Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 14 News List

Wellness warriors

The new Carrie Bradshaws are well versed in self-help and New Age spirituality, and their messages is falling on eager ears

By Allen Salkin  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

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The dream used to be different.

Four years ago, noon would have found Gabrielle Bernstein on her way to lunch at the Soho House with a potential client of the public relations agency she co-owned. By night, she was throwing back Patron tequila at Cielo, the Coral Room or another of the downtown clubs she represented.

Her occupation has changed. On a Tuesday earlier this month at noon, Bernstein, 29, was perched on a meditation blanket in a yoga studio on West 13th Street, easing into 45 minutes of silent contemplation.

That night in her apartment in Greenwich Village, she anointed her hands in fragrant oil and, using a mixture of phrases gleaned from self-help books, meditation exercises and inspirational music, led seven young women seated on saffron and red pillows through nearly two hours of spiritual life-coaching.

“Hang out in the light,” she told the women, all in their 20s and early 30s, quoting from her forthcoming book, Add More ing to Your Life. “Take action once a day to do something that ignites your life.”

You could call Bernstein, who no longer eats red meat or drinks, a life coach, meditation guide or New Age therapist. But the clients who pay US$180 for four weekly sessions are more likely to call her guru.

“A lot of women look up to her,” said Jennifer Fragleasso, 31, who joined Bernstein’s group in January. “We need this guidance and we are searching for this guidance.”

A decade ago, young women like Bernstein might have been expected to chase the lifestyle of high heels and pink drinks at rooftop bars of the meatpacking district. But now there is a new role model for New York’s former Carrie Bradshaws — young women who are vegetarian, well versed in self-help and New Age spirituality, and who are finding a way to make a living preaching to eager audiences, mostly female.

Bernstein is one of a circle of such figures, influenced less by the oeuvre of Candace Bushnell than that of Marianne Williamson, the spiritual lecturer who wrote A Course in Miracles, and by other books of pop self-actualization like The Secret, Eat, Pray, Love and even Skinny Bitch.

SILVER LINING

One of the most prominent is Kris Carr, a former actress who a month after appearing in two beer commercials during the Super Bowl in 2003 was found to have cancer in her liver and lungs. She went on a voyage of self-transformation that she chronicled in a documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer, which aired on TLC in 2007, and was followed by two books.

Her Web site, Crazy Sexy Life, has become a nexus for women who identify themselves as leaders of a new generation of self-empowerment. Bloggers for the site include Rory Freedman, an author of the Skinny Bitch diet guides; Bernstein; and Mallika Chopra, a parenting author whose father is Deepak Chopra.

“We are encouraging people to eat right, to exercise, to tap into their spirituality, to start listening to themselves, and to do it in a way that’s bold and resonates,” Carr, 38, said by phone from her home in Woodstock, New York.

The last few weeks in Carr’s life demonstrate her newfound stature. She celebrated her birthday and wedding anniversary in New Mexico before heading to San Francisco to speak with magazine editors at VegNews. Then it was on to Los Angeles for meetings about a television show she is developing. She ended the trip in Boston, where she gave the keynote address at a conference of the Association of Physicians Assistants in Oncology.

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