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6 ways to break through a challenge

Bogged down by stress, Sarah Dawson discovered how to overcome challenges at a workshop with author and motivational speaker Gabby Bernstein who Oprah called ‘a thought-leader for the younger generation’ – we’re in then, obviously

Inside London’s Royal Institution of Great Britain on a Saturday morning in December there’s a palpable and escalating excitement as the clock hands nudge 10am and 400 twenty-to-thirty-something-aged women gossip about the impending arrival of their guru. I turn to the glamorous blonde beside me and ask whether she’s seen Gabby before, ‘Oh yes, I’ve been following Gabby since 2005’, she enthuses.

Suddenly, to loud applause and Katy Perry’s track; Unconditionally, Gabby Bernstein, in heels and skinny white jeans, confidently strides in and takes her place on the podium. She warmly welcomes us and starts by relaying that yesterday she completely lost her voice and experienced the very thing that we were here today to transform – blocks. I quickly learn that when she uses the word ‘block’ she means a challenge or obstacle – and let’s face it – who isn’t experiencing those today?

Gabby (left) and I at her event.
Gabby (left) and I at her workshop.

She continues: ‘I wasn’t breathing properly, I was panicking about whether I’d be able to hold the workshop, and wanting to control the situation by doing something about it, but I got ‘unblocked’ by practising what I preach. I waited for the voice of Spirit to guide me, and the messages I heard were to cancel all appointments and go back to bed’.

Crackly, and husky at times, her voice was certainly back, and I feel a rush of empathy and liking for this woman. Isn’t it reassuring that a New York Times bestselling motivational author/speaker also sometimes experiences blocks? I can’t wait to hear more about her techniques to overcome stress and challenges.

Spirit Junkie

For those who haven’t come across this sassy thirty-something lady from New York, Gabby Bernstein is author of three highly successful books; Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Discovering Self-Love and Miracles and her best seller; May Cause Miracles: A 6-Week Kick-Start to Unlimited Happiness.

Growing up in New York with her spiritual mother, she regularly frequented ashrams like the Shree Muktananda Centre set in a forest on the outskirts of the city, and hob-nobbed with the spiritual jet set. But by the time she was 18 she had had enough. She knew she needed to find her own way, so turning her back on her spirituality she veered off in an entirely hedonistic direction.

At 21 Gabby set up a PR business representing nightclubs and embraced a pleasure-seeking lifestyle of drink, drugs and partying. But at 25, addicted to cocaine, booze and destructive relationships – she hit rock bottom: ;One lonely night, in sheer and utter desperation, I got down on my knees and prayed. I heard a voice say: ‘Wake up, get clean and you will live your life in a completely different way’’.

It’s hard to believe this stunning blonde whose presence lights up the room has slain such evil demons, but she proudly announces she’s been sober since October 2005 – and intends to stay that way.

Whether it was the voice of an angel, a spirit Guide or God directly, Gabby gladly took the advice. She joined the Twelve Steps addictions programme, the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and discovered Marianne Williamson, the US teacher, author and lecturer who created the internationally famed self-study program for spiritual transformation, A Course in Miracles.

She felt guided to speak in front of crowds of people, basically to anyone who would listen, and told her amazing story from addict to spiritual speaker. It wasn’t long before she was appearing on Oprah and  presenting workshops internationally. Eight years on, four books, and many workshops later, she’s hailed the Happiness Guru of the Gossip Girl Set, otherwise known as New York’s next generation of seekers – sassy, successful young women who now want more from life than the glamour of Carrie Bradshaw and Manolo Blahniks.

Gabby is undisputedly a huge name in the US self-help industry, and despite a general British reserve and reluctance to show our emotions she appears to have a massive following here (mostly women, but some men) too. It could be down to the effortless way she breaks down spiritual jargon with a hip and straight-talking dialogue and offers practical tools on achieving happiness.


Kundalini power

Throughout the workshop Gabby draws on insights from her gurus– the inspirational Marianne Williamson and her Course in Miracles, and Yogi Bhajan, Harbhajan Singh Yogi, who brought Kundalini Yoga to the West in 1968 (Gabby is also a qualified Kundalini Yoga Teacher after studying in India in 2012).

To start the day she leads us through a calming meditation. We close our eyes and breathe deeply, visualising a pure energy opening us up to receive today’s insights – and hopefully fine-tune our frequencies so that we too can hear this ‘special’ guiding voice.


