On a dark and rainy Thursday night I gathered with friends on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for ‘An Evening of Conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert’ sponsored by The Academi of Life. Elizabeth Gilbert is the Author know best for her books Eat, Pray, Love and Committed.
The evening was inspiring, entertaining, and light. Elizabeth (Liz) is an amazing speaker, and the time flew by. Her latest book, Committed, is not just about her marriage to her sweetheart but her commitment to her writing, her continuous effort to write no matter what the result. What stood out for me and made me appreciate the book Committed so much more was how truly and fully dedicated she it to her craft, her writing and how in that one aspect of her life she is enlightened, but in all other respects of Liz’s life she still struggles like the rest of us. Liz is blessed to be so one pointed and focused, and as she called her self ‘not multi-talented’. Her dharma is clearly defined for her and there is no confusion on what she is set to do in her life.
During the Q&A someone asked her what they needed to do in order to get published and I appreciated her answer. She said first of all you need to write something, and make it as good as you possibly can make it, then find publishers/editors and write them extremely nice and warm letters, and then let it go – forget about it completely. This answer and much of the wisdom she imparted on us that night reminded me of my favorite quote from the Bhagavad Gita:
‘You have a right to your actions,
but never to your actions’ fruits.
Act for the action’s sake.
And do not be attached to inaction.
Self-possessed, resolute, act
without any thought of results,
open to success or failure.
This equanimity is yoga.
Action is far inferior
to the yoga of insight, Arjuna.
Pitiful are those who, acting,
are attached to their action’s fruits.
The wise man lets go of all
results, whether good or bad,
and is focused on the action the action alone.
Yoga is skill in actions.’
Bhagavad Gita , Verses 2.47-2.50
Don’t attach to the fruits of your actions – Liz made it clear that is how she worked and works with her writing. The journey is much more important than the end result. Her first few novels took 3-4 years to write and spent only a week on that front table in Barnes and Noble. But that didn’t bother her and it didn’t matter to her. What mattered were the 3-4 years, the journey of her writing, the work of passion that resonates, not the end result.
Of course it is easier said than done, to completely let go of the end result, but why not try it? Look at one aspect of your life, one project, one task and see if you can savor the journey and then completely let go of the fruits of your actions. Rather than obsessing over what will happen once the project is complete, enjoy the journey that you are currently on.
This reminds me of my current knitting project I am working on. I started it back in December 2009, and I am still working on it. It is not a difficult pattern, but early in the process I decided I would enjoy and savor each stitch rather than rush to get it done. The project has been a meditation of two years rather than just another knit item I can stack into my closet and sometimes show off. I of course have my moments when I just want to finish it, but now that I have only 6 inches left to knit I’m really savoring and enjoying the last leg of the trip.
So here is the practice for you to try out:
Commit to a project or task, savor the process, and ultimately you completely and utterly let it go.