point for me, a place when I realized I needed to change my way of eating, was the ruin of a molar after a night of, what else, eating — way too much (chocolate-covered almonds!). I would reach for food in large, mindless quantities when feeling bad about something in my life. This episode led to an expensive root canal. (Don’t try this at home!).
However small or large our wakeup calls are to be more present and mindful when eating or acting, they are real and we can gradually change how we tune in and respond; for me, I now know how to prevent slipping into some sort of self-flagellation when those negative emotional waves hit and, instead, be conscious about turning toward things that keep me feeling good.
I know it’s unavoidable at times to slip into a negative space, but you can usually feel it happening, and when it does, you need to exert some extra effort to turn the trigger from negative behavior into positive action. Like with all things, it takes time, and consistency and support, in the form of personal advocates in your life, the champion that “Eat, Pray, Love” refers to. We all need awareness, but we need our champions as well, and the continuous reminder to never beat ourselves up over those moments when we slip up.
Instead, turn a negative into a positive and give yourself the accolades you deserve in the form of a mental (or, heck, even physical) pat on the back for recognizing them. Simple, non-dramatic awareness is something to be grateful for, as well as the steps you take every day to make slight shifts in your life.
The focus is on choices, to take charge of what’s good for you — exercise, healthful cooking, rest. So thank yourself for waking up to it in a positive way! When we get caught up in what’s immediate, we lose sight of what’s important. Even when those immediate stressors engulf us, we can’t ignore making time for self-care. Ultimately, you’re worthy and important. We want you to believe in yourself. If you don’t nourish your own life, who will?
P.S. Be sure to look at these “10 Ways to Emerge from Self-Sabotage.” They’re worth it.