Eat, Pray, Love: What Else is There?

Last night I had the good fortune to be the guest speaker for the First United Methodist Church of Northville‘s 2014 Women’s Retreat. The theme for this year is Eat, Pray, Love.

I was invited to cover the eat portion of the event, by speaking about my book, The Flavors of Faith: Holy BreadsI began by commending the women for picking such a wonderful topic.flavors-faith

Because if you think about it, eating, words and love are paths to our own destruction or paths to our own elevation.

Food – so easy to see! Over-consume and you’re in big trouble. Overweight, riddled with disease, clothing doesn’t fit, lack of self-esteem, and you feel awful. Or, under-consume because you think that’s your ticket to happiness, and you’re ravaged with an eating disorder and no happier for it.

Or look at food as a path to the holy. Say a prayer before/after taking a bite, and you elevate the very sustenance that our bodies demand. Open your table to guests, make the food from scratch, and you’ve poured heart and soul into it, you’ve created community.

Prayer, words, well it’s easy to see how elevating that one can be. But people pray to get things, to achieve material happiness, to best their buddies.

If, instead, we use our words to elevate, the whole conversation, the whole day becomes different. I start my day by issuing a little prayer in the car before I walk into work. Keep me in my highest self, and free me from arrogance, anxiety or the need to control, and help me to act for the benefit and good of all involved. It’s hard enough managing a work team; I call in the super-powers because I can use all the help I can get.

And of course, there’s love. Passion and infatuation get us in trouble, but opening our hearts to others never will. Seeing yourself in another – universal identification – that’s true love. And when you start to “love” every person – see the humanity in them, even when they flick you off in traffic or are rude to you at the dry cleaners – and you’re one step closer to godliness.

It’s our choice. We can plod through life accumulating and achieving and edging out others or we can choose to elevate the moments, raise the days, so that all we do becomes holy work.

There were 55 women at this retreat, dedicating their Friday evening and Saturday morning to elevating their spirits and building a sense of community among women from their church. I can’t think of a better way to spend our time. Bravo to them for making the ordinary so far from ordinary.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Lovewas about finding herself and setting her life straight after a divorce. She did so through food, through word and connection with the Divine, and through opening herself to the possibility of love.

We can keep ourselves tightly locked inside, and never open to the fear, to the vulnerability of giving our heart to another. Or we can take the risk and risk being happy like we’ve never known happiness.

She traveled the world in search of herself. These women last night didn’t go far – they slept in their own beds in between the sessions, but they were wise enough to know that we don’t know it all, that who we are is way down beneath this surface layer we’ve built so big.

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