By Gabrielle Bernstein
288 pages; Three Rivers Press
Available at Amazon.com
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The journey that we undertake together is the exchange of dark for light, of ignorance for understanding. Nothing you understand is fearful. It is only in darkness and in ignorance that you perceive the frightening, and shrink away from it to further darkness. And yet it is only the hidden that can terrify, not for what it is, but for its hiddenness.
—A Course In Miracles
For more than twenty years I kept a journal. In it I wrote about heartbreak, anxiety, and eating disorders. I wrote about trying to quit drugs while high on drugs. Pages and pages are filled with self-loathing, self-doubt, and a running calorie count. I wrote the same romantic mini- drama with dozens of different names attached. My journal entries were my only outlets from the turmoil and deep-rooted pain I lived with every hour of every day. Through writing I’d release my fears onto the page and get honest about my sadness as I scribbled over my tears.
Today my journal entries are much different. They reflect an empowered woman who is happy and bleeds authenticity. Instead of dwelling on my diet or obsessing over romance, I use my journal to honor myself. The words on the page are tinged with pride and compassion. I’ve overcome my addictions to love, drugs, food, work, fear—you name it, and I’ve recovered. I worked hard, and man, was it worth it. Today each of my journal entries shows a deep desire to continue growing from the inside out.
My primary guide on my journey to self- love has been the metaphysical text A Course in Miracles.
is a self-study curriculum emphasizing practical applications for relinquishing fear in all areas of life. The Course’s
unique thought system uses forgiveness as the road to inner peace and as a guide to happiness. I was first introduced to the principles of the Course
through the spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson, known throughout the world for her best- selling books and her international speaking circuit. Marianne is the leading teacher of A Course in Miracles
and is a straight-up spiritual rock star.
lessons have taught me to view my life and how I experienced it in a totally new way. I’ve learned that much of what I feared in my life was not frightening at all, or in many instances even real. I’ve learned that fear is simply an illusion based on past experiences that we project into the present and onto the future. For instance, I came to realize that my experience of being dumped by my high school boyfriend had morphed into an illusion that I held on to for more than a decade. This simple adolescent breakup managed to morph into a belief system of unworthiness and debilitating fear of being alone.
The lessons of the Course allowed me to see how I replayed this fear from the past in all my relationships from high school onward. In every new relationship I began, I’d drag the baggage of that breakup in with me. Even as I was basking in the happiness of being with someone I liked, in the back of my mind lurked a constant fear that my happiness could be snatched away at any moment, and I’d be faced with the same heartbreak and trauma I’d experienced in that high school relationship. Ultimately that fear would cause me to sabotage my new relationship. When the relationship was over I’d try to anesthetize my pain with food, work, and—worst of all—drugs. I’d do whatever it took to avoid feeling my fears from the past. I was unable to savor simple pleasures and happy moments because I was constantly on guard against fear. This cycle was endless. I’m thankful that the Course taught me that the fear I had been lugging around for so many years wasn’t even real, that it was just an illusion I had created and was projecting onto my current experiences. Once I experienced this realization, I was able to work through the fear. The more I committed to this new belief system, the less I replayed my past in the present. In time I began to release those fears and witness miraculous changes. This realization was revelatory in that I’d awakened to the fact that if I stuck to the Course’s plan I could truly relinquish my fearful patterns.
Admittedly, when I first began reading the Course, the language and many of the concepts were extremely foreign to me. Each time the text would refer to "God" or "the Holy Spirit," I’d totally freak out. But, ultimately, I came to realize that getting bogged down in semantics was a silly distraction. What mattered most was the guidance the Course had to offer me at a time when I needed it most. The words were just a vehicle to all the valuable lessons that were available within its pages. I learned that what really mattered was how relevant the Course’s teachings were to my life, and my absolute willingness to be guided to change.
It was with that burning desire for change that I set out to purchase the Course to begin with. Upon entering my local bookstore, I noticed the sturdy- looking dark blue book with the title A Course in Miracles scrawled in gold lettering across the cover. Instead of being daunted by it, I found the thickness of the volume inviting and reassuring. So much so that I smiled as if I had received a wink from the Universe as I grabbed the book off the shelf. Then the most auspicious thing happened. The book literally dragged me to the counter. No joke. I physically felt the book dragging me to the register. It felt strange and yet oddly comforting. Intuitively, I knew I was in for something good. I bought the book immediately and walked out of the store. As I stood on a busy New York City streetcorner, I fl ipped the book open to its introduction and read, "This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take is voluntary. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance." This passage sent chills down my spine. I’d found what I was looking for, a guide to removing all the crap that had been blocking me from inner peace and love. In that moment I made a commitment to myself to become a student and a teacher of the Course—a sacred contract that would change my life.
