Angelina Kalahari

"Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself." by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Category: Blog (page 2 of 3)

What is gratitude and why is it important?

 

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According to the Oxford Dictionary, gratitude is the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

But what is it really?

“Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components, which he describes in an essay, Why Gratitude is Good.”

You can read all about his ideas, here http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition

The reason I wanted to write something about Gratitude today is because I feel 2016 was such a strange year. Well, for me, anyway.

Of course, good things have happened to many people, including to me. I published my children’s novel, George And The Gargoyle Who Lived In The Garden in 2016 and I was supported by so many lovely readers who bought it. The novel was even bought by the central library in Enfield, which means that it is available for loan throughout London. I was able to buy my gorgeous new car, my Abarth, that I’d been wanting for ages. My wonderful students have achieved great things which made me very proud. I have been blessed to have amazing friends in my life and I feel that my relationships have deepened with those people who are very important in my life.

I’m truly grateful for things like the fact that I am healthy for the most part, I can move around freely, I can breathe fresh air, I can see, hear, speak, I have a lovely warm home, I have enough food to eat every day, etc. I’m still here and I get another go at another day, and hopefully, another year

For all of those things, and more, I am extremely grateful.

But…

I feel the world has entered a rather darker phase now than I have ever seen before. Strange political events, terrorist activities, the refugee crisis and war has contributed to make me feel this way. It is difficult to remain grateful in the face of such events. As someone who leans towards the metaphysical truths in life, I know that even these disturbing events have their place, but the human, three-dimensional part of me, can’t quite get my head around the state of the world at the moment.

The fact that so many of our great icons, like Alan Rickman, Rick Parfitt, David Bowie, Prince, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Pete Burns, Terry Wogan, Gene Wilder, Caroline Aherne, Muhammad Ali, Victoria Wood, David Guest, Carrie Fisher and George Michael died last year, among so many other great people, makes me wonder if they all left because they know something we don’t.

The craziness of life can be overwhelming and then, feeling gratitude may be the last thing on our minds, but I feel that gratitude is very important because it allows us to turn bad things and obstacles into opportunities. Gratitude also turns what we have into enough.

Even though some scary things have to carry on from 2016, I trust that 2017 will bring clarity, joy and good fortune to us all. And lots of things to feel grateful for.

Happy 2017! New year’s resolutions!

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If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably made a few new year’s resolutions. We all make them, don’t we? Each year we decide that the new year is the best time to start anew – we want to lose weight and get fit, make or save more money, get more organized, be more social, read more, fall in love, etc. But how long do these actually last?

For the best results, we know that we should not take on too much all at once, that our goals should be doable and realistic, and that we should involve at least one other person to hold us accountable. It’s also a good idea not to give up just because we have a few set-backs.

In reality, however, very few people actually achieve their goals. And I feel I know why. We live in a “doing” society. We get uncomfortable with just “being.” It feels weird to do nothing and expect something to happen. Most of us feel much more productive the busier we are. But in our busyness, our eagerness to get everything done, we burn out, lose momentum, get overwhelmed. It is in our stillness alone that we are able to hear the voice of our intuition, our guidance to our next action for the best results.

As many of you know, I have always written stories, but I have decided to start writing seriously only over the last two years, and to have my novels published. It has been a steep learning curve and continues to be so. But one of the most helpful things writing has taught me, is to take time out, to deliberately do nothing. It’s amazing what happens when you do that. I usually take myself off for long walks somewhere in nature. By the time I get home, my head is pregnant with story ideas and characters that just can’t wait to be born. It’s very liberating and inspiring. But it wasn’t easy to do in the beginning. I was convinced that I had to sit in front of a keyboard in order to get the best writing. And yes, you do have to put the time in. Without knowing where you’re going first, sitting  and staring at a screen can be an awful waste of time, however.

I will be engaging in more awesome “deliberately doing nothing” this year. I hope you take the courage to try it for yourself.

Happy Winter Solstice 2016!

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I LOVE the winter solstice.

There are many festivals during the month of December. But the one I like to celebrate, is the winter solstice. I love the idea that we’re experiencing the shortest day of the year on 21 December this year, in the northern hemisphere, at any rate. In the southern hemisphere, the opposite happens as it’s the longest day of their summer.

The word, ‘solstice,’ derives from the Latin, ‘stolstitium,’ meaning ‘sun standing still.’ And in fact, on this day, the Sun does seem to stand still in the Tropic of Capricorn, before it ‘turns around,’ and reverses its direction.

