Gabrielle Bernstein On Paris: Don’t Bulldoze Past Your Feelings

Photo by Chloe Crespi.
It’s been a challenging few days across the globe as news of attacks in Paris and Beirut have suddenly streamed into our consciousness. There’s an inevitable mashup of emotions going on for anyone processing the details. Should I fear for my safety and that of my family? What do I do with the discomfort, rage, and sadness? These events are triggering something I don’t want to feel. I just feel like checking out.

While there are no “right” ways to grieve or heal, there are steps we can take to honor the situations at hand without letting them freeze us in our tracks. Here, we’ve asked motivational speaker and New York Times bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein (May Cause Miracles, Spirit Junkie, Add More -ing To Your Life) to weigh in on the weighty issues that are on our minds. Bernstein has been a guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and The Dr. Oz Show, and offers guided meditations through her website, Gabbyb.tv. She also writes regularly on subjects like mindfulness and coming to terms with emotions on her blog.

Without further ado...

Gabrielle, a lot of us aren’t sure what to do with the anxiety and sadness that gets kicked up in the wake of disturbing world news. What’s your approach at times like these?
GABRIELLE BERNSTEIN: The first step is to not bulldoze past your feelings. If we don’t allow ourselves to experience what’s going on, then it will all get lodged in us. Give yourself 90 seconds to be very present in your feelings. Take some moments for silent reflection or prayer.

After the recent attacks in France, people are understandably feeling uncomfortable and on guard. How can we bring ourselves some comfort?
GB:
People are becoming more sensitive these days, since things like this have happened more frequently. Terrorist attacks are meant to bring the world into fear and they win when we go into that space. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel afraid when it’s appropriate... There’s a reason we have the amygdala, that fight-or-flight mechanism in our brain. But when we’re not being personally attacked in that moment, we can return to a place of peace inside through our breath and our thoughts.

Is there a time when we should turn off CNN?
GB:
I think we have to be conscious of what’s going on in the world. Being apathetic to what’s going on doesn’t help anyone. Just don’t get sucked into it. It’s easy to leave the news on all day, but that’s not helping, either. It’s actually infusing more fear into the world.

What risk do we run by not experiencing our emotions?
GB:
The practice of letting yourself be present is so key, because the negative feelings can become longer-term trauma when we avoid them. If we don’t sit with it and let it leave, it can live in us and ignite in strange circumstances later on.

What mindset do you think would be helpful for people to adopt in the face of something like terrorism, war, or anything that upsets them deeply?
GB:
Don’t discredit the power of setting your intentions for a loving and more compassionate world. It’s through that loving intention that energy shifts. We have the power to be more kind and thoughtful in the words we use and actions we take. I identify as a “spiritual activist;” I consider it our responsibility, especially at a time like this, to bring more compassion and understanding into the world.

What’s an action step we can take to help us work through the troubling news of today and down the road?
GB:
There’s a lot to be said for becoming more community-oriented. Lean into your friends. Experiencing a collective connection and gatherings is healing. For some people, that’s a religious or spiritual community. It could be as simple as just following someone inspirational on Instagram. The worst situations can actually bring people closer together.
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