Unquestionably one of her generation’s most beloved voices, Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the runaway bestseller Eat Pray Love, which has sold more than thirteen million copies worldwide. Her latest, City of Girls, a glittering coming-of-age epic stitched across the fabric of New York City in the 1940s. In Gilbert’s bestselling nonfiction treatise on creativity, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she explores the mysteries of how to lead a bold and inspired life. Gilbert’s novel The Signature of All Things is a sweeping story of botany, exploration and desire that spans much of the nineteenth century.
The city of Denver will be lucky enough to host Gilbert at the Paramount Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. CO YOGA + Life reached out to Gilbert for some of her insight on wellness and mindfulness in our modern era.
Liz, what are some ways you create personal wellness?
The primary way that I create personal wellness is through cultivating a friendly relationship with my own mind. For so much of my youth, I suffered from depression and anxiety because I just didn’t know how to broker peace between myself and the various dark voices in my head, telling me what a failure or loser I was. But I can honestly say that for the last twenty years, I’ve been on a steady mission to bring peace to this tired mind, and to encourage harmony and kindness between all its arguing voices. I do this through radical love and self-compassion, through the process of writing myself letters every day from unconditional love. These letters — extending mercy and sympathy to every part of myself, every single day — constitute the foundation of my spiritual practice. Without that unconditional love, I would be a real mess.
Tell us about your yoga practice and how you integrate it into your life.
My yoga practices shifts and changes over the years, just like I do. There was a period when I used to go to classes every day, and I’m especially grateful for the serious Iyengar training that I received long ago, which gave me a deep, foundational understanding of the workings of the body. But I’m less interested in maintaining that level of discipline anymore. I find that these days, I’m more likely to practice at home, by myself, and in a way that is not so rigid. I’ve given up at “winning” at yoga, if that makes sense. There are certain positions that I’m simply never going to be able to do, and that’s fine. I’m over 50 years old now, and I just want to live in peace with myself, and I definitely don’t want to hurt myself. So I just like to stretch and relax, and be kind to myself. If I’m feeling restless in the middle of my yoga practice, I’m liable to suddenly put on some music and start dancing, and just blow off the asanas … for me, at this point in my life, it’s about being responsive to what my body really needs in that moment — and sometimes, it needs to dance around the living room to Cardi B more than it needs to nail a perfect Tree Pose.
In what ways do you create mindfulness every day?
Drawing in my journal has become an important daily practice for me. I find that when I am drawing, it steadies my breathing, and puts me into the present moment. I don’t identify as a visual artist, but that’s probably why it’s so relaxing — because I don’t have any ego in the game, and I’m not trying to make the world’s most beautiful illustrations. I just find it incredibly soothing to noodle about and doodle about in my journal, and to scatter words throughout the drawings, as well. For many of us, creativity is medicine, but if (like me) you make your living based on your creativity, then that medicine can become burdened by the expectations of the marketplace. So I think it’s important to find other ways of expressing creativity that have nothing to do with your career, or your vocation. For me, that’s drawing. I feel no pressure to be good at it, and the world never needs to see it; it just makes me feel soothed to play with shapes, colors and sketches.
What are you looking forward to in this visit to Denver, and what is coming up next for you?
For me, after all these years on the road, the best thing about traveling is the chance to catch up with old friends. I’ve got dear old friends in Denver, and I’ll be wanting to go out to dinner with them, see pictures of their children and hear tales of their lives. I always say that, for me, “home” is not so much a physical location, as it is a person — somebody who makes me feel like I can land in myself fully, and feel completely relaxed. I’m happy to say, then, that I have a few good “homes” in Denver — and I can’t wait to see them! As for what is coming up next for me, I’m not exactly sure. I’ve got some book ideas starting to brew, but they will take time to make themselves known. This is a resting season, I think, more than anything else.
Tickets to see Elizabeth Gilbert at the Paramount Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 are on sale at.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2021-22 issue.