Health and Wellbeing, My head

Kundalini Cripple – My beef with Eat Pray Love.

January 21, 2015


I having a discussion about Eat Pray Love because Elizabeth Gilbert is coming to Sydney and giving talks on creativity.

There were some less than glowing reports about the book, but I remember it fondly. Perhaps Elizabeth waffled at times, but as a fellow waffler I’m not one to judge.

To me, at that time, Elizabeth Gilbert represented a person that I would love to be. Brave, adventuring, spiritual and at one with carbohydrates.

Her time in Italy was something I would love to do. I’ve yet to experience pizza in Rome, gelato on the Amalfi Coast, and pasta pretty much everywhere that says “Bellisima!”

I once spent three months in Indonesia. Instead of honing my spirituality, I honed my tan and took strolls on deserted beaches and smoked joints. I also spent time in Thailand and East Timor so I felt like I had kind of nailed the South East Asia part of the book.

The other part of the book that really inspired me was the PRAY bit. Elizabeth spent a large amount of time in an ashram in India chasing her ‘kundalini’ spirit whatever the hell that was.

The way she described it in the book made me feel as though this divine state of enlightenment was really at my finger tips if only I just reached out and grabbed it. It made me decide that I was going to trot off and become One with my higher self.

I was totes a spiritual Earth goddess, right?

So. Fucking. Wrong.

I went to Vipassana- a 10 day silent meditation retreat- in the Blue Mountains in NSW.

You were not to make eye contact with anyone, nor speak to them ever. We lived like monks in bare dwellings, eating only two meals a day. Once a day there was an opportunity to speak with a ‘guru’ if you had spiritual questions, or to a facilitator if you had questions regarding your physical self or needs.

So zen.


These guys would have been fish popsicles.

These guys would have been fish popsicles.

Firstly,  it was winter.

Those monks digs were like freezing cold jail cells where I got ice-cream headaches just taking a pee.

I had my own duvet, blankets and pillows from home, with a hot water bottle so I was plenty warm in bed but I’d wake at 4am to go to the first meditation of the day and the ponds would all be frozen and my breath would be frozen on the windows… and icicles hung from my nose if I’d accidentally allowed my head out of the fart sack in my slumber.

All day we would sit there, in various crippling positions trying to breathe our way to enlightenment and I began to curse that Elizabeth Gilbert, the uppity Kundalini show off.

I became fixated on a pain in my right shoulder and after two days of sitting on my folded legs, deep breathing and not giggling at stangers’ resounding farts caused by vegetarian food I was ready to go home.

They take your mobile phone and wallet for ‘safe keeping’ when you arrive but I would bet my ass that it’s so you don’t sneak off in the night.

My stupid pride would not permit me to ask for those items back but if I had them I may well have commando crawled on my freezing belly to my car and driven off, leaving a massive burnout in my wake and sped home to a bottle of whiskey and loud rock and roll music.

I was wracked with aches and pains. Although forbidden I would flick my eyes around the room to see if anyone else could possibly feel as uncomfortable as I and I saw heavily pregnant women blissfully breathing and old people rising above their discomfort to achieve enlightenment.

I went to my guru and explained that she had no idea how uncomfortable my body was. She smiled a beatific smile and nodded mockingly knowingly. I went back to the guru and cried and cried. I couldn’t quiet my monkey brain, I was no nearer enlightenment than a can of baked beans, and the war between my desire to leave and my ego filled every thought.

I looked into her kind eyes and I asked her tell me to “buck up, Little Camper”, which she kindly did.

I was freezing, hungry and miserable but I would not give in.


Where was my kundalini? Where was this blue snake like energy that connected me to my higher self? Where was my astral projection?

I was spiritually crippled.

It was all Elizabeth Gilbert’s fault.

If you;’re expecting this to have a big enlightened ending, I’m sorry to disappoint. I hated the whole 10 days. Every second of it. One of the veterans had been 30 times over 15 years and she swore that perseverance is the key.

Screw that, I say.

I’ll seek enlightenment in carbohydrates and great sex, laughter and the smell of my children’s hair.

Thanks just the same.

Tell me, do you meditate?

Are you better at it than me??

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  • Reply Gary Lum (@Yummy_Lummy) January 21, 2015 at 7:35 am

    Sounds awful. I’d rather meditate from the comfort of my own bed with my iPhone and iPad on the dressing table next to me and coffee available whenever I want.

    • Reply Danielle January 25, 2015 at 7:41 am

      Do you meditate regularly? Do you use a guided audio or just focus?

  • Reply Amanda @ Cooker and a Looker January 21, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Dannielle, I’d have never made it either. I did a day of guided meditation at a Buddhist retreat once. I was worn out and achy by the end.
    PS. That bit at the Ashram were she gets eaten by mozzies? Nightmare material for me!

    • Reply Danielle January 21, 2015 at 9:59 am

      I wish it was different. I wish i was zen with mozzies, hunger and freezing weather. However, i’ve heard 10 mins a day of guided meditation is also good. Totes more my speed!!

  • Reply Genie January 21, 2015 at 8:33 am

    It’s always been a “one day” thing for me. I have friends who have done it, some have done it more than once. I think The Koala wants to do it at some stage. Do you think couples should do it separately?

