Elizabeth Gilbert and Oprah

Thirty-one year old Elizabeth Gilbert had the husband, the career and the life that so many women envy. But privately, she was falling apart on her bathroom floor night after night. Liz left her husband, filed for divorce and took a leap of faith by embarking on a spiritual journey that sent her to Italy, India and Bali. Her quest to reclaim her life has now been experienced by the millions who have read her book Eat, Pray, Love.

Oprah says she has seen women carrying this New York Times bestseller with them everywhere. "I've been counting down the days to this show!"
Liz explains why she wrote Eat, Pray, Love.

Liz says she had no idea her book would become such a phenomenon. "Sometimes people come up and say, 'I found this book at the right moment, and thank you so much for writing this for me,'" she says. In reality, Liz says she began the book to help herself heal. "I wrote it to write my way out of the horrible situation I was in my life, and that's all I was thinking about when I was writing it."

Liz's journey begins with a traumatic experience for her, but one which she thinks her readers can relate to. "If you consider that journey started on the bathroom floor, three in the morning, going through the beginnings of a divorce, sobbing my eyes out, it seems like this really low moment. On the other hand, who amongst us has not met our bathroom floor tiles at 3:00 a.m. from a quarter of an inch away?" Liz says. "I think that alone makes it a universal experience for people struggling with those similar questions."
Liz talks about her breakdown

Liz says her breakdown began when she started asking herself some really tough questions. "I had that horrible moment that I think many of us have in our lives, where I looked around and said 'Whose life am I living in? Who am I married to? Whose values are these? Whose body is this?'"

Even though Liz had what many would consider the perfect life, she says she felt the call to leave. "I've had women come up to me before they left their marriage. 'Why am I complaining? He doesn't beat me,' [they would say]. Don't we aspire for more than just not being beaten?"

Liz keeps the details of her ex-husband and their marriage private throughout her book. "That wasn't really what it was about," she says. "It was about that I had woken up to the fact that my life no longer resembled me. It didn't look like me."
Liz describes her turning point.

Even before Liz took her breakthrough journey in Eat, Pray, Love, she says she has always been a traveler. "I've always been somebody who takes journeys," she says. "And I just wanted to get out of there. I felt like if I didn't, I would die. I felt like a squirrel in a box—sort of clawing at the walls of my life.

"I think I might have swallowed that except, thanks to how I was raised and the woman who raised me, I never got the memo that said you're not allowed to become the hero of your own life's journey," Liz says.

The turning point for Liz was when she realized how willingly she had gone along with major decisions in her life. "Oh, sure, let's move in together, let's get married, let's buy a house, let's do all this stuff that I was sort of half yes, half no," she says.

"I didn't want to hold up the train of progress, so I just always said yes. I never knew at that age, in my 20s, that I don't know is actually a legitimate answer that you're allowed to say. And you're allowed to ask for as much time as you need until you do know."

But Liz knew one thing for sureshe did not want to have a child. "When it came to let's have a kid, that's where I thoughtI cannot make that decision from a place of yes and no. That has to be a yes, or it can't happen."
Liz prays for an answer.

Liz began her journey with prayer. "I had no experience. But I just said to God, 'I need your help. I don't know what to do. Please tell me what to do.' And the decision I was struggling with was, Do I stay in this marriage? Do I leave this marriage?"

To help find the answer, Liz began keeping a journal where she would ask herself deeper questions as if she were her own friend. "I was going to write myself everything I've always wanted somebody to say to me when I'm in my deepest despair," she says.

"I would write I am in so much trouble. I need you. And there it would beI would write back, I am here. What do you need? You know. Tell me. I love you. What do you need?"

Liz says she does not know where the voice came from but says, "I know that it came through me but it was not entirely me. As long as you believe on it and lean on it and listen to it, I'm not sure that it does matter. It's just there when you need it."
Liz travels to Italy.

Liz followed the same path as her book title—"You've got to start with eating!" First, she finds pleasure through food in Italy, followed by devotion through prayer in India, ending with balance through love in Bali. "Now when I look back on it, it's clear some divine hand was guiding [the journey] because the order was so perfect," she says. "If I went to India first instead of Italy first, I would have been sent home in a basket. I was still on anti-depressants, I was sick, I was weak, I was skinny, I was just out of a divorce. I would not have been able to physically do the yoga, the meditation, the hard rigor of spiritual work. So I went to Italy first and I ate my guts out for four months."

Liz boldly traveled to Italy, alone and hardly knowing the language before she left. "When I told my American friends, 'I'm gonna go study pleasure for four months,' they were like, 'Can you do that?' And when I told my Italian friends, 'I'm here to study pleasure,' they're like, 'Vivant, be our guest! Knock yourself out. Why only four months?'"

