Speaker challenges Victorians to cleanse their fear
In 2005, Gabrielle Bernstein reached her turning point. She was running a public relations business out of New York City — hardly a bottom-end gig — but she had bottomed out in her life. For all her “successes” in work and relationships, she was unhappy, unfulfilled and didn’t know what she wasn’t doing right.
“I realized there had to be a better way to perceive things,” Bernstein tells Monday. “And that’s when I really began a very steadfast spiritual practice … that’s when I made a shift.”
Bernstein is now a New York Times bestselling author, world speaker and has been hailed as the new spiritual role model for 30-somethings. She also believes in miracles.
“Miracles are simply these tiny shifts in perception, when we take fear and see it from a loving perspective,” she says. “They’re nothing major, they’re just subtle adjustments, but they change your whole life.”
Bernstein will be bringing her brand of enlightenment to the kickoff of the first-ever Victoria Yoga Conference on Feb. 1, 6pm, at the Victoria Conference Centre. The event was forged this year to feed a growing hunger in the community for greater authenticity and meaning — two things Bernstein has become an expert on in the last eight years of her practice. And through the simple act of “willingness,” Bernstein says anyone can find the same.
“It’s a lot more simple than we make it seem,” Bernstein said recently on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. “Just be willing, and books will literally fall off the shelf in front of you. The second you say ‘I am willing,’ what you need will be given.”
The trick then, Bernstein says, is to pay attention to the assignments — don’t pretend like nothing happened when that book fell off the shelf — and, show up for the assignment.
“Sometimes when we are waking up to spirituality, that’s when it seems like everything is falling apart. And those are the moments we work. Those are not the moments when we drink, or go back to the addiction. Those are the moments we get to work,” she told Oprah. “Everything comes up so it can be healed.”
In her own effort to heal and help others do the same, Bernstein has just released her newest book, May Cause Miracles: a 40-day guidebook of subtle shifts for radical change and unlimited happiness. The book encourages readers to make tiny moves that will confront their fears and investigate the root causes in order to adjust all aspects of life: relationships, body image, finance and more. Bernstein’s spunky voice is targeting her core audience — “young professional women working long hours in cubicles for small compensation, suffering from a lack of life/work balance and searching for something more” — yet the book has hit the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks straight, and is ranked the number-two bestseller at Amazon.ca in the categories of self-help and religion and spirituality.
While Bernstein makes inner peace look almost too easy, she’s quick to disagree.
“I’ll be straight up with you: choosing loving thoughts over fearful delusions was a tough transition at first,” she writes in the preface of her newest book. “It seems easy — who doesn’t want to trade in fear for love? But giving up fear is like giving up sugar: they’re both sneaky ingredients that hide out in almost everything.”
The 33-year-old New York native wasn’t always so sublime. Bernstein struggled with overeating and anxiety through her early years, then morphed into a “party girl” who realized at 25 that “fabulous shoes and the club scene were not enough.” Bernstein devoted herself to any spiritual book she could get her hands on, and gave up her publicist job for one of life coaching and public speaking. Soon after, she penned her first two bestselling books, Spirit Junkie and Add More ~Ing to Your Life. Next, Bernstein says she is aiming to become a Kundalini yoga teacher, since yoga is what she considers to be one of the best forms of self-care.
“I once was not a very happy girl. I was looking for happiness in all the wrong places. I was afraid to wake up in the morning, I was afraid to start another day. Luckily for me, I had an inner voice that continuously said there has to be a better way. Unconsciously, I was asking for a miracle.”
Bernstein’s miracle came, little by little. Her dedication helped her understand and slowly let go of her addictions to romance, drugs, work and food and start replacing them with forgiveness rather than resentment. In her newest 40-day guidebook, she speaks of the importance of restructuring the brain — while 40 days has mythical and biblical significance, science has shown 40 days is also the time it takes the brain to form neural pathways: one of the reasons habits are so challenging to break.
For a real “fear-cleanse,” Bernstein used her own experience to break each of the six weeks into digestible daily assignments of spiritual progress.
“Fear is what holds us back from everything. It keeps us small and weak, and it takes away our power,” she says. “Though fear is not something to get rid of either. We just have to learn how to experience it differently. For a lot of people, fear runs the show. But if we learn how to look at that fear with love and compassion, we take our control back.”
How can people know when they are in need of a fear cleanse? Bernstein says when you come to a point in your life when you realize: “this isn’t working.”
“We get in our own way, and so often it’s our belief systems that hold us back: ‘How dare I ask for that raise,’ or ‘How dare I think I’m as good as that person.’ Sometimes, we’re afraid to be great … But however we got there, these beliefs run so deep that we don’t always know we are thinking them,” she says.
Bernstein is a big promoter of the idea of “unlimited happiness.” While she says many people believe you can’t be happy all the time, she, personally, disagrees.
“Being happy doesn’t mean you don’t have bad experiences — it means you know how to handle those experiences with grace, and you intuitively know how to work through anything,” she says. “Yes, you can have what it is you desire. The key is to change your mindset. When we change how we think about something, things begin to change.” M