  • Reply Danielle January 21, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Where I went dudes and chicks were separated. Different quarters, different dining areas and even different paths to walk.
    You wouldn’t see him. At least you would know he was there though. Breathing somewhere in the vicinity!!!!

  • Reply Dani @ sand has no home January 21, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I think that I would go mad. I have friends who have been to that retreat and claimed that it was amazing (bet they didn’t go in winter). Kudos for the attempt!

    • Reply Danielle January 21, 2015 at 9:56 am

      I have friends that go regularly… As a holoday. Imagine??!!!

    • Reply Danielle January 25, 2015 at 7:40 am

      I have friends that go regularly and love it, guess its just not for everyone.

  • Reply Zanni Louise January 21, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Gregor spent years meditating and living in Buddhist retreats. They had a big beef with the Vipasana approach – throwing Westerners with no previous experience of meditating or even sitting cross legged into silence for 10 days. It isn’t good practice, and very few will benefit or have long lasting results. Some even go crazy. If you want enlightenment, you’re better of starting small and building up. It’s a bit like trying to run a marathon if you’ve never run a K. It’s not going to work out that well. I have to admit I didn’t get past Rome of Eat Pray Love.

  • Reply Zita January 21, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Of all her teacels that was the one I would have struggled and I think that you are pretty amazing for giving it a shot and sticking it out. I would love to do a yoga and mediatation retreat but definitely not a silent one!!

    • Reply Zita January 21, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      *travels that should say! Lol…

  • Reply Roxanne January 21, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    This is wonderfully honest!

  • Reply Kirsty Rice January 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    “Buck up little camper” it will be with me for the rest of the day – in a Yoda voice. Is that the same place Judith Lucy went to in her telly series a couple of years ago?

    • Reply Danielle January 25, 2015 at 7:43 am

      I don’t know, I didn’t see it. Was she in the Blue Mountains? Was she crying? There’s only one there. The view was lovely 🙂

  • Reply Sonia from Sonia Styling January 21, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    I started reading Eat Pray Love some years ago, but didn’t get very far into it before I gave up on it completely. That kind of “getaway” sounds like hell on earth to me. I’ve tried to get into meditation, but I’m not very good at it. I have heard of a very simple technique that I actually use to quiet my mind and help me get to sleep – you just concentrate on your breathing. You breathe in for 4 counts and then breathe out for 4 counts. So I do a little “breathe in, 2, 3, 4 / breathe out 2, 3, 4” in my head until the chatter stops and I’m sailing away to the Isle of Nod. x

  • Reply San January 21, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    I’m SOOOO with you girlfriend. These “opportunities” to find oneself and cleanse ones spirit seem like SUCH a fine idea at the time until you find your spirit is IN the spirit you’ve been ingesting on a much more pleasurable level! Let’s face it hunny, sometimes the inner voice is an idiot :o(

  • Reply Nicole - Champagne and Chips January 24, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Nuh, I get fidgetty in the 3 minute meditation that follows a body balance class.
    I loved ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ too and often dream of even a month where I could just wander about and not have to worry about being anywhere at any particular time. I was all about the gelato and pizza in Rome though.

  • Reply Alison January 25, 2015 at 7:39 am

    See even Zanni thought it pretentious – I take that as solid proof the rest of us are correct. I have done the Rome thing and it never gets old. It’s an amazing city and I have a friend that owns a gelato store in Milan if you get over there. I don’t mind the headspace app but there is more chance of me taking a fancy to Tony Abbott then spending 10 days doing meditation. a couple of friends did the same course when they were working on their marriage. How ten days not talking to each other when your marriage was on the rocks was supposed help I don’t know but it definitely didn’t. That said – hats off to anybody who wants to spend that long with their own thoughts 🙂

  • Reply Fashionista January 28, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Good grief you deserve a medal for being silent for 10 days! Well done!

    Eat Pray Love annoyed me no end, I just wanted to tell her to get over herself (but finished the book because when one starts a book one finishes it, and yes that will be a couple of weeks of reading time that I will never get back). I couldn’t even bear to go to the movie and I am a Julia Roberts fan.

    Can’t do meditation, too much going on in my head. It is better for me to spend 30 minutes planning with my lists and a nice coffee and then launch into the day.

  • Reply Bele @ BlahBlah January 28, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Yup, it hurts. It’s funny, because I refused to hand over my worldly phone and wallet, because I didn’t want to feel trapped there and wanted to be there of my own volition. It sounds like insanity, but I went back and did it a second time, because I was stunned at how clear my head was afterwards and I could focus in a way I never had before. Would I do it again? Probably not. My husband did it after I did. I think because I kept on droning on about how challenging it was and thought, ‘how hard can it be?’ and he credits it as the thing that kept him calm while our baby was in ICU for 86 days. I still meditate everyday for twenty minutes and I notice when I don’t, but I think there are many ways to clear the head x

  • Reply Cristina November 24, 2015 at 2:05 am

    I think you need to keep in mind that even in her book, she did not just go to the ashram and have her kundalini rise. For many it comes after the course of years and years of tempting the snake upward and clearing your chakras first and foremost.
    Other times, your kundalini can rise unexpectedly like it did for me. However, I had been practicing yoga (active meditation) and doing guided meditations for 8 years prior.
    Some people also spend a lifetime doing everything with the hopes of their kundalini rising but it is just not in the cards for them.

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