After the meditation the initial excitement of her arrival is replaced with a peaceful hush, and Gabby promises; ‘Everyone today will walk away with a shift, provided you can learn how to still your mind, and recognise the voice of Spirit, which is the key to living a happier life’.

‘Who isn’t feeling stressed in these crazy, busy times?’ She asks. We nod our agreement. Surprisingly, Gabby reassures us that the stress, fear, chaos and drama is actually essential for our personal growth, Do we need to become a victim of our drama and stress? ‘Hell no! Not if we learn to view the drama and chaos for what it is and use today’s tools to get through it’ she replies emphatically.

Then she asks: ‘In what areas are you stuck in life, and resisting the flow?’ Several hands are raised and it’s all very ‘Oprah’. But as Gabby calmly listens, processes and answers the participants’ questions I feel united in the fact that I’m not the only one experiencing ‘blocks, as Gabby describes them.

‘A thought leader for the younger generation,’ was how Oprah described Gabby Bernstein

Practical tools

One woman is longing to get pregnant and wants to overcome her negativity and fear of it not happening. Gabby replies that she needs to be open and free for it to happen without trying to control or force the outcome. ‘Trying for a baby deserves an empowered energy, not one based on fears, and stress, which will only block reproduction’.

She suggests this woman ‘taps’ away her fears and anxiety. Tapping, otherwise known as EFT (emotional freedom technique), is a psychological acupressure technique that rebalances the emotions. ‘Do everything in your empowered state to bring pregnancy forth, tap on it for 90 days and become the vibrational match of what you desire.’ Gabby tells her.

You can ‘tap’ on any area of your life where you feel stuck, challenged, or need to overcome negativity and Gabby turns to the rest of us and teaches us a simple tapping routine to shift counterproductive emotions (see link at end), and recommends a book by Nick Ortner book called The Tapping Solution.

Next up, a thirty-something raises her arm and asks a question about how to do the work she truly wants to do, AND make enough money to pay her bills. My ‘bust-the-block’ antennae are on full alert. I’ve been a freelance feature writer for 15 years and started my business as a yoga teacher/therapist in 2008. I love what I do but being fully self employed it’s a work in progress when it comes to trusting in universal abundance.

Gabby’s answer is simple – don’t try to control things, simply ‘allow’ your actions to be guided by ‘Spirit’, have more faith in what your heart is telling you to do, and tap away stagnant energy like doubt which will block wealth and good things coming in.

What’s more, Gabby says the more we focus on the negative stuff, such as the fear of not earning enough money, or arguments with partner/friends, a job we dislike, we simply get more of this, so if we develop the qualities of positivity, good communication, compassion, forgiveness, and generosity, these will come to us instead.

‘You need to become adept at recognising when you’re attached to fear, and say: ‘Thank you for reinterpreting this for me’ – you may not believe in praying to God, the angels or any other spiritual being, but if you can trust that some force or energy will hear your plea, things will get better and the challenging situation will be resolved,’ Gabby promises.


Age of Aquarius

According to Gabby’s Kundalini guru, Yogi Bhajan, the Aquarian Age which we entered at the end of January 2014, is a very busy and challenging time and she wants to share her yoga guru’s tips for surviving the turbulence.

Most importantly, it seems we must balance our addiction to social media which is taking over our lives, but we also need to take down the wall we’ve put up against being ‘in the flow’ and enjoying miracles. When she says miracles, Gabby isn’t referring to the ‘high’ from receiving a lover’s text message or a prolific amount of ‘likes’ on a Facebook status – it’s the real deal – unconditional love, bliss, serenity.

Of course, it’s easy to get caught up in the dramas of life, politics at work, the ups and downs of dating, but as soon as we realise that it’s just drama we can raise our game and live life differently. ‘My goal by the end of today is to help put you all on a path where the predominant voice you hear and act on is Spirit (or your intuition/higher self) rather than ego and I promise the miracles will abound!’ says Gabby.

‘Stress doesn’t actually exist – it’s just an inner wall we build up due to fear of trusting and letting go. When you’re not receiving miracles there’s a lack of forgiveness or some blocked communication (an argument with a lover/friend or something you need to say to a boss) so stay in the flow, avoid getting bogged down by the problem – recognise it as a learning experience and move through it’.