I just love the fact that the day after the winter solstice the days start to lengthen again until the summer solstice. It’s such a joyous reminder that life goes on, no matter what our own personal challenges might be. A promise that summer will return to our lives, no matter the darkness that some of us have to battle.

This time of the year can be particularly challenging for many of us as we face the challenges of being with people we don’t normally spend time with, and perhaps we have difficult relationships with them, or for others it’s the loneliness that this time of the year can bring. It seems such a pivotal time because it’s so close to the new year. It’s a time when many of us make new decisions for our lives in the new year.

This year, for the first time in years and years, my husband will be in London with me, and we will spend the winter solstice and Christmas together. I’m usually on my own at this time of the year, and over the years, have developed my own ritual that I love and look forward to every year. So, to have him here this year will be quite lovely but strange.

It is thought, in times gone by, though, that the winter solstice was indeed more important to people than the summer solstice. It was the time when wine and beer were finally fully fermented and animals were slaughtered. It meant they did not have to be fed through the winter. But it led to big feasts that everyone could look forward to and enjoy.

The winter solstice has been celebrated throughout the ages by many different cultures. Among others, we find Saturnalia in Ancient Rome starting from around 217 BCE that included a huge weeklong feast. The Feast of Yuul in Scandinavia involved putting an entire tree in the fireplace. Yalda, an Ancient Iranian festival celebrates ‘the longest and darkest night of the year,’ and the re-birth of the sun, and during Santo Thomas in Guatemala participants still indulge in the flying pole dance.

Today, in the UK, people flock to Stonehenge in Salisbury, Newgrange in Ireland, or Maeshowe in Scotland to celebrate the re-birth of the sun. All these megalithic monuments clearly align with the sun and face the winter solstice sunrise.

I’d like to wish you all a wonderful winter solstice, however you celebrate it.

Why are romance novels so popular?

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Why are romance novels so popular? According to book seller statistics, romance novels are the most popular genre ever. Period. But why?

I’ve been asking myself that question for just over a year now, ever since my novel, The Healing Touch, was published and, for a brief moment in time, rose to within the top 100 in its category on Amazon.

The funny thing is that I never intended for The Healing Touch to be a romance. Yes, it’s about love, and a man and a woman fall in love with each other, but it’s not a romance novel in the truest sense of the genre. The love story, however, are what readers of the novel loved.

As I’ve been advised to listen to my readers and give them what they want, I’m now writing the next novel, following those characters and their relationship. The novel, Forever And Ever Love, is set over three lifetimes and will be published in 2017.

Meanwhile, the question of why romance novels are so popular had been haunting me. Late one night I watched a documentary on BBC 4 about literary novelist, Sally Duffy, taking on the challenge of writing a Mills and Boon romance novel for their 100 year anniversary. The programme was illuminating as it soon became clear that, no matter what non-readers of the genre may think of it, it is not easy to write.

But very interesting to discover, was that romantic fiction is written for women by women. Does it therefore fulfil some kind of yearning within women? I would suggest that it goes further than fulfilling any kind of romantic fantasy or fairy tale. Romantic fiction is very important because it may be the only art form developed for women by women. Think about it. Other art forms have been fashioned and developed by men. But romantic fiction looks at the world only through the eyes of women.

Today, I came across a remarkable blog on romance novels by Freddie Bateman. Freddie’s blog looks at the reasons why the romance novel is so popular and how it has developed over the years. If romantic fiction is your thing, his blog is a must-read – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-romance-genre-so-popular-freddie-bateman

Extracts from Freddie’s blog:

“Who Reads Romance, and Why?

Why are romances so popular? There are as many answers as there are readers. And there are a lot of readers—RWA’s (Romance Writers of America) 2005 study showed that 64.6 million Americans read at least one romance in the previous year.

Half the readers are married; almost half are college graduates, and 15 percent hold graduate degrees. Women between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four make up more than half the romance-reading audience, but readers range in age from their preteens to over age seventy-five.

A fair number of men read romances, too—22 percent of all romance readers are male, according to RWA—but not many are willing to talk about it. (Some even subscribe to by-mail book clubs in their wives’ names to keep their secret from the mailman.)

Romance is just as popular in other countries as it is in North America. Harlequin Books publishes in 25 languages and in 120 nations, and counts its readership at more than 200 million individuals worldwide.

…Romance novels are the best-selling segment of the paperback fiction market in North America. According to statistics compiled for the Romance Writers of America (RWA), romance novels account for well over 50 percent of mass-market paperback fiction sold in the United States each year. More than a third of all fiction sold in the United States (including mass-market paper, trade paper, and hardcover books) is romance fiction. Paperback romances outsell mysteries, literary novels, science fiction novels, and Westerns. More than two thousand romance titles are published each year, creating a $1.2 billion business in 2004.”

