Feeling spiritually derailed? Looking to soothe your soul? Don’t book that ticket to India just yet. Self-awareness is much closer to home thanks to a new generation of lifestyle gurus who’ve given new age a new look.
Rocking Kundalini turbans with Isabel Marant kicks, bringing Mala beads to Ted Talks and guiding SMEs with hip hop swagger; these new self-help shamans boast fans like Oprah and Richard Branson; not to mention accolades from Forbes to the New York Times bestseller list. What’s more – they’ve got the digital chutzpah to spread their hot truth like a burning sage bush. No long haul flight required.
Of course, the trend of personal agency is nothing new. Since the first self-help tome was published in 1859 by Samuel Smiles, the ‘body, mind, spirit’ triumvirate has found its own genre; albeit with a Hester Prynne-style stigma. Thanks to the proliferation of digital media however (think Livestream retreats, real-time Twitter jams and guided YouTube meditations), the trend has shifted front and centre with a $13 billion net worth to boot. So just who are the top trending thought leaders?
Leading the charge is former party girl and publicist Gabrielle Bernstein (Gabbyb. tv) whose website blurb ‘become the happiest person you know’ finds its roots in her own ‘miracle mindset’. Having hit ‘rock bottom’ at 25, she turned her life around with the help of her own personal guru Marianne Williamson who introduced her to the metaphysical text A Course in Miracles. As a motivational speaker, life coach, Kundalini yoga and meditation teacher and author (including the New York Times bestseller May Cause Miracles); Bernstein’s no-nonsense brand of ancient wisdom (miracles are simply a ‘shift in perception’) spun with a practical twist (meditation apps, anyone?) has made her relevant to a fast-paced need-it-now culture.
“People don’t need miracles ten years from now,” she explains over our Google+ Hangouts chat. “They need miracles now.” Not surprisingly, her latest book Miracles Now, promises just that. Touted as a ‘spiritual survival toolkit for the stressed and time-pressed’; it features 108 techniques for dealing with common problems from stressing out to handling social media trolls with grace.
“People no longer have the attention span for long-form content,” explains the New Yorker, “so I wanted to make it easy and fast.” No 40 days in the desert or 21 days to reframe a habit; instead each of the 108 practices is distilled into two pages with a 140-character tweetable at the bottom of each chapter. Her fans, known as ‘spirit junkies’ feed on her frank urban moxie. Take technique #39 Just Show Up, for example: “Often people say to me, ‘I don’t have time to meditate,’ or, ‘I don’t have time to pray.’ My response is, ‘Do you have the time to feel like shit?’” Can’t argue with that.
Despite a loyal online fan base; what sets Bernstein apart from a very crowded self-mastery market is creating spiritual teachers; not disciples. With this, she has launched a series of Spirit Junkie masterclasses to help mentors, coaches and healers step into their power. “Oh, I’m so excited about this!” she enthuses. “I’m giving them another level of spiritual teachings to add to their repertoire and teaching them how to lead the ‘spirit junkie’ way. They will learn my best practices for guiding meditations, leading EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) sessions, public speaking, book publishing and how to run a spiritual business.”
Running a ‘spiritual business’ may appear oxymoronic to some but financial wellness coach Kate Northrup (KateNorthrup.com); author of Money: A Love Story, also believes abundance to be a mindset. “Whether it’s, ‘How much should I charge?’, or, ‘Should I ask for a raise?’, ‘How do I pay off my debt?’, or, ‘How do I make more money?’ any of those questions,” she stresses, “the answer is as simple and as complex as ‘value yourself.’”
Northrup, who racked up $20,000 of credit card debt in her twenties, has harnessed her personal story (paying it off in less than two years) to create, ‘financial planning that feels good’ – a gut-led guide to spending with purpose. Using emotions as a fiscal GPS may not be on the curriculum at Harvard but its paradoxical logic is undeniably sound. “Money is just a stand-in for what we value as humans and so it is inherently emotional,” explains Northrup. “That’s what the economy is: it’s the collective value system of every human being. You can’t get that in a spreadsheet. So you have to tap into your emotions and intuition in order to access that depth of information to make good financial decisions.”
Call it intuition, call it a hunch; call it feel-good factor but if we don’t learn to love money, it won’t love us. “That’s why so many people avoid dealing with their finances,” she insists, “because it’s been boring in the past or it’s been challenging or it’s been stressful and so we just avoid it. And so, the key ingredient is pleasure and fun and bringing those things to the table so you’ll keep showing up for your finances.”
In today’s consumer-driven society, keeping up with the Joneses can be hard work but in redefining abundance from having it all, to simply having what you want (however small that may be); the key to happiness is easily within reach. It’s this emotional equation that finds expression in just about every corner of our lives from work to relationships; buying a dress to simply enjoying the moment.
Business strategist, inspirational speaker, former think-tank executive and author Danielle LaPorte focuses similarly on creating ‘goals with a soul’ by harnessing, what she terms ‘core desired feelings’. That means ditching the New Year’s rezzies and diving deep into the feelings pool to access life’s sweet spot.
“We have the procedures of achievement upside down,” she writes in The Desire Map. “We go after the stuff we want to have, get, accomplish, and experience outside of ourselves. And we hope, yearn, pray that we’ll be fulfilled when we get there. It’s backwards. It’s outside in. And it’s running us in circles.”
Looking for insta-inspiration? Listen to LaPorte’s soft Canadian lilt on her Soundcloud playlist (DanielleLaPorte.com) as she sprinkles heart-centered haiku like a poetry slam master; or follow her gusty #truthbombs on Pinterest: ‘If it doesn’t feel good, STOP’; ‘HUNT it down and love it hard.’ That big raise you want? Timeshare in Tahiti? It’s not the goal itself you’re chasing, it’s the feeling. Sold.
Marie Forleo, founder of Marie TV, B-School and Rich, Happy and Hot events, also advocates passion over people-pleasing. ‘Part business strategist, part marketing maven and part spiritual ass-kicker,’ her mix of online nous (MarieForleo.com reaches over 250,000 readers in 191 countries) and Jersey-girl humour has made her a scion for the self-employed and small business owner. “I’ve noticed that some folks are struggling with what I call ‘small dream shame’,” she notes on an episode of Marie TV, “an insidious angst and drive to aim higher, ‘think bigger’ and strive for more. But what if dreaming big is actually crushing your soul?”
The answer is in the question: If you’re not feeling it, it’s not worth it. Now if someone would only inform those damned Joneses. Oh wait, we’ve got that covered…
By Annmarie O’Connor