We’re conditioned to believe that to get something we have to work really hard for it, but Gabby believes pain has no purpose in our pursuit of happiness and it simply disconnects us from the truth. Apparently, there’s a much smoother and easier way to live – so, how to tell if you’re on the right track? Gabby says you won’t feel stressed anymore and there will be a sense of flowing downstream rather than against the current. Read on for her top five tips at the end.



Throughout the day the intimate sharing of my fellow Gabby fans (yes I’m now a convert), the powerful Kundalini mantras, breathing techniques (see links for videos at end), combined with the spiritual music and songs have me moved to tears and I feel as though Gabby has us wrapped in a warm blanket of love.

The first thing I do when the workshop finishes is call my partner and tell him how much I love him. The second thing I do is accept a two week work booking which I had previously resisted due to what seemed like an impossible and expensive commute – yes, that’s right, it was a total ‘block’.

Gabby motivates me to deal with what appears to me as a challenge differently –to greet obstacles with a smile, rather than dread, asking Spirit/God/intuition– ‘what would you have me learn from this?’ and to keep moving forwards, embracing challenges, rather than being disempowered by them.

I apply points two and three of Yogi Bhajan’s five tips for surviving these times (below); ‘there is a way through every block’, and ‘when the pressure is on you, start and the pressure is off you’ to my resistance to the job/commute and it turns out to be a wonderful experience, opening up opportunities, new contacts, and of course increased wealth.

I leave Gabby’s workshop with a sense of ‘anything is possible’ provided I listen to my heart. I begin to draw on the five tips from Yogi Bhajan, as below, and two months later, after a quiet patch at the end of 2013, work is flowing well and I’m feeling fulfilled, loved and inspired.

Me with Gabby's book, Spirit Junkie
Me with Gabby’s book, Spirit Junkie


Here’s Gabby’s guide to overcoming the challenges of our times, adapted from Yogi Bhajan’s Five Sutras (a formula) of the Aquarian Age:

1. Recognise the other person is you: Ever heard the saying that the irritating qualities in someone else are actually YOUR qualities which you don’t like/accept about yourself? It works the other way too – a confident, funny or popular person is also your mirror, even if these qualities aren’t developed in you yet. Learn to love and accept every part of you, including jealousy, insecurity, anger, negativity) and, when challenged by someone else’s attitude ask: How do I behave like this? What can I learn from this person? When you’ve learnt the lesson they will no longer be in your space.

2. There is a way through every block: We don’t need to be broken by the tough times, just be open to the lesson, so when you’re up against it the most effective way through is to pray – to God, your Intuition, or whoever, and say: ‘Spirit / God / Higher Self, thank you for reinterpreting this for me’ and watch the situation be diffused. Then, invest in some daily spiritual practice such as five minutes of quiet contemplation, dancing, listening to meaningful words of a song, doing yoga and you’ll come through the challenge wiser, stronger and more serene.


3. When time is on you, start and the pressure is off you: When you feel like a pressure cooker, find a way to sit still and listen to your heart. What is it telling you to do? If you remove your perceived limitations and ignite some action, the pressure will leave you (this worked a treat for me in the job/commute block, see example above).

4. Harness compassion: Yogi Bhajan believes that if we can develop the quality of compassion towards an annoying boss, partner, rude shop assistant, then the situation will be resolved more quickly/peacefully. Live your life with an open heart, and when annoyed, ask: how can I be more compassionate? If Mandela can go from prisoner to president, surely we can forgive a moody sales person, or a rude colleague? As soon as compassion is applied, the annoyance dissolves.

5. Trust life, and things will turn out ok: Keep in conscious contact with God/your Higher Self/Intuition/Heart and wonderful things will happen. Let go of the ‘I’ve got to make x or y happen’ mentality and replace it with ease and trust – listen to your heart and practice doing absolutely nothing in those moments when you feel overloaded, as Gabby did when she lost her voice, and see miracles occur.


miracles_now_jacketGabby Bernstein will be London on 9th March for the Hay House Ignite! weekend and her new book Miracles Now will be on sale at the event as an exclusive pre-release. Gabby is the founder of, a social networking site to inspire and connect likeminded women. To get Gabrielle’s guided meditations for free visit Her latest book Miracles Now is out in April 2014 (£12.99 Hay House).




Below are some of Gabby’s links to her meditations and tapping techniques from the workshop:

Miracle Meditation

Ego Eradicator Meditation

Meditation for Irrationality

Tapping to Reduce Stress


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