On Monday, my best friend Janine and I attended a talk/book signing by Gabrielle Bernstein, a New York Times best-selling author, life coach, yogi and self-proclaimed Spirit Junkie. Yes, she’s slightly Tony Robbins-esque and dips her toes in the pseudo-profound at times, but I resonate with her general message of leading by example, going after what you want, understanding your values, and being compassionate, forgiving and empathetic.
I picked up a copy of her book after reading and reviewing the book BODYPeace as part of a FitFluential campaign. Heather Waxman, one of the authors of the book, referenced Gabrielle (aka Gabby) a few times and I could tell much of the structure of the book was inspired by her work. I was going through a rough time earlier this year, and felt like I needed something. Something to help guide me through the situation I was in, something to help me better understand myself. I was doing online clinical therapy through a work program but it wasn’t giving me the help I needed, so I picked up a copy Gabby’s book May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness. I worked through the 40 days, mediating for short periods in the morning and evening and using her positive affirmations throughout the day. It truly did help keep my anxiety in check and my mood lifted, even when things got worse later on in the year.
Though I lean more towards science and logic than woo and magical thinking, sometimes you do need to nurture your spiritual side when logic seems to makes things worse and medication might be the only other option. Besides, there is science to back up the power of positive affirmations, meditation, self-compassion and empathy, so it’s not completely out of left field.
When I saw that Gabby was coming to town, I gave my copy of May Cause Miracles to Janine and asked her if she wanted to go. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (were we going to walk on hot coals and chant?), but was pleasantly surprised by her presence and talent. She’s an excellent speaker, and was much more down-to-earth than expected. There were some guided meditations and chanting (which I LOVED), and a Q&A from the audience after her hour-long talk that focused on how to get out of your own way to find happiness. I took some notes so I could share her tips with you.
Gabrielle Bernstein’s 7 steps to happiness
- How am I resisting happiness? Gabby asked us to think about the ways in which we self-sabotage our happiness, especially when things are going well. We think, “Things are finally going my way, so I guess the other shoe is about to drop soon…”, and by doing this we inadvertently create unhappiness. We pick a fight with our partner, take on too much at work, or fail to go after the thing we want because we’re afraid of failure. When you can identify the ways in which you get in your own way, move on to step two.
- Understand that happiness is your choice. Once you’ve identified how you’re resisting happiness, Gabby asked us to witness it. Or “step away from the cray”, as she put it. Step away from your resistance (your ego) so you can notice it without judgement (this is actually something my therapist asked me to do at one point, so I know it’s effective!). And once you’ve noticed it, forgive yourself. Say to yourself, “I choose to see peace instead of this.”
- Understand that we’re not separate from others. Although doing inner work and focusing on yourself is important, so is focusing on others and understanding that we’re all spiritual beings with the same desires, needs and emotions, just having a human experience on this planet. As Gabby puts it, “The light I see in you is the reflection of light in me.”
- Practice forgiveness. Forgive yourself for your crazy thoughts and behaviours, and forgive others for their crazy thoughts and behaviours. Forgiveness is the only way to move forward and let love in. I’ve found this incredible helpful in daily life, especially when it comes to frustrations with other people at work. You never know what someone else is going through, and more often than not you can diffuse a situation and get the response you want just by being kind and forgiving instead of responding back with tension or anger.
- Realize that compassion is our purpose. Imagine how peaceful our world would be if everyone practiced empathy and compassion. Along the same lines as forgiveness, being compassionate in the face of adversity, fear or anger towards others often leads to the outcome you’re looking for. Sometimes people just want to be heard.
- Understand that “In my defenselessness my safety lies”. A Course In Miracles, a spiritual text that Gabby’s work is based on, is similar to the meaning of steps four and five – that we should face darkness, anger and fear with light, compassion and love. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Instead of jumping on the defense when someone says something backhanded or hurtful, resist responding in a similar manner. Stay calm and grounded in your being for true happiness.
- Be the light. I often repeat this to myself when I need an extra boost of confidence. Trust in your presence and be the example of positivity you want to see in the world, even if you don’t feel it 100 per cent all the time. It’s amazing how effective this mantra and mindset can be on your mood and to those around you.
Have you read any of Gabrielle Bernstein’s books? If so, which ones? What did you take from them? Have you tried any of the above tips before?
Thanks Amanda for the link-up!