Thought provoking, right?

How does a supermoon affect us?

 

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We experienced our last supermoon of the year on 14 December 2016.

The word ‘supermoon’ was coined by an astrologer, and has now become widespread, even among astronomers. We know a supermoon is super because it coincides with a full moon or a new moon and the fact that the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth. Astronomers, oceanographers and fishermen tell us that the supermoon also causes higher-than-usual ocean tides on the side of the earth closest to the supermoon. But how else does a supermoon affect us?

We’ve all heard of full moon or supermoon madness. I undertook quite a bit of research to ascertain if this was true or not, and found only articles written by scholars disproving the idea. But one thing is for certain. Many of us can feel slightly out of sorts during the time of a full moon or a supermoon. And it’s not just people. My cat has been behaving in a particular eccentric way this entire week!

Astrologers, however, take a full moon seriously, and a supermoon, very seriously. As this was the last supermoon of the year, their advice is that it’s all about “out with the old, in with the new” – letting go of old patterns and things that no longer serve us, will make way for new things and new beginnings to come to us.

Maybe they have a point? Maybe now is the time to contemplate what you’ve achieved and accomplished in 2016, and what you would like your 2017 to be like? Why wait till January to decide what your 2017 goals will be? But most of us make the same goals each year and never achieve them, like losing weight, going to sleep earlier, eating healthier, going to the gym more, making more money. These goals might be too general, but whatever your goals are, the best way to achieving those starts here:

  1. Tell people. Make yourself accountable to your friends and family. If you share your goals on your social media networks, you might even find people joining you on your journey, and you’ll be more likely to achieve them.
  1. Break it down into bite-sized sections. If you set yourself a goal to lose weight, for example, maybe work out what you need to lose each week in order to accomplish your goal. Or if you’ve been thinking about writing that novel, start with 500 words a day. A few months later, you’ll have your finished novel. Most of us give up on our goals if they appear too big to accomplish, but by taking baby steps we can achieve anything.
  1. Write them down and set a date. If you have written them in pen in your calendar, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

Don’t worry if you’ve missed your chance to do so on the 14th. Astrologers believe that the effects of this supermoon will last over the next two weeks. Apparently, the reason this supermoon is so powerful, is because it’s so close to the beginning of a new year. As it was in the sign of Gemini, and carries the Gemini energy, it is meant to be optimistic, energetic, easier to communicate, and to focus on discovering new ways to do things. Let’s hope that’s true for 2017.

Personally, I usually contemplate my life around the time of the Solstice anyway. So, on Wednesday, 21 December 2016, please feel free to join me in celebrating our achievements in 2016, and setting new goals for 2017.

A Great New Novel – The Du Lac Devil

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A lovely award winning writer friend of mine, Mary Anne Yarde, launched the second book, The Du Lac Devil, in her The Du Lac Chronicles series on Sunday. I love these books, and this story, so much that I wanted to share it with everyone here, too.

The Du Lac Devil, although a standalone novel, continues the story from the previous two books in the series, The Du Lac Chronicles, and the novella, The Pitchfork Rebellion.

I was looking forward tremendously to reading this book as I had enjoyed the previous two so much. I was not disappointed. In fact, I could not put it down and read through the night because I could not wait to see what was going to happen. Now, I can’t wait for the next one!

This could be the next big series on TV, because you’ll love it as much as Game of Thrones!

Mary Anne Yarde is a masterful storyteller. She weaves together history and fiction so perfectly and magically, that I find myself fully immersed in the world of her novels. It was wonderful to be back in the time of the Du Lac brothers, sons of Lancelot du Lac from King Arthur Pendragon’s court during the time of Camelot. The Du Lac Devil reveals the story of the youngest son, Merton du Lac, the Du Lac Devil.

Merton becomes a mercenary as a result of his guilty conscience over his inability to protect his brother, King Alden, who was once captured and tortured by the King of Wessex. King Wessex is blackmailing Merton in return for a promise not to invade Alden’s kingdom. But selling himself to the highest bidder lands Merton in trouble as he finds himself in the middle of two armies. We learn of his ingenious ways of solving problems as he escapes. He travels with his band of mercenary comrades to reunite with his brothers, Alden and Budic. Merton’s eldest brother, King Budic, recently lost his wife and son. Their funeral is the reason that everyone is at Budic’s court. But this is where the trouble really starts. There’s intrigue, romance, dastardly dealings, political scheming…

I won’t spoil it for you, save to say that this is a wonderfully gripping story that both young, and not so young, can enjoy. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

The Du Lac Devil is available in e-book and print formats on Amazon:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N0FW1RU

USA – https://www.amazon.com/Du-Lac-Devil-Book-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B01N0FW1RU

How important is your self-image?

