“Spirituality is learning to tap in to a greater source of grace, peace and love within you,” says Gabrielle Bernstein with a humble yet firm tone that echoes down the phone. “It’s suspending your disbelief and learning to believe in a presence of a higher power.”
It’s this clarity, vision and insight that has become Bernstein’s trademark, and what has informed her multiple New York Times best-selling books, talks and teachings, and what earned her a place in Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul 100. This group of people, as Winfrey describes, are the top thought leaders who are using their voices and talents to elevate humanity and bring about change. But it’s Bernstein’s story of struggle to triumph that has captivated the hearts of her audience, providing an invaluable source of strength and inspiration.
It all started in her childhood, where Bernstein first learnt to meditate with her mother. “I visited ashrams and I had great opportunity to expand my spiritual awareness,” she reflects. But despite being born into spiritual roots, it seems that the universe had other plans for her. By the time she’d entered adolesence, Bernstein turned her back on these practices and struggled through years of depression, self-doubt and self-loathing. This depression manifested in addiction, and despite running her own successful PR firm and thriving as an entrepreneur, Bernstein reflects on feeling lost and troubled. “In my early 20s, I was very misaligned and I was looking for happiness outside of myself,” she says. “This led down a road of drug addiction and alcoholism.”
At the age of 25, Bernstein hit rock bottom, and had no choice but to turn to her spiritual roots for guidance. On October 2, 2005, Bernstein became sober, which brought profound realisations. “[Getting sober] became the resurrection of my spiritual practice and shifting out of old behaviours,” she says.
It was during her early time in recovery that Bernstein came across the metaphysical text, A Course in Miracles, in Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love, which was the beginning of her own journey of shifting perceptions. “I very quickly started reinterpreting those messages for my generation,” she says. “That became a big part of the work that I teach.
“I started to feel so much better that it was clear that I should share what I
was learning.” Through fearlessly and honestly sharing her recovery story, Bernstein was able to inspire others to emerge from the darkness and reclaim their light.
Since that day in early October, 2005, Bernstein has been on a steadfast journey of introspection, cultivating self-respect and self-love. Since her awakening, Bernstein has continued to heal from addiction – having just celebrated her 12th year of sobriety, something that she is profoundly proud of – and sharing her experiences with others. What started as workshops with groups of 40 people expanded to 500, and, soon enough,Bernstein was teaching and coaching people all over the world.
Part of Bernstein’s appeal is her relatability; she’s not situated in an ashram on the other side of the Earth, meditating and sitting in silence all day. She’s a svelte blonde who wears high heels and skinny jeans – not exactly the type of guru personified in yogic literature. But she’s able to demystify core teachings found in ancient spiritual texts and make them accessible to women who are living and working in the modern world.
AWAKENING THE KUNDALINI
Five years ago, Bernstein found her way into a Kundalini yoga studio, where she was invited to practise yoga and attend a dinner. “I didn’t like yoga, but
I liked dinner, so I went along,” she says [laughs]. “I was so blown away because I found my yoga. Within a month, I signed up for the teacher training and started teaching right away. It became a really big part of what I share.
“Kundalini is the yoga of awareness and it is the yoga that is designed to help people radiate and become more of a magnetic force,” she says. “It helps dissolve all boundaries. But it’s not for everyone; with Kundalini, it’s either a ‘hell yes’ or a ‘hell no’.”
As a part of Kundalini – which is a Sanskrit term that represents the energy that rests as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine – is understanding what we radiate out. “In Kundalini, you wear white to reflect the light,” she says. “If you wear something dark, you soak up that darkness.” From our clothes to our thoughts and actions, Bernstein says that everything has a vibration that we send out to the universe.
“We’re either elevating or polluting the world,” she says. “Your vibes speak louder than your words. We need to become conscious and aware of the thoughts that we’re using and the energy we’re exuding. Being conscious of our own spiritual path will help us stay aware.”
