Why Gratitude is the Key to Happiness and Abundance

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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What does finding gratitude mean in Eat Pray Love? How does Elizabeth Gilbert work on finding gratitude and spiritual enlightenment on her journey?

Finding gratitude is a process. For Elizabeth Gilbert, it started with a spiritual awakening. From there, she learned about her own spirituality and connection with God on her journey to finding gratitude.

Read more about the process of finding gratitude in Eat Pray Love.

Finding Gratitude

Gilbert came close to understanding her word at a dinner party on Thanksgiving. The American holiday that year fell on Luca Spaghetti’s birthday, and he wanted to celebrate his 33rd year around the sun with a Thanksgiving turkey. Gilbert decided to help him with his wish. 

The party was held at a large home in the Roman countryside owned by Luca’s friends. The guests included several of Luca’s friends and two of Gilbert’s. Around the table that night, there were three languages represented: Italian, English, and Swedish. But to Gilbert’s surprise, the barriers didn’t hinder their ability to connect and feel like they belonged. 

Late in the evening, after many bottles of wine, they decided to practice the American tradition of stating what they were thankful for. Each person took their turn, becoming emotional and weeping when they spoke openly about gratitude for their lives. When it was Gilbert’s turn, she didn’t know what to say. 

What she did know was that she was grateful her word was no longer “depression.” Just a few months before, she was so entangled in the grips of despair, she wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a lovely evening like this. She still couldn’t articulate what her word was yet, but she knew it had something to do with the way the people in her life were changing her. She said how grateful she was for old friends and new friends, and how lucky she felt to know such wonderful people. It was the truth in that moment, and that was enough. It was one of the many steps on her journey to finding gratitude.

Deciding to Be Free

The topic of Gilbert’s marriage and divorce came up again during her second month at the Ashram. Richard had also been married and spoke of his ex-wife with affection, which made Gilbert jealous. Her relationship with her ex-husband was the antithesis of affection. Then, she learned that Richard’s relationship with his ex wasn’t friendly. In fact, his ex-wife hated him. So how could he be so content? Gilbert didn’t know yet that finding gratitude was the key to letting go and feeling happy and free.

Gilbert felt her ex-husband’s hatred like an anvil around her neck. The guilt and feeling of confinement because of his hatred was constantly broadcast in her soul. She told this much to her friends at the Ashram, which now included a plumber/poet from New Zealand. Ever her sharp mirror, Richard asked how long she was going to let her ex-husband control her happiness. Gilbert didn’t know what to say except she wanted his forgiveness so she could be free to move forward with peace. 

That night, the New Zealand poet took her to the top of one of the buildings. He gave her a note and told her to climb to the highest part of the building. At the top, there would be nothing standing between her and God. He told her not to come down until her feelings were resolved. 

When Gilbert got to the top, she looked at the note. It was a list of 10 recommendations for how to let go and forgive herself and her husband. Gilbert lay on her back and stared up at the stars. She whispered a prayer and asked God to show her what she needed to see. 

What Gilbert had always wanted was closure. If she and her husband could talk, they could come to real truths about their marriage and why it ended. They could both forgive and move on with their lives. But Gilbert knew that conversation was never going to happen in this world. Could she make it happen another way? She asked God to help her talk to her husband.

Gilbert fell into a meditative state and waited for a message. The message she received was to do what she wanted to do to find closure. If she wanted to talk to her husband, she should talk to him. If she wanted forgiveness, she should offer up her own. She could find closure within. At that moment, Gilbert asked her husband to join her on the roof. And he did. 

She watched herself and her husband communicate as two blue souls of energy. Without the attachment to the body or the world, they each understood the other completely. Gilbert didn’t try to interfere but merely observed. Her soul was doing the work, and her physical body was not necessary. The two souls circled each other and parted. Forgiveness was granted, and when she opened her eyes, she was released. 

Finding Gratitude: Lessons From Eat Pray Love

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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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