Our Spiritual Retreat: The 6 Blocks to Happiness and How to Get Around Them

Bridget and I recently attended Gabby Bernstein’s retreat, The Universe Has Your Back, at the Kripalu Center.

If you’re not familiar with either, Kripalu is a big, ‘ol crunchy wellness center in the Berkshires that makes you eat breakfast in silence. (Joel was like “And we paid for this with real money, right?’)

And Gabby’s a New York Times best-selling author who’s been named a “thought leader for the next generation” by Her Holiness, The Oprah Winfrey.

I first heard about Gabby and her miracles back in 2011 whilst waist deep in my own spiritual awakening (read: quarter-life crisis). It was a freezing Tuesday night in Manhattan and my friend dragged me to a talk downtown called Crazy Sexy Miracles.

I’ve never enjoyed the words sexy or miracles, but I was lured under the false pretense that they’d be serving wine. Gabby was one of the hosts, along with Kris Carr

I’d never been comfortable with the God speak. Hadn’t been since realizing I no longer aligned with the guilt and shame of my Catholic upbringing. (Thanks again, therapy.)

But this chick Gabby? Well, all she talked about were ‘miracles’ and ‘love’ and the ‘holy spirit’ and she used a lot of other nomenclature that generally irked me.

There was something about her though, that made me sit up and listen. And I’m glad I did, because she said something that night that changed the way I viewed spirituality forever.

“A miracle is just a shift in your own perception.”

This blew my mind. I’d been thinking of miracles as the water-to-wine, jesus-y, heal-the-lepers kind of miracles from Sunday school, the ones I wasn’t buying.

But her definition wasn’t anything like that. She was saying that when we pray for a miracle we’re just praying for the Universe to help us see things differently. We’re changing the way we think. And in changing the way we think, we change the way we experience our lives. That was the crucial connection I’d been missing to the spiritual world.

Bam! Pow! Hand me a white turban! That one frosty evening in Chelsea, a spirit junkie was born.

Fast forward six years, and Bridget and I are standing at the door to our semi-private room at Kripalu and I was immediately reminded of field hockey camp in high school where we used to smoke cigs into fans pointed out the windows.

I was feeling particularly swollen, pregnant and incapable of bullshit. And Bridget was tired. Neither one of us felt much like doing yoga. And we were questioning our decision in January to come at all.

Now Bridget and I can hold our own at these things. We speak the language. We’ve been orbiting the super-crunchy and the woo-woo for years through the greater Integrative Nutrition community of NYC. We get it. And live a lot of this stuff personally but, we still roll our eyes at a lot of it too.

For instance, Bridget made the keen observation upon arrival that “even though it’s a wellness center, it wouldn’t kill them to sell a bottle of shitty wine in their little shop.” (No, Bridget. No it wouldn’t.)

Suffice it to say we keep our guard up a bit at these things. We’re not buying what you’re selling just because you’re selling it, you know? We’re skeptics. And no, we don’t want a hug.

But we’re also into the Universe. And although we really wish there were a better term for it, we believe in the law of attraction.

Now, back to the retreat…

There we are with our little notebooks finding our seats in the dead last row of a schweaty auditorium that looks a lot like a church. And let us begin with a meditation… And now some chanting (because, obviously)…

We were there for a deep dive into the principles taught in the book. Part of Gabby’s adaptation of A Course in Miracles, an extremely popular spiritual text apparently channeled straight from the Holy Spirit through a woman in New York in the 70s. I assume with the aid of some drugs.

If you can get past that creepy part, there’s a shit-ton of helpful wisdom in it.

The Course says that life comes down to a choice in each moment, between love and fear. Do I choose to see this through love? Or do I choose to see this through fear? Of all the problems we face in life, we only face one; our own separation from love. If you’re familiar with Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, that’s what she’s talking about.

From the big, existential questions to choosing to be polite to an asshole, life comes down to those two options. Fear or love. So the question then becomes, how can we choose love more often?