Liz says she made a rule that she would never feel guilty about the food she was eating in Italy. "I'm not going to beat myself up for something that is so simply wonderful as this meal," she says. "What if you just did what you wanted, that would make you happy every day for four months? And how horrible would it be, really, because the things I wanted were harmless to anyone else—except maybe my jeans!"
Liz travels to India.

After Italy it was on to India, where Liz says she was searching for inner peace. "There was something about that yoga path that really appealed to me—and you do that through silence and the discipline of meditation—and I really wanted to go pursue that full out.

"I did a little meditation test on myself one night. I said, 'I'm not moving from this place. I'm going to meditate.' And then came the mosquitoes. And I thought, I'm not going to slap at them because I've spent my life slapping away at every little reflexive thing that irritates me, and I'm going to sit through this to show I'm the master of myself and we'll start with the mosquito bites and work down to the soul—and it kind of worked.

"None of this works without stillness," Liz says. "One of the great teachings that I learned in India is that silence is the only true religion."

Liz says that learning to be still was a discipline she had to learn. "I think many of us are like that, and we set up our lives so that we do not need to be with ourselves. I was in an elevator in New York the other day, coming up in an elevator and there's a television set in the elevator. Heaven forbid anyone should have to spend eight seconds alone! You know? Because it's so scary."
Richard says when he first met Liz, he thought she was a cross between Henny Penny and Chatty Cathy.

At the ashram in India, Liz met a man who would become her dear friend and later one of the most colorful characters in the book—Richard from Texas. "I knew she was writing this book, but I didn't realize what that meant," Richard says. "I didn't realize talking to a writer who's writing a book is like talking to a reporter," he says. "And things are being written down that I forgot I've said or situations that I forgot about, and suddenly I read it in a book and I go, 'Oh, my God. She was writing a book!'"

Richard says he came to the ashram on his own personal journey. "I'd been meditating for some time and I just wanted to go deeper within and I wanted to find the quietest place that was most conducive for that," Richard says. "So I went to an ashram in India. The particular ashram that was the mother ashram of the path that I was on."

What did Richard think of Liz when he first met her? "Well, she seemed like a combination of Henny Penny and Chatty Cathy. She had these issues of a lifetime swirling around her head like flies, and she was just kind of going around as if they weren't even there. But yet trying to swat them away at the same time," he says. "It was the perfect thing to be happening to her, and it was the perfect time for it to be happening. And the perfect place."

While they were at the ashram, Richard gave Liz an unusual nickname—Groceries. "She really enjoyed her food. And she spoke to it as she ate," he says. "So I would hear this, 'Hmm. Oh, mm' And I thought this woman really enjoys her groceries. So I started calling her Groceries."
Liz says Richard gave her an invaluable piece of advice at the Ashram.

Liz says she learned a lot from Richard. "The main thing was that he took all these super esoteric, ancient Indian yogic ideas and boiled them down into these simple, Texas, pragmatic sort of mantras for me that I could digest," Liz says.

The best thing Richard told Liz came about as she was mourning her most recent breakup. "I kept saying, 'I wish, I wish, I wish I still had my ex-boyfriend. I wish he still loved me.' And he said, 'Groceries, you've got to stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be,'" she says. "You can build your whole life on that line, you know? What are you—wishbone or backbone? Come on. Step up to it."

Although they studied at the same ashram, Liz and Richard's meditations were very different. "I have the more mundane, milk and toast meditation experiences. I don't get the colors, the sounds, and the whirling and swirling," he says. "Each of us are complete beings, complete humans, complete lives, and what's appropriate for another person may not be appropriate for me. So I just quietly go on about my business."
Liz describes her most beautiful mediation experience.

While meditating at the ashram, Liz says she had an experience that she says felt like being in the palm of God. "It was very brief. It was also very eternal. It was as though the scales fell from my eyes and the openings of the universe were shown to me," she says. "What I felt was pure, divine, eternal, knowing, compassionate love, and it was obvious. It wasn't even exhilarating. It was like, when you look at an optical illusion and all of a sudden, 'Oh, I see.' It just switched like this. 'Oh, I see. I am that. I come from that. That is what I am. And that is what everything is."

The experience was the best feeling Liz says she ever had. "I thought I wanted to hold onto this forever and it went by, you know? Like the minute you want to grab it and cling to it, it's gone," she says. "The minute your wishbone comes back, it goes. And what it sort of said as it went was, you can have this back once you realize you already have it and you always have it, and you'll always have it."

