23 April 2010

by elizabeth gilbert

"When I got to Bali the teacher who was running the Yoga retreat asked us, 'While you're here, is there anybody who would like to go visit a ninth-generation Balinese medicine man?' (another question too obvious to even answer), and so we all went over to his house one night.

The medicine man, as it turned out, was a small merry-eyed, russet-colored old guy with a mostly toothless mouth, whose resemblance in every way to the Star Wars character Yoda cannot be exaggerated. His name was Ketut Liyer. He spoke a {s c a t t e r e d} and thoroughly entertaining kind of English, but there was a translator available for when he got stuck on a word.

Our Yoga teacher had told us in advance that we could each bring one question or problem to the medicine man, and he would try to help us with our troubles. I'd been thinking for days of what to ask him. My initial ideas were so lame...So when the old man asked me in person what I really wanted, I found other, truer words.

'I want to have a lasting experience of God,' I told him. 'Sometimes I feel like I understand the divinity of this world, but then I lose it because I get distracted by my petty desires and fears. I want to be with God all the time. But I don't want to be a monk, or totally give up worldly pleasures. I guess what I want to learn is how to live in this world and enjoy its delights, but also devote myself to God.'

Ketut said he could answer my question with a picture. He showed me a sketch he'd drawn once during meditation. It was an androgynous human figure, standing up, hands clasped in prayer. But this figure had four legs, and no head. Where the head should have been, there was only a wild foliage of ferns and flowers. There was a small, smiling face drawn over the heart.

'To find the balance you want,' Ketut spoke through his translator, 'this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it's like you have four legs, instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.'"

{eat, pray, love is not my favorite book i've ever read, but it has its good moments and thought-provoking passages. this was one of them. i loved this passage. the idea of seeing the world through your heart...that when you see the world through your heart, you will know God. the sketch that Ketut drew and its meaning spoke mounds to me. i loved how the figure not only implied that we need to see the world with our heart, but that we also need to be grounded. four feet on the ground. passionate but grounded. so important. i feel like people think they can't have the best of both worlds...that being a passionate person means you're careless and flippant and that being a grounded person means you're prude and not brave. i know that's not necessarily the case, but i have to admit that i used to think that being passionate and grounded could not be one in the same. not true! i think we could all strive to be a lil bit more passionate or a lil bit more grounded in our lives and definitely find the balance between the two. passionate but grounded.}

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