Meditation and metaphysics may be considered esoteric and Eastern by most, but one blonde, downtown-chic New Yorker is working to change that perception by making spirituality accessible to all. New York Times best-selling author and motivational speaker Gabrielle Bernstein has been hailed as a “postmodern spiritualist,” a “new role model for thirty-something women,” and was even named a “thought leader of the next generation” by Oprah.
But eight years ago, the self-proclaimed “spirit junkie” was living a much darker life, battling an addiction to drugs. After she got sober and healthy, Bernstein decided to use her own story and spiritual knowledge to empower audiences to achieve their highest potential. Her books, workshops, and blog have helped countless people release their fears and embrace a more positive outlook on life. We recently attended a wellness workshop at The Surf Lodge in Montauk, NY, with Bernstein to learn more about her healthy habits for keeping her gorgeous glow inside and out.
SHAPE: What was the turning point that made you change the path you were on?
Gabrielle Bernstein (GB): In my early twenties, I was running a PR firm representing nightclubs. I got caught up in the nightlife scene and became severely addicted to drugs. When I was 25, I woke up one morning and thought, “This isn’t working.” I prayed, got myself clean, and started to meditate, a practice I had been introduced to growing up but had never taken seriously. I became a student of metaphysics, and decided to share my story through speaking events and my first book [Add More ~ing to Your Life]. It became a zeitgeist: Women in their 20s and 30s would tell me, “I feel like I need some direction. I know there’s more but I’m not sure where to find it.” I realized my mission was to demystify these spiritual tools for people who seek answers but who may not want to go sit in a room with a monk and meditate. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just want to make powerful spiritual practices and principles accessible and authentic to people.
SHAPE: How can someone start making the subtle life changes you write about?
GB: A lot of what I teach is about changing the dialogue of what people are saying to themselves. That’s really what gets us into trouble in the first place—those negative thoughts that you tell yourself. In my new book, May Cause Miracles, I map it out: Be the witness of your fear. Be willing to see it differently. Start to shift it. Choose to see a different perspective. Practice forgiveness and gratitude. And just be patient. Allow the shifts to occur naturally. It’s a lot simpler than we make it. A lot of times we put so much pressure on ourselves to be a certain way, but just make those subtle decisions to choose to view something with love or to let go of something that’s holding you back.
SHAPE: How can physical action help you get in touch with your inner voice and release negative thoughts?
GB: Our bodies hold so much tension and resentment and sadness, so if we don’t move it out of the body, we stay stuck in those negative patterns. I’m a huge fan of Kundalini yoga, but it’s not for everyone. IntenSati is amazing because it merges positive affirmations with physical activity. Running is great too. If you’re a runner, you can repeat a mantra (for example, “I forgive you, I release you,” if you’re letting go of a relationship) while you run, then sit down and meditate after. It’s a beautiful opportunity to just listen.
SHAPE: In addition to Kundalini yoga, what other exercise helps you stay in such great shape?
GB: I do a lot of Pilates. I love Pilates. Sometimes I just like going to the gym and working out. And I enjoy vinyasa yoga more now than ever. I also like using the mini trampoline—it’s so fun!
SHAPE: What do you eat to maintain that radiant glow?
GB: I’m gluten-free, dairy-free, and I try to keep a low-sugar diet, although from time to time, I’ll have a bite of cake—you know, I’m human. I don't drink alcohol, and I haven’t drunk coffee since last November. That’s what I don’t eat, but what I do eat is a lot of live foods, mostly plants. I’ll eat some wild fish, but I lean vegan. I could go a month eating vegan, but then I’ll want a grass-fed steak and I’ll have it. I eat grains like quinoa and millet, and I drink a lot of green juice and green smoothies. I’m not a fanatic about my diet. I just believe the more aware you become of your spiritual being the more you want to respect your physical being. It’s a spiritual diet: You love yourself too much to eat crap!
For more about Gabby, follow her on Twitter and check out her video about living without fear.