In search of miracles with Gabrielle Bernstein

It’s a fact of life that things aren’t brilliant all the time. Sometimes things are great, and sometimes things are a bit shit. As someone who puts a lot of effort into trying to be happy, it’s doubly disappointing when life isn’t coming up with sunshine, rainbows and glittery unicorns. At Easter, I hit one of these bad patches. Ground down by coursework and job-work, I felt like I was dragging a weight around on my back. I needed a miracle.

Therefore, I turned to Gabrielle Bernstein. She’s described on her website as a modern day spiritual leader. Bernstein’s best-selling books include May Cause Miracles and Miracles Now. Her photographs gleam with happiness, health and serenity. Just look at her! LOOK!

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She was the kind of woman I instinctively felt happy to follow. I signed up to her mailing list and eagerly started on May Cause Miracles. The introduction tells Bernstein’s story. By becoming dedicated to miracles, she became a best-selling author, improved her relationship with food, made a ton of money and found true happiness. I wanted a piece of that action.

Embracing miracles is about releasing fear and choosing love instead. I didn’t really know what that meant, but decided to roll with it anyway. Apparently, your ~ing (inner guide) will emerge to show you the way. The 40-day program takes you through a new theme each week, with a daily affirmation and a meditation or journalling activity. Here’s what happened to me, spiritually speaking:

The good:

Starting the day with a reflection and a minute of meditation was quite nice. It was like a little warm hug for your psyche.

Saying ‘I love you’ to the mirror was good for a laugh, once I’d got over feeling like a buffoon.

The bad:

I tried programming the day’s affirmations into my phone to go off every hour as Bernstein suggests. The problem came when I left my phone sat on the table at work. Without context, the affirmations could suggest to the uninitiated that you have joined some kind of weird cult.

As the days went on, I found myself forgetting what the affirmation of the day was. I realised that it was because I just wasn’t finding anything meaningful in them. So I abandoned May Cause Miracles after three weeks.

 

Miracles Now

Despite the fact that May Cause Miracles didn’t do much for me, I wasn’t done with Gabby. I was grimly determined to find a miracle, somewhere, somehow. Thankfully, she had another book! Perhaps Miracles Now would be the book to give me the hit I needed. Rather than giving you a structured programme, it provides 108 bite-sized ways to live a more miraculous life.

So I attempted to bust out a miracle on a Wednesday morning. It was humpday, I was a bit hungover, and I had been put into a bad mood by the tedious pundits arguing about Brexit on BBC Breakfast. I flicked to Miracle #46: Measure your success by how much fun you’re having. I thought about it. Truth be told, I had not been having much fun. When you work four days a week on your day job and three days a week on your MSc, there’s not that much time for it. Over the following few days, I let my hair down. It felt good. One of my bad habits is getting grimly wrapped up in my to-do list, to the exclusion of actually relaxing and enjoying my life. The idea of measuring my life by how much I actually enjoy it was something I needed to hear.

On a Sunday night, I needed a new and different miracle. It was 1am, my alarm was due to go off in five hours, and I had been trying to sleep since 10pm. Thankfully, Gabby has few miracles for that. Firstly, a Kundalini yoga breathing technique. Sleep still eluded me. Secondly, a Yoga Nidra meditation. I was too wound up to focus on it, and still could not sleep. Thirdly, another Kundalini practice which involved pointing your toes back and forth. My bed squeaked as I did this and I still didn’t sleep. Miracle fail.

At its worst, the book is ineffective (see sleep ideas above) and verging on silly (jumping on a trampoline without wearing a bra helps your lymphatic system). But at its best, the book is like a self-help Rorschach test: you see bits of advice in it that you want to see, that you may well be better off following. And a lot of the things in here make sense: true that happiness does not lie in how much you weigh, that if you want something; you should ask for it, and that doing a headstand can help bust you out of a bad mood (I tried it. It worked).

If you take ‘miracle’ in the literal sense, Miracles Now and May Cause Miracles both fail to deliver. However, this doesn’t make me angry in the same way that I was about I Heart Me. Bernstein does make it clear from the outset that when she talks about miracles, she means it in a slightly different way to you or I. My life hasn’t cosmically shifted, but I have picked up a few new helpful tips. I still don’t know what it means to choose love over fear though.

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I’m on summer break from my course; which means more posts. I may actually discover something revolutionary, and you wouldn’t want to miss that, right?! The good news is that I have a mailing list, so please make my day and get on it:


Also: this post contains Amazon Affiliate links, as I have a credit card bill to pay and I’ll pretty much try anything. I’ll never actively endorse anything I don’t genuinely like because I’m not a Kardashian. Thank you!