That’s what we were there with 250 other souls to discuss that weekend, between yoga classes, sprouted bagels, and watching season 1 of Game of Thrones on my laptop.

Gabby is on point Friday night. She candidly discusses her challenge of choosing love through ongoing failed attempts to conceive, which many in the room can relate to. Being pregnant myself, that hits home. I got pregnant on the second try, but I of course had to drive myself crazy with fear and ovulation strips and accidentally peeing on my own hand first.

And what Bridget and I quickly realized was that even if we weren’t personally at a crossroads, even if we were there more out of curiosity and a good article for the blog, we were in the midst of a lot of serious suffering. Everyone in the room seemed to be facing heartbreak: infertility, infidelity, trauma, loss, sick children, divorce, addiction and recovery.

One woman was only a few days sober and her courage to come there at all, let alone speak in front of everyone, made me cry.

The thing I’m always acutely aware of at these types of events is just how banged up some of us get in life. The pain and suffering we face as humans is real. And we all seek to escape from that pain in one way or another, some of us winding up more lost than others.

For Bridget and I, it was just a fun weekend of learning, reflection and napping. For others it was much bigger than that.

So if you’ve never heard of Gabby before, we encourage you to check her out. We also encourage you to read on, as often times we find our way to the helpful stuff when we least expect it.

Our first download from the retreat:

How to Get Started: Do a spiritual self-audit

In order to get the Universe on your side to improve your life, you have to look out for the blocks to love (or happiness), of which there are six.  Do this spiritual self-audit and see where you currently stand. Are you showing any signs of the following blocks?  

Block 1 – We don’t even know we’re out of alignment with the Universe.

If you feel anxious, depressed, out of it, foggy, directionless or hopeless you’re definitely out of alignment. This means you’ve been choosing fear, whether you realized it or not. When you align yourself with love, or align yourself with the Universe, you feel calm, supported, peaceful, hopeful, excited and at ease.

Basically, if you’re doing it right, you feel good. If you feel like shit. You’re out of alignment.

Ask yourself regularly “Do I feel good?”

Block 2 – We believe we’re separate and alone and we project it out.

We project these feelings we don’t want to feel and in doing so, we wind up attracting more of them. There is no ‘no’ when it comes to the Universe. It’s always a yes. So if you’re projecting these feelings the Universe is saying ‘yes’.

Ask yourself “What am I a yes for?” “What am I projecting out?” The Universe will respond accordingly.

Block 3 – We’re directing a movie we don’t want to see.

Consider what you’ve been thinking about. Are you worrying? Angsting over something? Playing out worst case scenarios in your head?

If so, that’s likely what you’re feeling and experiencing. Are you even aware of the fearful movie playing out in your head?

Change the reel. Decide that the movie you’ve been watching isn’t one you want to watch anymore. Start focusing on what you do want to see, instead of worrying about what you don’t.

Block 4 – We’re being unkind.

Doesn’t matter to who. Happy people, living aligned with the Universe, just don’t behave like assholes. Like Elle Woods wisely said in Legally Blonde “Happy people just don’t kill their husbands.”

If you’re being a jerk, you’re blocking yourself from love.

Ask yourself how you can be more kind. Start being nice to everyone and see how life gets better.

Block 5 – We try to control the outcome of everything.

We try to control the form in which things unfold for us. We cling to a narrow vision for what we want that blocks the Universe from offering us creative solutions.

Let go of how things play out and look instead for the creative solutions you’re provided.

Block 6 – We don’t make time to tune in.

We’re running around trying to force life to happen and we never stop to ask how we can feel better right now. How can we feel more peaceful, loving, calm and happy in the present moment?

Slow down, be nice to yourself, and do something to just feel better right now.

There are many other plump nuggets of wisdom from this retreat to share but, we didn’t want pack it all into one post. More to come.

But for now, any of this resonate with you? Have you heard of Gabby? Do you notice any blocks in your life right now? Please share below. We’d love to hear from you!

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