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Wednesday 13 December 2017

I'm over eating and praying, it's loving that's the real bliss

Forget meatballs and meditation, love is the gift that leads to enlightenment, writes Victoria Mary Clarke

Victoria Mary Clarke

Like millions of women worldwide, I bought Eat Pray Love. And I was phenomenally, grotesquely jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert, its author. I, too, had written a 'spiritual memoir' -- Fatness, Enlightenment and the Meaning of Supermodels was also about overeating and meditating and trying to find out what love is. It was written years before hers and it was rejected by everyone I sent it to. They told me to write a rock and roll book instead, which I duly did, but I always thought they were wrong, and now I am proved right.

Now Eat Pray Love is a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts and I am praying continually to be happy for Ms Gilbert and to figure out why the universe chose her and not me.

But, in the meantime, I have condensed my own experience of eating, praying and loving into this bite-sized morsel for your delectation.

Eating was my original drug of choice. That woman might have spent a few months stuffing her face with pasta but I spent years doing it. One night I ate four large helpings of spaghetti bolognaise, one after another, washed down with two bottles of Chianti, and then I had dessert. On several occasions, I had to go home and lie down half-way through evenings out with glamorous models because I was so full I couldn't move. Shane started writing a book called My Life Watching My Girlfriend Eat, but thankfully I persuaded him to stop.

Luckily, before I needed gastric band surgery, I discovered meditation. It happened completely by accident. I was admiring a picture of a model meditating in a fashion magazine, and decided to give it a try in case it made me look good. I took lessons at a Buddhist centre, and was immediately impressed. Meditating felt really, really nice. It generated a feeling of serenity and calm after only one lesson, and soon it became seriously blissful. More blissful than chocolate, or sex. It turned into a total addiction, and because I didn't have a job and Shane did, I meditated for at least four hours every day. Soon, I got hooked on meditation retreats, too, and I began to travel the world like Elizabeth Gilbert, in search of higher and higher planes of consciousness. I went to Thailand and to India on my journeys, to the Osho ashram in Pune, where I wore orange robes and ate only papayas.

At Deepak Chopra's ashram in California, I was so blissed out that I became convinced that I was now enlightened and began to wonder if it was time to return to the Oneness or else to become a spiritual guru and enlighten millions.

When I came home from my spiritual odyssey, you can imagine my horror when I was suddenly overcome by a deep depression, so deep that it wasn't possible to even imagine the bliss that I had felt in the ashrams. And not only was I depressed, I was also alone, having left Shane.

Never once during the time I spent in ashrams did it occur to me that enlightenment might have anything to do with love, or with loving other people. I thought it was all about me and how much I meditated. And about a vague concept of 'Oneness' that didn't have anything to do with real live people. But at this point love began to play a more active role in my journey.

At first it was the love of my sister Vanessa and her son Olan, who took me in and let me live in their house.

And the love of some very kind friends who refused to let me rot, and dragged me out of bed and forced me to look for work. And the love of Shane who never stopped being my soulmate. Then, more strangely, it was the love of some creatures that I like to call angels, who talked back to me, when I asked them for advice and who guided me to the most helpful people and situations and gradually showed me that love is something you give, not something you look for. And when you give a bit of love, you get a huge return, which instantly makes you want to give a bit more, and so on until everywhere you look you begin to see opportunities for loving the world a little bit more.

And then you stop feeling so lonely and you begin to experience the 'Oneness' in a way that is real, and not conceptual. Which is where I am at now. And it is exceedingly nice. Almost as blissful as meditating. Although I am still not entirely happy with Elizabeth Gilbert having had such a successful spiritual memoir, which means I am not yet enlightened.

Living, Page 16

Sunday Independent

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