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I Heart Me: The Science of Self-Love

No matter how hard you try, not everyone in life is going to like or appreciate you. Other people’s opinions of what you do and who you are will always vary. Sometimes you’ll put everything into a piece of work and it’ll be trashed by someone whose opinion matters to you. When this happens, it can sting. I’d love to tell you that I always take criticism in my stride, but sometimes bad feedback shakes my opinion of my abilities to the core. This is not something I’m proud of.

After all, self-belief is important. If you believe in yourself, other people believe in you. It can make you famous for something as useless as taking selfies. It can make you the front-runner to win a Presidential race despite having no compassion or brains. Perhaps ramping up my own self-belief could do magical things for me as well.

I Heart Me: The Science of Self Love

Enter: I Heart Me: The Science of Self-Love. Written by a man with a PhD and promising to deliver the topic through a scientific lens, I presumed I would be in good hands. As a MSc student, I’ve been learning about the scientific method and now have decreased tolerance levels for fluffy crap. This is a problem when your blog is about self-help books. So bring on the science! Make me love myself using empirically based, peer reviewed studies! I AM READY!

Alas, it turns out I was duped. Here are some examples of ‘science’ from the book:

‘I asked my good friend Kyle Gray about it. He’s a highly accurate medium… Kyle asked his angels about my experience.’

‘Each of us is made of atoms. That makes us quite a large expression of love. Technically speaking, we’re made of love…. kind of.’

If self-love means believing this sort of stuff, perhaps I’m better off being insecure. I wanted to find something nice to say about this book. I tried, but I couldn’t. It recycles tired ideas from other self-help books, bunging on a ‘scientific’ label to try and disguise the fact there’s nothing original in it at all. For one thing, he claims doing the exercises in this book will work because they’ll ‘rewire your brain’. Not that he has any actual evidence for this, such as fMRI scans. I’m guessing he thought that ‘neuroplasticity’ was more exciting than plain old ‘learning’. Other scientific evidence in the book is scraped from TED talks that we’ve all seen before, such as Amy Cuddy’s ‘power pose’ work. Given that 32 million people have watched her TED talk, and the fact that it’s so famous it’s been parodied on Brooklyn Nine Nine, it’s a waste of paper to cover it again.

Unfortunately for me, the whole point of this blog is that I actually *do* what the self-help books I read tell me to do, even if the author is confused about atoms and does wee dances in his spare time. (I’m not kidding. There’s a whole section about the benefits of silly dancing, and describes how he once did a wee dance in an underpass). I decided to put Hamilton’s ‘self-love gym’ exercises to the test.

‘Blame the parents’

Hamilton’s first exercise asks you to think whether your parents had self-esteem issues. I have no idea whether mine did. They have both passed away, and as I don’t have any friends who are mediums, I can’t get in touch with them to ask.

The ‘I am enough’ pose + ‘love thy selfie’

Do you suspect that this exercise may be an appropriation of Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose research? You would be right. I decided to go for Kanye in the Power video, given he’s a man not short of self-love. Here are the results. Magnificent, yes?

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‘Be a self-love Olympian’

This has nothing to do with sport, sadly. In this exercise, you visualise a situation where you would normally have low self-worth and imagine acting as if you didn’t. I imagined winning the Nobel Peace Prize despite the fact I’ve done nothing with my life apart from watch a lot of Netflix. It was a nice way to spend two minutes, but I didn’t feel any of my neural pathways changing.

‘Set them free’

Apparently, identifying the people you judge and the people you feel judged by helps you to set them free! I tried this on the Tube, because I am VERY judgemental of people who breach Tube etiquette. Sadly, identifying the people who behave antisocially on public transport did not set them free of the carriage. Probably just as well, given the dangers.

‘What do you like about yourself?’

I quote: ‘Most of us feel unhappy about some aspect of our body image; whether it’s our weight, […] breast size (women), hip size (women) or penis size (men).’ I’m glad he’s cleared that up for me. I’ve always been unhappy about my penis size and now I can be free!

Apparently the key to turning around poor body image and resisting the pressure of the media is this: focus on three things you like about your body and keep telling yourself why you like them. I choose my hair, my brain and my liver. All of them work bloody hard for me, after all.

Sadly, I cannot say I have felt any difference to my self-love levels after reading this book. I am the same as I have always been: a person who is sometimes unsure of herself, and who sometimes takes things to heart. I’m OK with this, so perhaps I’m richer in self-esteem than I thought I was. What I have learned is this: science sells; and scientists who write should never abuse the power and authority that the scientific label brings.

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