I’m currently writing this on a crisp, cold October morning and I have been looking online at the current craze for ‘Hygge’. It is the Danish art of being at one with yourself and living in a comforting, cosy state. Think nights in with candles, blankets and being very ‘present’ in your state of happiness. It is said that more and more Brits are after this state of living – maybe in retaliation to the ever presence of the internet and fast paced lives – we are trying to learn to slow down, live in the moment and to do more of what makes us happy. Giving ourselves daily hugs in the form of maybe an extra long winter walk, coming home to that roast beef you fancy and a big glass of wine because why not? I’m so glad this is becoming a thing because I must say, it is something I am good at. I think it is this internal contentment which keeps me very grounded and no matter what happens to me in my life, I’m always ok. So this is something I am keen on everyone learning and its fab, but while you are all doing it through hygge, I found it another way. Cue Eat,Pray,Love…
Elizabeth Gilbert changed my life and has continued to do so little by little every time I sit down to watch the amazing film that is Eat,Pray,Love. Elizabeth is the lead role in her own creation (played on screen wonderfully by Julia Roberts) and as with most great films Eat,Pray,Love started as a book. Unlikely for me, I actually watched the screenplay before I read the book and even more unlike me – I prefer the film! It is all about how Elizabeth was unsatisfied with her cookie cutter life in America and how she needed to go off and (for want of a less cliched term) ‘find herself’ through food, religion and sometimes men – all whilst travelling Italy, India and Bali. This film has everything that I could possibly want and will always be my number one choice; It has the most gratuitous scenes of beautiful parts of the world I have always wanted to go but still haven’t managed to get to unfortunately, alongside amazing food, religion, spirituality and culture.
It is whilst Elizabeth is in Italy she first hears the term, ‘il dolce far niente’ which means in English, ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’. Isn’t that an amazing phrase? A lovely Italian man explains to Elizabeth that in his country, unlike England or America, they don’t need to be told to relax and enjoy life because they savour every day naturally. They enjoy their food, their culture and their partners on a daily basis without having to be constantly reminded how lucky they are. They don’t work themselves to the bone just to come home to a ready meal and sit in front of the television all night but instead they dine in groups and relish their loved ones. They don’t worry about things like we probably all do too much. This really resonates with me and ever since hearing this for the first time I have made an effort to realise that at the end of the day, work is just work and that family and friends are the most important thing in the world and that time is not endless, it is precious. I guess this realisation is what the cool kids are all now calling ‘Hygge’.
My favourite passage from both the book and the film is from the Italian leg of her journey and is below; it has given me strength time and time again throughout the many years I have loved Eat,Pray,Love and it will continue to do so.
“A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Auguste-um. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it a long with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins. It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”
Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever read?
Before ever seeing Eat,Pray,Love I once had a session with a psychic who, amongst other things, told me to look into Buddhism. This really struck a cord with me as I had always considered myself spiritual and intrigued by that sort of thing, so when Elizabeth went to an Ashram in India to study and then onto Bali to meet an ancient medicine man, I could feel myself gravitating to her and her story like nothing else I had seen. For the record, I have yet to properly study Buddhism but I fully intend too (the psychic was on the button with everything else she said to me so why would this be any different? Big believer in anything like that). There is nothing more I want than to retrace Elizabeth’s steps and travel Italy to eat, drink and learn the art of real pleasure, travel to India to study religion, meditation and to find peace with myself and finally to travel to Bali, to learn how to balance all of that with my real world life and find long standing harmony. Now all I need to find is someone willing to fund it and all is right with the world, any takers?!
So the Danish can keep their hygge as far as I am concerned – I’m all about good food, spirituality and the odd encounter with an Indian elephant to keep my soul alive.