If you find yourself oscillating between life's Yin and Yang, ebb and flow, or what today's thought leader and Oprah Super Soul Sunday guest, Gabrielle Bernstein refers to as 'ego and your authentic self,' you're not alone. In a world where we are fortunate to have instantaneous information access at our fingertips, we're also more inundated than ever. To compound our surreal pace, even in a strained economy we're consuming more than ever and looking toward external variables to fulfill us. At some juncture, if and when we're ready for it, we may hit a spiritual 'rock bottom.'
When Gabrielle was twenty-five years of age she could feel all aspects of herself suffering: mental, physical, spiritual and emotional. Like many people, she was facing outward for fulfillment and satisfaction; the spiritual seeds she possessed as a child were buried so deep that they weren't exposed to the sunlight and water they needed, and Gabby was eager to fuel them again.
"I was searching outward for everything and it was taking over my mental, physical and emotional health. When I could feel that things weren't working and I needed to focus inward for my source of happiness, it was a great catalyst for change. I wanted to pick up the spiritual roots I had as a child," she told me.
Many of us can relate to the experience of an endless, shifting line of epiphanies during our twenties but as time progresses it can be easy to steer off track and out of alignment with our authentic selves and purpose. Pile on the increased demands of parenthood and day-to-day concerns, and soon we're standing on our tiptoes and reaching as high as we're able, to grab on to the metaphorical balloon that we view as ourselves, as it floats away when we're not looking. During our conversation I couldn't help but hear the echoing dialogues I've had with other women and mothers like myself, who are on the perpetual wheel of craving time for introspection while we simultaneously dive head first into our coveted time with family.
As Gabrielle described the ego to me, the ways in which it distorts reality and its conniving attempts to derail our truth, the quintessential caricatures of a devil on one shoulder and angel on the other came to mind. I asked how we can incorporate daily life practices so that we can expect less visits from the ego while continuing to cultivate and expose our core nature as we transition into the realm of motherhood.
"Ego is fear-based and we have to surrender and unlearn the fear that has become our reality; there needs to be a wholehearted desire to change. I'm not a mother so I don't feel that I can entirely and with whole truth explain how to retain that core self, although I feel that motherhood is the best blessing on the planet and I hope to experience it in the next year or two. With that said, mothers can actually speed up aspects of their lives by slowing down, creating a little time each day to be healthy, still, and carve out a little time for meditation and prayer. I also highly recommend Kundalini yoga; it has been one of the most transformative aspects of my life."
After reading Gabby's latest book, "May Cause Miracles" I learned of her relationship with food when she was a child. Not unlike millions of people, her strained association with food stemmed from a place of feeling a lack of something in her life. She used food as one of the elements by which to put a band-aid on her childhood patterns. Without being conscious of it, for many of us food is a crutch, a palliative treatment for a deeper rooted ailment, and a comforting blanket during a challenging time. And it's not uncommon to view food as the gatekeeper to wearing the pair of pants that haven't fit us in years; we invite it to become friends with us, or quickly deem it our enemy. Which is why, when I probed Gabby into her current relationship with food I was pleasantly surprised and enthusiastic as I listened to her response.
"I'm actually going through a cleanse right now. I've recently undergone a changed view about food and the way I look at it. I want vitality, health, and to shine. My desire now is to work with food so that it allows me to shine as brightly as possible. I'm not attaching food to vanity. It has nothing to do with how I look. It's about the messages I want to spread, and feeling healthy and vital from the inside is so important to enable me to do that. This process has inspired a course that I developed called 'Finally Full."
Speaking of food, we're on the heels of two holidays when people tend to fixate on their caloric intake: Thanksgiving and Christmas. But in addition to that aspect of the holidays, stress seems to overcome us in more ways than one. Purchasing gifts, family dynamics, finances, and the over-commercialization of the holidays can throw us into a tail spin before we've taken our first bite of Thanksgiving stuffing. This year one of our goals as a family is to shift a bit more to the basics and put the holidays into perspective by toning down the extraneous 'bells and whistles' and highlighting the intrinsic qualities.
"An attitude of gratitude really helps to center people and bring things into focus. I try to encourage people to cherish themselves and to treat one another kindly by releasing old negativity from their relationships."
In "May Cause Miracles" Gabby also encourages us to practice the powerful 'F' word (forgiveness), to let go of fear, guilt and pain, while choosing happiness over the ego's need to be right. She explains, "forgiveness is something we allow, and is the key to our happy relief."
Before we concluded our discussion, I had to ask the person dubbed by Huffington Post as the 'Dalai Lama of the Gossip Girl' what 'God' meant to her:
"God is ever-present; a force of energy in and around us and IS us. We're all connected to God and we forget that. What's essential is that we continually remain aware of that connectedness."
We all experience pockets of time in life when we gracefully and slowly sail toward a spiritual 'rock bottom,' or spiral toward it clumsily at lightning speed. But the rate of the fall isn't nearly as important as the evidence that we're awakened by the process. Because sensing that process, a shift in our core alignment and purpose, and grabbing a hold of it along the way shows us that we want to illuminate our true selves and share it with the world. It demonstrates that we may be off of the course on which we thought we belonged but we're open to the new one that's being paved. And even when the balloon appears to have flown so far off into the distance we can hardly see it, we'll navigate the toughest roads and scale the highest mountains until we grasp it again.