It’s 8 a.m. in New York City. I’m sitting in my double-parked, beat-up white Toyota waiting for the street cleaners to sweep past me.
I have to sit in the car for 30 more minutes before I can legally park. So I push a cassette into the tape player and press play. I’ve listened to this recording countless times. It’s a recording from a psychic reading I’d had five months earlier. The psychic’s first words are, “You’re struggling with alcohol and drugs.” I hear my voice quiver in response, “Well, it’s not that bad.” Within the next few minutes, she goes on to say, “My dear, you are able to exercise free will in this lifetime. And you are caught between two choices. You can choose to stay on your current path and severely struggle with drug addiction. Or you can choose to get clean and make a major impact on the world.” I rewind the recording to hear it again. Then again.
As I recall that morning, I have tears in my eyes. I can think my way back into that car as if it were yesterday. I can connect to those feelings of shame, insecurity and unsafety.
My 24-year-old self could never have imagined who I am today. Thankfully she made the right choice to get clean and hold a vision for a better future, for true happiness. A vision of freedom and inner peace.
Today that vision has become my reality. I’m free from my past because I became brave enough to face the deeper reasons behind my suffering and fearlessly show up for healing. And now I know the true meaning of peace in the present. I sit here in my office surrounded by a stack of spiritual books I’ve authored. My desk is adorned with affirmation cards, crystals and a sonogram photo of my son, Oliver, when he was in utero. My husband, Zach, is downstairs playing with Oliver while I sit in my office, allowing the voice of freedom to move through me so that I can guide you toward freedom today.
Guided by spirit
The journey toward true inner peace begins with the willingness to hold a vision for a new way of living. No matter how much you’ve struggled or suffered, you have the power to hold a vision for a better life. When we claim that vision, we open an invisible door to receive spiritual support and intuitive guidance to help us manifest the change we desire. We begin the journey of undoing the fears from our past so that we can claim love, peace and freedom in the present. Undoing is the operative word. Deep within all of us is a loving truth, but we built up walls against it. Undoing the patterns, thought forms and programming we were brought up to believe is what’s required to return to the truth of who we are. There’s nothing “out there” that can give us that love; it’s already within us. We must dismantle the fear, trauma and patterns that keep us stuck in the belief that peace is unattainable. Peace and love are who we are; we just forgot.
When we have core beliefs of unworthiness, they will manifest in every corner of our lives. In order to undo that belief, we must look at what’s behind it. No matter how seemingly happy or blatantly painful our childhood was, those early experiences become the driving force behind the way we live as adults. And those painful events contribute to the feelings of being unlovable and inadequate. Many people are aware of the ways that their childhood experiences play a role in who they have become, but they still write it off thinking well, that was just in the past; it’s over now; or we tend to believe that it’s now just who we are. What we don’t realize is that the shadows from the past are replayed in the present and projected onto the future until we awaken to a healing path.
Your spiritual guidance system
I’ve been brave enough to witness my fear, and I’ve had one way of working through it that never failed me: honor my experience and surrender it to a spiritual guidance system. Even early in my sobriety when I didn’t yet have a strong spiritual foundation, I was willing to surrender my fear to something beyond me. I remember my sober mentor suggested that I get on my knees and pray. “To who?” I said. “Whoever or whatever you want,” she responded. At the time it didn’t matter whether or not I knew who or what I was praying to. What mattered was my willingness to humbly ask for help. And that’s what I’ll say to you today. When I suggest you pray you don’t have to know who or what you’re praying to. All you have to do is be willing to turn over your fears to a presence or power greater than you. If spirituality is new or uncomfortable to you, then call it by a different name, like the Universe or spirit or love. Think of this as establishing a greater connection to an inner compass or voice of love.
Honor your suffering
Feeling genuine inner peace and freedom isn’t something many people are familiar with. Even if your outside conditions seem excellent, there’s probably an inner disturbance begging to be repaired.
We must be willing to accept this truth: we all suffer. Bringing loving awareness to our suffering is part of the solution. It’s our resistance to suffering that keeps us silent, alone and afraid. It’s okay to admit that you’ve struggled or are struggling. In fact, it’s freeing to get honest about it. Calling it out and naming it can bring real relief. Give yourself permission to be going through a tough time or to acknowledge a past trauma, big or small. Honor your feelings and your experience.
Freedom doesn’t come overnight, but it comes when you’re consistent. Each time you read a page of this book, you’re taking a small action toward honoring your feelings, dismantling your coping mechanisms and transforming your history so that you can be free.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace by Gabrielle Bernstein. Book is available wherever books are sold.