Liz says that since her trip to India, she hasn't reached that level of meditation again. "But I also haven't chased it, and I also feel like there's this great Japanese ancient poem that says, 'When I stand on the mountaintop, the world unfolds before me. When I walk through the marketplace, I carry the mountaintop under my robes,'" she says. "Once you've seen that, you get to take it with you in your mundane life, and you know. It's like in your pocket. You know this truth. You don't have to know it from the place of experiencing it. You just remember and it's enough."
Liz and Ketut Liyer

Liz had found pleasure in Italy and sat in the palm of God in India, but her journey wasn't complete until she went to Bali. "I wanted to do four months where I learned how to integrate [pleasure and devotion] and create a life where I had both of those in equal measure," she says. "That's what they do in Bali better than anywhere else in the world. They have all the joy and all the beauty of Italy and all the depth and spirituality of India, and they do it seamlessly. I thought these people have a lesson I want to learn."

On a previous trip to Bali, Liz met a medicine man named Ketut Liyer, who had predicted she would return one day. "I went back there following what he had said, 'You're going to come back here, and you're going to become my teacher of English, and I'm going to teach you everything about the world," Liz says. But when she finally returned, Ketut did not remember her.

Still, the medicine man took Liz under his wing. "I went to Ketut Liyer's house every day and sat at his feet. This man who had really never left his porch in this very small village and this very small island of Bali just allowed me to become his little student for a while," Liz says.

While sitting with Ketut, Liz says she learned a more simple type of meditation. "He said, 'Why do they make it so complicated in India with the meditation?' He said, 'I'll give you a meditation. Sit and smile,' he said. Even smile in your liver," Liz says. "Smile all the way through. Sit there and smile all the way through and see if that doesn't work a little bit to start to change your life and cause a little revolution in your mind."
Liz and Felipe on their wedding day

While Liz was in Bali looking for balance, she found something she wasn't expecting—love. "I had so given up on that. I mean, I was in Rome, I was in Italy where people are, like, making love on the sidewalks," she says. "And I just remember looking at them and thinking, 'This is not for you. You're going to have a different kind of life. Like, other people get this. You don't get this. But that's okay.' And then I got it."

Liz fell in love with a Brazilian man named Felipe. In the book, Liz writes, "Felipe finally put his palm against my cheek and said, 'That's enough, darling. Come to my bed now.' And I did."

Liz's eyes water as she talks about Felipe. "I loved what he said when he said, 'That's enough,'" she says. "Because we'd been courting for weeks. And he didn't say, 'That's enough of you not giving me you.' You know? What he said was, 'That's enough of you on your own in this world. Now I'm with you. Come on. Let's go together now. That's enough. You proved it. You can do it on your own. And now you get to have that and me. So let's go.'"

Did their love last beyond Bali? "Things are so good," Liz says as she looks at a photo of herself with Felipe on the screen. "That's us. On our wedding day."
Liz talks about her three daily rituals.

You can take your own spiritual journey every, single day. Liz has three daily rituals that anyone can do anywhere.

  • Start a journal and answer this question every morning: What do I really, really, really want? "You have to say really, really, really three times or else you don't believe it. And answer it truthfully and do it again the next day and the next and the next," she says. "Because you can't set your journey if you don't know what you're for."
  • Write down the happiest moment of every day in a happiness journal. "It's a way of reminding myself what really makes me happy and what doesn't," she says, "and learn and study and look back and see what is it consistently."
  • Refine your mantra. "I say refine, not choose, because we all actually already have a mantra. We just might not realize that we do. Whatever you repeat constantly in your head is your mantra whether you know it or not, and that is leading you on your way," she says. "So if you're repeating, 'I'm a moron, I'm an idiot, I'm a failure, I'm a jerk, I'm a loser,' it's your mantra. So decide whether that's working for you. Maybe it's not and then maybe you might want to choose a different thing to try to say whenever you remember that you're thinking what you're always doing."
Liz says the most important thing to remember is that you can take your own spiritual journey without traveling the world. "You don't need to go and do exactly the things that I did," she says. "The only thing you need to do is ask yourself the questions I was asking myself. That's what you need to do. If you listen to that, I guarantee that you'll get your own journey and it will not look like mine. Although I do hope that it involves pizza."
Oprah announces her fall book club selection.

After hearing Liz's romantic love story, Oprah is thrilled to announce her new book club selection Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez.

"This is one of the greatest love stories I have ever read," Oprah says. "It's a captivating story about a passionate but troubled love affair that takes place over the course of 50 years. It is so beautifully written that it really takes you to another place in time and will make you ask yourself how long could you, or would you, wait for love?"

Fall in love with an excerpt of Love in the Time of Cholera!

Find more pleasure in your life.