Times Colonist

Reborn on a meditation pillow

Gabrielle Bernstein is at the forefront of what she calls a divine shift in the industry of the spirit

- DENISE RYAN

Gabrielle Bernstein wants to talk about your soul. Maybe even to save it. She wears five-inch heels, an electric-blue, strapless silk dress and one priceless accessory: a glow so radiant it is almost incandesce­nt.

On a rainy Vancouver night, several hundred young women — and one man — have turned up to hear the New York Times bestsellin­g author of Spirit Junkie speak about her journey from hot mess to cool guru.

A glitz-addicted, coke-snorting Manhattan club promoter in thousand-dollar shoes whose holy grail was access to the VIP room, Bernstein was physically, emotionall­y and spirituall­y gutted by the time she hit 25.

She quit partying, and was reborn on a meditation pillow.

“Now I’m the happiest person I know,” she announces to the sold-out audience. Then she flashes a wicked grin. “I kept the shoes.”

The audience cheers. Two things are clear: Bernstein is no ordinary spiritual teacher, and this is no ordinary Vancouver crowd.

There are more boots, bangles, blow-dries and important-looking belts in the auditorium than make it to most fashion shows, and the buzz in the room is more cocktail party than dharma talk.

Bernstein is rebranding spirituali­ty, making it sexy and sellable to a younger generation of women. And they’re buying.

The new spirit junkies are as comfortabl­e exchanging insights on forgivenes­s, prayer and divine alignment as they are talking marketing.

They might anoint themselves with essential oils and talk unabashedl­y about “internal shifts” but they don’t look like your hornytoed Birkenstoc­k-wearing, crystaltot­ing aunties.

“My audience is trendsetti­ng former cynics in hot shoes,” Bernstein says.

Call it a divine shift in the industry of the spirit. Suddenly, it’s cool to be conscious.

Bernstein’s event was produced by a Vancouver duo, the Conscious Divas.

Julia King and Kate Muker are local entreprene­urs whose chick- focused, web-based networking group taps into the new wave, conscious-cool living.

Their Diva Date Nights are popular monthly events where business suits — and demeanours — are cast aside for soulful self-exploratio­n and a hefty dose of sisterly bonding. “We wanted to change the paradigm of what a group of spiritual woman would look like,” King said.

They also wanted to create a business that worked. They intend to grow their consciousd­ivas.com site, connecting women around the globe.

The Divas are part of a larger trend: websites like L.a.-based Tribal-truth.com and Bernstein’s Herfuture.com use social media to connect like-minded women who want to marry spiritual seeking with real-world achievemen­t.

The ultimate goal is inner peace, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of less virtuous desires: You can get to the mountainto­p in that fabulous pair of heels, and when you get there, you just might get handed a million-dollar contract instead of a set of commandmen­ts carved in stone.

“You can be your authentic self, be beautiful, dynamic, out there, in style and be really connected,” says Bernstein in an interview the morning before her Vancouver event.

Although the sky is grey and clotted with clouds and rain blisters the windows, Bernstein wears pink chandelier earrings, bare legs and a Helmet Lang bandeau minidress. She peppers her sentences with

swear words. It’s beyond refreshing.

“Being a spiritual person is being an authentic person,” she says. “This is who I am. Many spiritual teachers don’t know how to carry the message ... I’m unapologet­ic about my marketing skills because I have a really important message to carry.”

Named one of Forbes’s top-20 bestbrande­d women, Bernstein blends a quirky personalit­y (her first book, Add more - ing to Your Life: A Hip

Guide to Happiness, features a barefoot Bernstein wearing angel wings, standing on a skateboard) with a thoughtful prescripti­on for a life where spiritual practice is the cornerston­e for happiness and success.

Bernstein is a student of Marianne Williamson, author of A Return

To Love, and a student of A Course in Miracles, a text that uses traditiona­l Christian terminolog­y.

Bernstein understand­s that the gword (God) puts some people off, in the same way the idea of the barefoot, bearded guru that looks like he’s been rolled in tofu is off-putting to others.

Bernstein is giving spirituali­ty a makeover, and a new lexicon.

Forgivenes­s is rebranded as the “f-word,” and inner guidance is your “- ing.”

Amiracle, she explains, is just a shift in perception. You may not be able to control your circumstan­ces, but a change in perception can transform the way you “experience your experience­s.”

What Bernstein is teaching has little to do with the wishful thinking style of pop self-help like The Secret.

She’s the first to concede that changing your mindset, and your life, is damned hard.

“I work my ass off,” Bernstein says.

She doesn’t just mean marketing, writing books, public speaking, coaching in person and online, vlogging on Gabbytv.com and running herfuture.com.

When she says: “I work it like a full-time job,” she also means applying the principles that keep her sane, and happy: praying — (“God, show me what you got” is one of the ways she checks in), stilling her mind with daily meditation (“taking a fiver” means “stop, drop and meditate”), taking responsibi­lity for her own thoughts and actions through exercises, affirmatio­ns and more prayer.

“It’s really when we change the internal condition that the outside experience follows, too,” Bernstein says.

Conscious Divas co-founder Julia King agrees: “For me, being spiritual is all about being in flow,” she says.

A corporate accountant in her “former life,” King’s “journey” began some 15 years ago when she was struggling with infertilit­y. Traditiona­l medicine had failed to resolve the problem, so her doctor referred her to a naturopath. The move would change her life in more ways than one: two children later, she became a student of Reiki energy healing and a life coach.

Connecting with something larger may be the yearning of a spiritual seeker, but the look has changed. Or, as Gabby Bernstein puts it, “the container is different.”

For the record, Bernstein isn’t really all about the Laboutins, but “it’s a fun part of the gig,” she says.

“It’s a very fun time to be a teacher. People are open ... and they are eating this stuff up. They are changemake­rs, and their voices are heard throughout the blogospher­e, the twittersph­ere, they are awakened to this entreprene­urial spirit, if you can awaken this person, and she has a voice, and is ready to teach and to carry the message then you can awaken the world.”

If she — and the rest of the spirit junkies — have their way, we’ll all soon be conscious: we’ll “choose love” more often than fear, we’ll make positive changes and reach others through our successful arts and business ventures and, of course, we’ll still have the shoes.

Now that’s a reason to meditate.

 ??  ?? Gabrielle Bernstein, author of the book Spirit Junkie, says she was physically, emotionall­y and spirituall­y gutted at 25. Her life changed when she started meditating.
Gabrielle Bernstein, author of the book Spirit Junkie, says she was physically, emotionall­y and spirituall­y gutted at 25. Her life changed when she started meditating.
 ??  ?? Hundreds of people turned up in Vancouver to hear New York Times best selling auther Gabrielle Bernstein talk about her journey from coke-snorting club promoter to the “happiest person in the world.”
Hundreds of people turned up in Vancouver to hear New York Times best selling auther Gabrielle Bernstein talk about her journey from coke-snorting club promoter to the “happiest person in the world.”

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