I had the absolute pleasure of spending last Saturday with a gathering of beautiful, inspired souls. Gabrielle Bernstein, a real-talking, life-living, miracle-making, self-proclaimed Spirit Junkie visited Bodhi Spiritual Center to discuss her latest book, Miracles Now.
I admit. I was a little skeptical when Gabby first came in to my life. She seemed a little too new-agey. A bit too self-helpy. More cosmic than I was ready for, more hippie than I could relate too. I mean, I believed in miracles. And I believed that they happen for people, every day.
But probably not for me. Good things happened to me, of course, and I have more blessings than I could possibly count. But could I really think of them as miracles? Weren’t they just the product of persistence and hard work and setting goals and following through and dumb luck?
Maybe. But the idea that hard soul work could cause miracles was intriguing. And so I started to investigate. I started to read and explore and question. It’s not easy stuff. Surprisingly, it’s even harder than any college course or career path or relationship work I’ve ever done.
It needed to happen, and it probably needed to happen before I was ready. But starting that work is the best thing I’ve ever done, and continue to do. And so when the opportunity to hear from Gabby, real and raw and uncensored, I was there.
On that sunny Saturday, on what felt like the first real day of summer (as evidenced by Gabby’s observation that “everyone in Chicago is naked!”) me and 200 other spirit junkies gathered for a miracle.
One of Gabby’s first mantras? Start and the pressure will be off.
I need this reminder every day, especially now that I create my own schedule and my own workflow. By nature, I’m an organized person. I like order and a routine. You’d think that working for myself would be a dream. And it is. But something about the need for control is also unsettling to me. Deep down, I know that having that firm a grasp on everything around me is unsustainable. And also? It really, really, sucks the joy out of life.
While I seek balance in the need for control and the desire to let life ebb and flow, I sometimes find myself paralyzed by the pressure. And it’s those moments when I remind myself I just need to start. Whether it’s writing a piece, getting myself to a Pilates class, or tackling the guest room/office/holding cell for miscellaneous junk that desperately needs to be purged (next Tuesday, I’m looking at you), I know that once I start the pressure will be off. “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” don’t you know.
Gabby encourages us to put a spiritual act in place of the addiction. Fear, she says, is the driver of addictive behavior. And it’s true. Sometimes, when anxiety and fear is so elevated that I feel paralyzed, the thing that breaks me out is food. My relationship with food has been complicated for a long time – I love and appreciate and celebrate it and enjoy it so much that I’ve used it both to punish and reward myself. At the same time, in fact. But deep down, I believe food is healing. I believe that, when eaten mindfully with equally nourishing sides of love and self-respect and joy, the food we eat plays a major part in elevating us to our best selves.
One of the exercises we practiced with Gabby was putting a spiritual experience in place of the addictive behavior. To do it?
Simply place your hand on the cover of Miracles Now and say (out loud, because yes) “I need a miracle.”
Open to any page.
On that beautiful afternoon, in that blessed space, I opened to page 154.
#65 – Meditate to Prevent Freaking Out.
And in that moment, I was more resolved than ever that meditation will be part of my evolution. It’s something I’ve struggled to make part of my daily (heck, monthly) routine because…well, it’s hard. It’s hard for me to commit 20 or even 10 minutes to just…sitting. An hour of yoga, a couple of hours of reading a good, soothing, motivating book, journaling until I’m drained of words…easy. But committing to sitting with my thoughts? That’s a challenge. And it’s a little scary.
It’s a scary challenge that keeps floating back into my heart, though. The fact that it keeps reappearing is not lost on me. And so I continued to read.
“Are you the type of person who needs to break down before you break through?” Gabby asks in the book. “Though I had many tools for managing my thoughts, I didn’t have great guidance on how to bust through the really tough times and save myself from a freak-out. One of the best ways to prevent a freak-out is to change your energy through your breath.”
The Miracle Message? In the midst of a meltdown, breathe through the discomfort and you’ll come out on the other side.
And so, the miracle of breath – of my breath – becomes part of my story.