Gabrielle Bernstein has been hailed by The New York Times as her generation’s next spiritual guru. At 32, she has transformed herself from party girl to meditation guide, motivational speaker and author.
GB | A spirit junkie is someone who is hooked on feeling connected with a higher sense of meaning; someone who chooses a positive point of view; someone who opens his or her heart and mind to new perspectives even in the somewhat dark corners of life; someone who practices forgiveness and has an attitude of gratitude.
My book is a memoir — the story of how I changed my own life. But it’s also a guidebook. I’m telling the story of how I went from being someone who was looking for happiness in all the wrong places and living a very fast-paced life — a life in which outside solutions were my source of peace — to someone who turned inward to find my happiness through spiritual connection.
EL | When did you decide that you needed to make this kind of change?
GB | I was 25 years old and I’d hit bottom in a painful way. I had been thinking that my happiness was going to come from my shoes or my relationships or my credentials. I was really addicted to outside affirmations of my value. I was also becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, to workaholism and codependency — all those things we turn to to anesthetize our discomfort.
At some point I had no other choice but to say, “There has to be a better way.” So on Oct. 2, 2005, I went to sleep and I said a prayer: “God, Universe, whoever’s out there, show me what you’ve got because there has to be a better way to live.”
When I woke up, I had a really strong intuitive voice come forward and it said, “Get your life together, get clean and you will have everything you desire. You’ll live a life beyond your wildest dreams.” So I’ve been listening to that inner voice ever since.
EL | Your message is heavily influenced by the book A Course in Miracles. What is that text about?
GB | A Course in Miracles is a metaphysical, self-study text that was first published in 1975. It was transcribed by two psychology professors at Columbia University. The book aims to help readers achieve a positive spiritual transformation. One of the book’s main teachings is how to practice forgiveness in daily life. Millions of people have read the book and benefited from working through its principles. The Course’s key messages have also been popularized by a number of teachers, philosophers and writers, most notably Marianne Williamson. I consider her a mentor.
EL | Why do you feel that people — especially young people — need to hear this sort of message?
GB | Every generation has its own pain, its own experiences and its own comforts. This generation has had a lot of obstacles, whether war or recession or environmental issues or cancer. And wherever that kind of darkness exists, there needs to be a significant amount of light to combat it, to even out that experience. So as a new generation of seekers, we have a lot of work to do, to open our hearts and our minds, to shift our perspective and to raise our own energy so we can help bring light to the world around us. This work not only supports an individual’s personal change, but also helps support the energy of the planet.
EL | What is the biggest factor holding people back from becoming their best, happiest selves?
GB | Fear. We choose to hold on to fear-based projections from our past and then we replay them and reactivate them over and over in our lives. Fearful beliefs keep us stuck in those old patterns and behaviors. When we’re faithful to fear, we’re really not living in our highest truth. So the real work of becoming a spirit junkie, the real work of transforming your life, is to look at your fear and get honest about it.
EL | What is the best tool for overcoming fear?
GB | The greatest tool is the willingness to change. You can try everything — every program, every technique — but if you’re not really willing, then it won’t work.
EL | For all the work you’ve done personally, do you still have off days?
GB | I think that every day, even if we’re the most high-level spiritual student, we’re going to face obstacles. I just try to turn obstacles into opportunities to practice the principle of forgiveness. So if someone posts something about me online that isn’t very nice, rather than getting upset, I say to myself, “OK, what do I need to learn here? I know I need to forgive them.” Forgiveness is the practice of reconnecting and recalibrating the loving presences within you. And if you are not comfortable forgiving, then you’ll be given many obstacles to practice through.
EL | You’ve been described as a cross between personal-development guru Tony Robbins and Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. How do you feel about that?
GB | I think that rocks! I am a spiritual girl in a material world, and I embrace all of life’s gifts. What is authentic to me is to enjoy life but always know that my true source of happiness comes from within. I believe that I can love fun shoes and be a spiritual messenger for really powerful transformation. I recognize the purpose of being authentic in both of those ways.
Gabrielle Bernstein: A self-described “spirit junkie,” she’s on a mission to share her sense of inspiration with others. In 2008, she launched her social networking site, HerFuture.com, to help young women connect with a sense of deeper possibility and empowerment. Bernstein’s two published books have been bestsellers: Add More ~ing to Your Life — A Hip Guide to Happiness (Three Rivers Press, 2011) andSpirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles (Harmony Books, 2011). Her third book, The Lovetarian Way (Harmony Books), is due out in January 2013.