Eat Pray Love: Richard From Texas and The Ashram

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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In Eat Pray Love, Richard helps Elizabeth be her best self. But who is Richard, and where does he come from? How did he help Elizabeth?

Eat Pray Love‘s Richard from Texas was a person Elizabeth met at the ashram. They became close friends and confidantes and helped each other on their spiritual journeys.

Read more about Eat Pray Love, Richard from Texas, and his role in Elizabeth Gilbert’s enlightenment.

A Rocky Start to Enlightenment

In Eat Pray Love, Richard from Texas is an instrumental part of Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual journey. But before she meets him, Gilbert struggled with the spiritual elements of being at an ashram. Gilbert was given the job of scrubbing the temple floors. For hours each day, she knelt on the marble floor with several Indian teenagers. The work was hard, but it was meant to be. The repetitive arduous work of cleaning the floor every day emulated the arduous task of attending to the purification of her soul. For Gilbert, the former effort was much easier than the latter. 

Gilbert did not take to meditation well. Even at home, it was not easy for her to shut down her mind. Meditation and prayer are the two essential components of Yoga practice. Prayer is the act of talking to God, and meditation is the act of listening. She knew why prayer came so much more easily to her. She never had any problems lamenting her feelings to God. But the listening was a different story.

When she meditated, Gilbert had what is known as “monkey mind”—the endless swinging of thoughts down an endless row of branches. She became bored quickly, then angry that she was bored. This feeling was followed by depression because she couldn’t find stillness, and she would quickly dissolve into anxiety. This cycle of thoughts was not the main problem, however. The problem was the emotional response she attached to each thought. 

When she became caught in the emotions of her thoughts, she wasn’t able to be present. She was either in the past with her sadness and anger or in the future with her worries and fears. The mantra was meant to create something tangible to focus your attention on to stay present, but Gilbert still struggled. Later in Eat Pray Love, Richard was able to help her conquer her thoughts.

During her first days at the Ashram, Gilbert asked her roommate, Corella, a black Baptist meditation teacher from South Carolina, how she was able to find a transformative place with the mantra. Corella said she just chanted and felt transported. Gilbert tried to hammer down the details. How did she breathe? How did she divide the words between breaths? What was the trick? To demonstrate, Corella spoke the mantra. Gilbert listened as the words were spoken normally and without flourish or rhythmic intention. She became frustrated and interrupted Corella to ask if she wasn’t bored. Corella smiled and looked at her watch. Only 10 seconds had passed. 

At the morning prayer the next day, Gilbert again struggled with her meditation practice. They were meant to meditate for an hour, but she felt each minute like a mile in her mind. After fourteen minutes of arguing with her mind, she opened her eyes and quit. She cried from the pressure and her failure. She stared at the others content in their practice. Their stillness and fortitude felt like an affront to her inability to find the same. She wondered how she was ever going to quiet her mind enough to reach a truly enlightened place. 

Eat Pray Love’s Richard: A Savior From Texas

Later that night, Gilbert sat alone at a table in the cafeteria eating dinner. She was focused on eating with intention. Digestive disruption can lead to meditative disruption, so eating slowly and taking small bites was encouraged. Considering how Gilbert spent the last four months and the buffet of delicious Indian food available, this task was harder than it seemed. 

While trying not to shovel food into her mouth, Gilbert noticed a tall and foreboding-looking man searching for a table. She hadn’t seen him before but gestured for him to join her. The man walked over in a calm and confident way and sat down. When he spoke, it was with a southern drawl. This was Richard from Texas, and Gilbert had just met her new best friend.

In Eat Pray Love, Richard had lived a multifaceted life before arriving at the Ashram. Among his many jobs were truck driver, used-car salesman, Vietnam soldier, drug dealer, and home renovator. He was a recovering addict and alcoholic and had found the Guru by way of an ex-girlfriend. He called Gilbert “Groceries” because of her impressive ability to consume food. 

After discovering the Guru, Richard started praying daily. Each prayer was the same—he asked God to open his heart. And he asked for a sign for when it happened. A few months later, Richard had open-heart surgery. He learned from that experience to be more careful about what he prayed for and to ask God to be gentle with him.

Gilbert saw how comfortable Richard was with his practice and asked for his advice about how to tackle her meditation problems. Richard reminded her that meditation was simply the act of sitting down with intention. Whatever happened after that was out of her control. But that wasn’t enough for Gilbert. She wanted to feel transcended. In Eat Pray Love, Richard told her that her intruding thoughts were her ego trying not to lose control of her mind. She just needed to recognize what was happening and let it go without judgment. That was how she could distract the ego with divine love. 

Eat Pray Love: Richard From Texas and The Ashram

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Eat Pray Love summary:

  • Why Elizabeth Gilbert needed to divorce her husband
  • How she was able to find joy again in Italy
  • How Gilbert was able to find balance with Felipe

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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