Literature Study GuidesEat Pray LoveBook 2 Chapters 40 42 Summary

Eat, Pray, Love | Study Guide

Elizabeth Gilbert

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Eat, Pray, Love | Book 2, Chapters 40–42 | Summary



Book 2, Chapter 40

One day after Gilbert's arrival, the ashram celebrates New Year's Eve. Everyone dresses in their finest and gathers in the courtyard to chant until midnight. Although Gilbert has never much liked chanting, at the ashram she finds it to be "a kind of angelic singing." By 11:30, everyone is dancing and clapping with rhythmic instruments accompanying them. Gilbert feels they are "collectively pulling the year 2004 toward us." She knows no one and has no one to embrace at midnight, but she is not lonely.

Book 2, Chapter 41

Gilbert's ashram work assignment is scrubbing the temple floors. Working with her are mostly Indian teenagers who chat as they work even though talking in the temple is officially forbidden. Gilbert comes to prefer this rather difficult physical labor to the work of daily meditation, which she does not think she is good at doing. She struggles to keep her wandering mind still to do what she is supposed to do during meditation: listen. She explains that it is impossible to be fully present in the moment—the goal of meditation—when your mind is "digging at the past or poking at the future."

Gilbert wonders if the mantra her guru gave her, Om Namah Shivaya ("I honor the divinity that resides within me."), is the problem, since she doesn't feel that it glides her into meditation but instead makes her feel stuck. When she asks her roommate, Corella, for advice about this, however, Corella cannot help. Meditation just seems to be natural for her, which fills Gilbert with envy.

Book 2, Chapter 42

In this chapter Gilbert gives readers a sample of how her mind works during what is supposed to be meditation time. It usually frustrates her so much that she quits trying to meditate and cries. On this morning, however, she stops fighting it, relaxes her posture (slumping against the wall), removes the mantra from her mind, and prays that God will forgive her. For 40 minutes she stays there, as quiet as can be, watching the others meditate and feeling very sad.


Now that Gilbert has assured readers that she fits right into ashram life and that it is nothing too strange, she begins to share what she finds hard about it. She doesn't feel lonely, and she doesn't mind scrubbing the floors. Instead her nemesis is meditation, and because this is supposed to take up hours of the day, it is a real problem. She explains her struggles with humor, probably so she doesn't lose her audience in making things feel uncomfortably religious. Her mind jumps from islands to jet skis to leaf blowers, and her roommate pokes fun at her for asking after ten seconds if meditation is boring yet. When she thinks of water now, it is not a peaceful scene but a chaotic one, which just shows how entirely disoriented Gilbert is during meditation. Gilbert maintains a sense of humor at her situation, though. On the day she slumps against the wall for 40 minutes, defeated, she chuckles as she remembers a line from the 1975 film Jaws: "We're gonna need a bigger boat."

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