You are not going to believe this little tidbit… but I have never read Eat Pray Love.
I have started it many times, and it has felt like a necessary book to have in my personal library. On Friday, June 27th I got to see the author of this delicious memoir, Elizabeth Gilbert, speak about her new book, The Signature of All Things, at UNCA with my dear friend Rebecca and I thought to myself, “Dang, it is time I read Eat Pray Love.”
I am glad that I waited until my life story was a little more parallel with hers to take this journey with her, because her words are resonating with me. I just finished the first third of the book, telling of her journeys in Italy. I’d love to share the following exert, as I feel it speaks to the spirit of Reclaiming Beauty.
On my way back home I take a little detour and stop at the address in Rome I find most strangely affecting – the Augusteum. This big, round, ruined pile of brick started life as a glorious mausoleum, built by Octavius Augustus to house his remains and the remains of his family for all of eternity. It must have been impossible for the emperor to have imagined at the time that Rome would ever be anything but a mighty Augustus-worshiping empire. How could he have possibly foreseen the collapse of the realm? Or known that, with all the aqueducts destroyed by barbarians and with the great roads left in ruin, the city would empty of citizens, and it would take almost twenty centuries before Rome ever recovered the population she had boasted during the height of her glory?
Augustus’s mausoleum fell to ruins and thieves during the Dark Ages. Somebody stole the emperor’s ashes – no telling who. By the twelfth century, though, the monument had been renovated into a fortress for the powerful Colonna family, to protect them from assaults by various warring princes. Then the Augusteum was transformed somehow into a vineyard, then a Renaissance garden, then a bullring (we’re in the eighteenth century now), then a fireworks depository, then a concert hall. In the 1930s, Mussolini seized the property and restored it down to its classical foundations, so that it could someday be the final resting place for his remains. (Again, it must have been impossible back then to imagine that Rome could ever be anything but a Mussolini-worshiping empire.) Of course, Mussolini’s fascist dream did not last, nor did he get the imperial burial he’d anticipated.
Today the Augusteum is one of the quietest and loneliest places in Rome, buried deep in the ground. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. (One inch a year is the general rule of thumb for the accumulation of time’s debris.) Traffic above the monument spins in a hectic circle, and nobody ever goes down there – from what I can tell – except to use the place as a public bathroom. But the building still exists, holding its Roman ground with dignity, waiting for its next incarnation.
I find the endurance of the Augusteum so reassuring, that this structure has had such an erratic career, yet always adjusted to the particular wildness of the times. To me, the Augusteum is like a person who’s led a totally crazy life- who maybe started out as a housewife, then unexpectedly became a widow, then took up fan-dancing to make money, ended up somehow as the first female dentist in outer space, and then tried her hand at national politics – yet who has managed to hold an intact sense of herself throughout every upheaval.
I look at the Augusteum, and I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated. The Augusteum warns me not to get too attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I may have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough – but tomorrow I could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.
from Eat, Pray, Love
And now today is July 27th… one month later. This past weekend, I have been reflecting over my year. Many of you know I pay attention to the ways my life lines up with growth cycles in the Tarot. Since my last birthday in September, I have been in an Art/Synthesis year. The Art/Synthesis year is one where a person is integrating all different parts of themselves to create the full artistry of who they are – weaving together what may seem like opposite forces – making art and alchemy from the polarities. This Art/Synthesis year is a big one for me, because it is also the end of a much larger cycle. In 2004, I began a Hierophant cycle, which is the cycle of Family, Community and Spiritual development. In that year, I met the man I would fall in love with, the one who would gift me with my life’s greatest blessing, my son, Joey, and my life’s second greatest blessing, falling out of love with me, so that I could fall in love with myself.
Throughout my Hierophant Cycle, I fell madly in love, got married, went to graduate school, started my career, started building a life in a house in the woods, began working with women with eating disorders, had a baby, fell madly out of love, got divorced, grieved, wrote a book where I shared the lessons I learned, made meaning of it all, and healed.
No wonder there are moments I feel so dizzy.
On Saturday afternoon, I finished reading the second third of Eat, Pray, Love. In the second part of this memoir, Elizabeth Gilbert spends six months in an ashram in India, and one of the issues she faces inside of herself is healing the wounds related to her divorce. I was inspired by a spontaneous forgiveness ritual she described involving climbing up on a rooftop at the ashram. So inspired, in fact, I found myself getting in my car at 5pm and driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I drove to one of my favorite spots, Graveyard Fields, and hiked up to the Upper Falls. Along the hike, I found myself reflecting on the various avenues I have explored in my life… mother, wife, divorcee, single parent, marimba player, music therapist, eating disorder therapist, child and family therapist, soccer player, singer/songwriter, yoga teacher, folk rock duo, tarot reader, writer, blogger, dancer… so many different aspects of myself… finding a place to weave together in a beautiful alchemy in this Art/Synthesis year. I found myself reflecting on what has come to be my favorite place this year; my yoga mat at the end of my practice in Savasana. Feeling dizzy from all of the upheaval and transformation, I love Savasana, when I can let all of what has been release and allow whatever wants to be emerge in the moment. I used to freak out in the face of that nothingness, and after the experience of this Hierophant Cycle, I find a lot of peace in letting go of the old ways of being, and trusting they will be woven into the tapestry without having to grasp onto them for dear life.
I hiked back down to the Lower Falls and pulled out my little book on Ho’oponopono. Ho’oponopono is a forgiveness and reconciliation practice from the Hawaiian culture designed to bring healing to relationships with ourselves, our family members, and the world. In this practice, a person offers a prayer and meditation of four sentences: “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” This meditation is reflected on over and over, or given as a guide for communicating the reconciliation intention with another.
I was feeling drawn to the Ho’oponopono practice because I have grown weary of feeling angry at my ex-husband. I was ready to take full responsibility for whatever my part was in creating the situations that unfolded over the past two years after my separation and divorce. In the twilight and under the new moon in Leo, I made a ho’oponopono, sang a beautiful song that my friend Jen taught me, and dove into those Lower Falls at Graveyard Fields.
Hiking back to my car, soaked to the bone, I drove down the parkway, heat on, windows down, in my bra and underwear. I felt like a new woman, transformed by the beautiful alchemy of an Art/Synthesis year.
Next stop… September 17, 2014, the wheel turns to the next cycle – The Lovers Cycle.
May I attract only kind and gentle life lessons and relationships (and lots of joy and passion.)
Gotta finish the last third of Eat, Pray, Love now! Another book I recommend for anyone working on Art/Synthesis themes is Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. It is a superbly crafted novel of interweaving stories about how life is never what we plan it to be and yet the beauty of life is about making meaning out of what it is.
If you are interested in finding out more about your Tarot Symbols or Growth Cycles, contact me to schedule a Tarot Profile session or Tarot Reading.
Walk in beauty,