One year later, I went to hear Marianne lecture. Afterwards I had the opportunity to speak with her about my introduction to the Course and my desire to spread its message to my generation. I asked her for suggestions as to how I might proceed with this goal. She replied, "Read the Text, do the Workbook, and study the Manual for Teachers. Then get on your knees and ask God how you should share this work with your generation." I did just that.
Through reading the Text I was guided to understand the mission of the Course. Simply and succinctly, the Course states that "its goal for you is happiness and peace." The Text also gave me a deep understanding of the basis for my fear and guilt, and how they could be overcome. Finally, the Text taught me the meaning of "the miracle." The miracle is simply defined as the shift in perception from fear to love. Then I embarked on the Workbook for Students, which consists of 365 lessons, an exercise for each day of the year. This one-year training program began my process of transforming my own fears to love. The Workbook guided me to know a relationship with what I call my ~ing, an inner guide, or, as the Course calls it, an Internal Teacher. This relationship with my ~ing became my primary tool for restoring my mind. (I’ll explain ~ing further in chapter 1.) Then, when I was ready, I began to practice the Manual for Teachers. This section of the Course prepared me to share its lessons in a way that was authentic to me. As a result of my dedication to the Course, I was blasted open to reconnect with my true inner spirit, which is love.
My intention and my hope is that this book will act as a conduit through which I can share the beautiful, life-changing lessons that I learned as a student of the Course. Through the telling of my own life’s stories, I will relate how the lessons of the Course led me to release my fears of the world and become a full-on Spirit Junkie. These days I’m addicted to finding my happiness and love inside myself. Thus the title. With this book I want to show you how to tap into your own spirit in your search for happiness. This is not a book on how to get happiness; rather, it’s a guide to releasing the blocks to the happiness that already lives inside you. I will guide you on a journey of new perceptions and show you a whole new way to view your life. Your hangups will melt away, resentments will release, and a childlike faith in joy will be reignited.
Throughout the book I’ll share personal anecdotes of how I overcame the stronghold of my ego (my fearful mind) with the help of A Course in Miracles. Through my Course work I’ve learned that my darkest struggles in relationships were by far my greatest teachers. To drive home this message, throughout the book I’ll often refer to my parents, friends, and former lovers. (For the record, I have tons of love for these people today and am deeply thankful for the lessons I’ve learned from our relationships.) Through my interpretation of the Course’s principles you’ll learn that all the safety, security, and love you’re seeking is not "out there," but inside yourself. Trust me: I spent more than two decades looking for happiness in all the wrong places. I thought happiness was in a credential or a boyfriend or a new pair of shoes. I thought that if I accumulated or achieved enough, my misery, insecurity, and anxiety would somehow disappear and be replaced by joy, confi dence, and lightheartedness. It never worked. Turning inward can seem like an insurmountable challenge, but by committing to the Course you’ll learn that inward is the only place to go. When you truly know this, you can release the need to be saved, stop controlling, and let life flow.
I will be your teacher on this journey. Before we begin down the path, I’d like to tell you a little about myself. As a speaker, author, mentor, and coach I’ve made it my life’s work to help others release the blocks that stand between them and their inner joy. My work has been received well throughout the world because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be happy? But let’s put titles and credentials aside. The most valuable gift I have to offer you is life cred. I’ve lived every word in this book and transformed myself through the stories you’re about to read. I once was a strung- out drug addict seeking self-worth from the outside world. Today I turn inward and receive all the happiness I’d been seeking.
The journey we’re about to embark on together in this book is broken up into three parts. The fi rst leg of the journey is Section One, "The Detour into Fear," which will explain how our minds go wrong and why we become so accustomed to fearful ways of being. Then, Section Two, "The Answer," will provide a road map to serenity. This section will give you the necessary tools for reconditioning your mind back to peace and joy. Then, in Section Three, "The Miracle," you’ll be guided to maintain your happiness and share it with the world.
To help further illuminate your journey, I’ve created guided meditations that you can download on my site, www.gabbyb.tv/meditate. There is a meditation for each chapter. These meditations will help you reconnect with your true essence, which is love, and your birthright, which is access to miracles.
The Course teaches that each time we shift our perception from fear to love we create a miracle. The more miracles you add up, the more extraordinary your life will be. The outside world and all your relationships will be enhanced as a result of your inner shift. Serenity will kick in, fear will subside, and once and for all you’ll know that all the love you need is inside you.
Sounds like I’ve got the keys to heaven, doesn’t it? That’s right, I do! And I can testify to these tools because I work them like a full-time job. Just breathe, be willing, and show up for the suggestions along the way. Remember you are not alone. Even if fear has you in a headlock, I’m here to remind you that happiness always wins.