As a part of emitting positive vibrations, Bernstein uses the power of prayer and meditation. “I pray every day,” she says. “I practise Transcendental Meditation and Kundalini meditation. Right now, I’m re-doing the 365 meditations from A Course in Miracles. I can be sure my day will be well taken
care of when I do that.”
SPREADING THE LIGHT
When I ask Bernstein about the inspiration behind the many books she has penned – including Add More ~Ing to Your Life, Spirit Junkie, May Cause Miracles, Miracles Now, and The Universe Has Your Back – she says that she receives the messages from a higher source. “I am told what to write psychically,” she says. “It’s funny because when I read over my past work, I can’t remember how it comes through. They’re bursts of ideas that become a lecture or a talk, with the intention of a book.”
To date, her most successful book has been The Universe Has Your Back. In it, Bernstein teaches us how to transform our fear to faith in order to
live a divinely guided life. She says that fear is our mind’s immediate response to uncertainty, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the key is not getting stuck in a fear-based thought pattern. When we step out of fear, she writes, we can be guided by our true purpose and spread love.
Bernstein attributes the success of the book to the vulnerability that shone through her. “I really allowed spirit to write through me in a bigger way than I had before,” she says. “This book has touched people in a very deep way. I get messages from people all around the world. I was in Sweden recently and a woman was holding the book in her hands and came up to me to thank me. I didn’t know it would be such a hit.”
RELEASING OUR JUDGEMENT
Bernstein says the inspiration for her new book, Judgement Detox, came to her in 2015. After giving a talk on it in 2016, she recognised the need for this message to be heard, so this year she put pen to paper. “I knew that we needed to address this pervasive issue [of judgement] and that it was becoming more and more relevant,” she says. “[Around the world] we’re seeing systematic racism and acts of terrorism – particularly in my country [the US], where things are more heightened. I wrote this book because I wanted to help people heal the terror in their minds. If we don’t take care of our own inner hatred, then how can we expect hatred to end?”
The result of judgement of the self and others is blocking our connection with God, says Bernstein. “When we heal our judgement, we restore our relationship with God, as we feel that greater sense of oneness and we return to who we are.” When I ask her, “Who are we really?” Bernstein tells me that all humans are the ever-present energy of love. “We are all kind, compassionate, loving, all-knowing, powerful [beings],” she says.
When we practise non-judgement and meditate on these teachings, Bernstein says we’re able to remember where we came from, and the nature of all human beings. “It’s easier than we think,” she believes. “We just need to be in daily devotion so that the remembrance becomes the norm.”
If you’re questioning your ability, then don’t, as Bernstein believes that a judgement detox is available to everyone and anyone – as long as they’re willing to do the work. She says that an increasing number of people are waking up to their ingrained mindset and attitudes and are looking for change.
“If you’re asking yourself, ‘Is this it?’ and wondering if there’s a better way, then there’s a level of willingness that’s showing up for you. If you’re unhappy, then that’s the calling that something can change.”
PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION
With her work in the field of addiction and recovery, Bernstein has learnt some profound lessons to which she attributes her healing. While she acknowledges the power of being in the present moment, she says it’s important to look at our pain and traumas in order to progress.
“For most of my life, I didn’t understand my addiction, but two years ago, I remembered I had a recollection of childhood traumatic events that I had disassociated from,” she says. “At the root cause of most addiction – actually, all addiction – is unhealed trauma.”
Bernstein attributes her healing to a lot of therapy work, which helped her recover and raise her vibration. “I think you have to heal a vibration before you can move to a new one,” she says. And while she’s come a long way, Bernstein recognises that the road ahead is still long and she’s learning every day. “I’ve cut through the wall, but I’ve got more to go. I’ve only truly been living for the last year; before that, I was running. I’ve been on a serious personal growth path and I’ve been a professional therapy-goer. I do cognitive behavioural therapy, emotional freedom techniques and much more. I think it’s really important for a lot of people to hear that.
“Change can happen immediately, but change becomes sustainable when we grow, year after year, and when we become braver. I deepen my practice every day – consistency is the key.”