Gabrielle Bernstein bounds onto the stage bursting with Friday night enthusiasm, her energy as palpable as one of her pulse-touching meditations.
‘Hello, London!’, she exclaims in a New York accent to actual shrieks among the huge audience at a packed Friends House. ‘Y…You are all so giddy… I’m going to love you…!!’, she continues.
Oh I’m really not going to love you – You are so … American, I say to myself in my seat way too close to the stage to escape unnoticed, or easily.
And why are you wearing those impossibly high black heels when you have to stand up and talk for two hours?! (Says me who a wore a similar pair to a recent party that gave me footache for days and a sore hip – and yes, I’ll wear them again.)
And what are those super skinny jeans about? Call yourself a yoga teacher, huh? No chance of any deep breathing in those without a serious rupture … but damn you look better than me in mine over here!
Judgement: check! Jealousy: check! Guilt: check, check, check!!
We all do it: the snap judgement of the ‘boisterous looking’ stranger on the tube who ends up helping us, the new colleague who ‘is so unlike me’ but who a few weeks in is your new best friend, and the person we judge by their cover, literally.
We also feel bad for our judgement of others and beat ourselves up over it . This is my ‘favourite’ habit especially since I qualified as a yoga teacher and my attitudes should be whiter than a Kundalini yoga uniform. They are not. We’re all human.
Bernstein, the tag-lined ‘new role model for New York’s former Carrie Bradshaws’ sans cocktails as she is 10 years sober, addresses all of this in her talk and her many books (she’s a New York Times best-selling author). She outlines a 5-step plan:
1) Happiness is a choice you make – Forgive your judgments and laugh at your crazy thoughts. As I recall Samantha saying to Charlotte in Sex and the City ‘if you listen to every crazy thought in your head, you will drive yourself mad’
2) Recognise the other person is you – see everyone in the same light or for the first time. Remember everyone has their own, often quiet, battles
3) Practice forgiveness – ‘would you rather be right or happy?’ In the Q&A, an audience member says ‘but being right makes me happy!’. Bernstein gently suggests she write down how she feels when proven right, and also wrong, and see why she feels this way – is it insecurity?
4) Be compassionate – be willing to see your part in situations. Are you too caught up in your own drama/chaos to see the good in the other person. Bernstein offers up a moving example of how they got over a long fallout with her father by seeing him through other people’s eyes and seeing her own role in ‘judging him’
5) In my defencelessness my safety lies – let people say what they need, but let it resolve. A fervent pro-gun control American, Bernstein has been attacked on social media for her views, even by her own #spiritjunkies, but now when she posts on this issue she tells her followers to write what they like ‘just be kind to each other’.
So what were my takeaway messages:
1) Keep an open mind and heart – I told myself this when I judged Bernstein at the start and soon enough I was laughing along with her and nodding my head in agreement
2) Accept yourself – even your green-eyed ‘monster’ – and acknowledge other people’s success. Bernstein told the story of judging what a fellow Instagram-ing yogi was doing, before checking in with herself and going back to post ‘go for it’. Sound advice for coping with ‘FaceBoast’
3) Let go of unhelpful ‘stories‘ – those bad memories that keep coming back to haunt us. Meditation is a huge help here and continues to serve me in moving forward not back.
So thanks Gabby, my new found friend. Let’s get giddy next time you’re in town … heels included.
Note: this is my interpretation of a talk given by Gabrielle Bernstein on 22 January 2016 at Friends House, London. If I’ve misjudged 🙂 any messages – apologies. For the real deal catch her over on gabbyb.tv
Feature image by Paul Longinidis Flickr creative commons.