There was a time when motivational speaker and author Gabrielle Bernstein was just another New York City 20-something looking for the great boyfriend, the perfect pair of shoes and the hottest clubs in town. When the party was over and Bernstein found herself at rock bottom, it took a "course in miracles" to put her back on track.
Q. Tell me what your growing up was like. You're from New York, right?
A. Yes. I actually grew up outside the city in Westchester, and a big part of my spiritual path that I live today was planted in my early years as an adolescent. I grew up with a Jewish/Buddhist mom, a "Jewbu", and a yogi. I learned to meditate at 16 and was going to ashram with my mother. Then I turned my back on that way of living for several years. Around 17 to 25, I was just looking for happiness and inspiration in all the wrong places: in my relationships, my career, money, shoes and night clubs. As a result, I was blessed with hitting a very big bottom. It was my catalyst for turning inward and becoming a "spirit junkie". I had no other choice but to look back to my spiritual roots for help, because all of the outside sources were not serving me. I started to pick up my meditation practice. I got sober. I became a student of A Course in Miracles and became addicted to meditation and metaphysics.
Q. Did you have any inkling that you’d ever be a motivational speaker?
A. It’s funny. I was always very theatrical. I went to theater school in a conservatory program. So it was very comfortable being on a stage and presenting ideas. I was uncomfortable acting, because I didn’t like being something that I wasn’t, but I knew that there was this need to present. Even when I was adolescent, I was a natural leader and it was very, very thrilling for me to rally people around an inspired idea. When I was in my 20s, I was running a public relations business. I would still have this intuition that I was going to be a motivational speaker, a coach and an author. I had this psychic kick that that was the case. I would be at after hours partying, doing God knows what drugs and drinking and be just a mess, telling strangers I was going to be a motivational speaker. It was this voice inside of me that was like, 'You're going to do this,' but I didn’t know how.
Q. There are so many people wanting to live this quasi-Sex in the City lifestyle. You were there. What wasn’t fulfilling you in that time? What made you want to get out?
A. By the time I was 23 or 24, that world was no longer glossy anymore. I was really, really disenchanted with the nightlife, and it was very clear to me that it was not fulfilling though it took me another year to really hit my knees. But the reality of that not working was present all throughout. I kept searching, like any kind of junkie; you are trying to go after the next fix to find it, but it wasn’t working. Getting the ring on my finger won’t work. The job won’t work. The shoes won’t work. Losing the ten pounds won’t wok. I need to figure out how to be happy.
Q. Your first book was called Add More ~ing to your Life. So how did the whole concept of the ~ing develop?
A. ~ing is the voice of our inner guide. It’s the voice of our intuition and inspiration. Originally it was based on a gerund, but what I learned from reporting on these ~ing activities was that ~ing was a lot more than just a physical experience. It is all about connecting to an inner guide. So ~ing then became another way of saying God, another way of saying Holy Spirit.
Q. You've worked with so many people, helping them connect to their ~ing and I'm sure there are numerous success stories. Can you share one story that really touched you?
A. People forgiving their rapist... that’s one of the most severe that I’ve heard. That is a miracle. Women who have overcome drug addiction and gone sober, which is just tremendous to me and so dear to my heart. As a result of talking openly about my sobriety and teaching these tools, many women have gotten sober. Watching women overcome eating disorders blows my mind. I hear the stories all the time, and it’s just incredibly moving to me. One of the thrilling things to me is seeing the friendships that are built as a result of the work that I do, whether it's women that are meeting on my site, www.herfuture.com, or women who have met through my lectures. As I grew my spiritual depth internally, I started to attract a lot of spiritual running buddies. Inevitably what happened for me was that there was a community. I feel as though I have naturally and effortlessly created a community for women of my generation to have spiritual running buddies that are supporting their internal growth. That is the most moving thing in the world to me.