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The question of self-image popped up while I was watching television.

The UK X Factor semi-final took place on Saturday 10 December. I don’t usually watch reality singing shows, but I recognize that they provide a platform for people from which to launch a career in music, and for that, I applaud them.

I watched the show on Saturday because I had been informed that someone who I admire a great deal, and who acquired his international stardom as a result of such a reality singing show, would be performing. I am referring to Adam Lambert, whose voice I have admired since I saw his first audition on American Idol in 2009. He sang Bohemian Rhapsody for his audition then, and on Saturday he sang it again in a duet with Saara Alto, one of the 2016 semi-finalists on the UK X Factor. So, a full-circle moment for him. And very poignant, as he has since then, alongside a successful solo career, also become the front man for the band, Queen, who wrote the song.

Adam’s singing, as always, was amazing. As always, he brought all his performance skills to the stage and showed his customary generosity to his co-singer. Although I prefer to hear Adam’s voice by itself, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well Saara’s voice complimented Adam’s. (If you want to know more about my thoughts and analysis of Adam’s voice, you can find it on my blog site, The Sound Bath – https://soundbath.wordpress.com/)

What I found very interesting, and what I want to address here, however, is the question of self-image.

Saara had a conversation with Sharon Osbourne, her mentor on the show. Saara mentioned how much her perception of who she had to become had changed throughout the course of the show. Apparently, she had been working towards becoming an international artist, and felt as she was not garnering the assistance she needed in Finland at the time, she would come to the UK, instead. She clearly found it here. And now, there, too. It’s a great example of doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals, and for that, I admire her greatly.

But I’m also grateful to her for mentioning how she had to address the issue of her self-image. I feel that is a major key to success. I know many extremely talented people who don’t see themselves as the artists they want to be, and therefore, their careers are much smaller than they had envisaged for themselves. This causes frustration, or sadly, even giving up.

Many of us have something we want to achieve. We spend many hours and many years working towards our goal. But we neglect to also investigate, and work on, who we have to become in order to achieve it, or who we will become once we have achieved it. Often, especially with artists, self-image appears to be strongly connected to how others see us, what others think of us, and how others support us. But that is our downfall. We have to see ourselves as we want to be, first. Then, recognition will follow.

I feel Saara finally sees herself as an international music artist, and no doubt, that is what her life will now become. We now know that she came second on the show. But we also know that second place never stood in the way of a successful international career. Adam Lambert, who also came second on American Idol, is the perfect case in point.

Can healing emotional pain also heal physical pain?

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In a very interesting conversation with a good friend this week, we discussed her epiphany question – can healing emotional pain also heal physical pain? With her permission, I would like to explore that a little here today.

Very few of us traverse this life without some kind of emotional pain, from a boyfriend or girlfriend dumping us, or some kind of betrayal, or hurt, etc. We all carry our scars safely tucked away in our bodies. Many of us even pretend that we’re okay for years and years, and then suddenly, something happens or a light bulb goes on, as it did for my friend.

In her case, she had had an accident in which she broke her wrist at the same time as having the new, raw wounds of the ending of a very difficult relationship inflicted upon her. As a professional pianist, she thought her career would be over. It nearly was. She was unable to play the piano for many years. Gradually, her wrist healed but it was never quite the same and she has endured continuing pain there all this time. Luckily, she could save her career. But the emotional pain of the failed relationship continued to live in her body, as well. Lying in bed one night holding her painful wrist, the thought suddenly appeared that the two might be related.

I’m so grateful that she shared her epiphany with me. Emotional pain is such a deeply disturbing thing because there are no tablets we can take for it.

What struck me is the idea that our emotions and our memories live in the cells of our bodies. We’ve all heard or read about someone who’d had an organ transplant, only to start behaving differently than they had before their operation, or craving food they had never eaten before. When they investigated, they found that the person whose organ had been donated, had those character traits, or they liked those foods. We hear and read of people who are able to shrink cancerous tumours by talking to their bodies, thanking their bodies for keeping them alive.

But how many of us ever thank our bodies? We tend to criticize it, instead, wishing we were thinner, bigger, taller, shorter, had bigger/smaller boobs, or bigger/smaller other bits if we’re a guy, a different colour, straight/curly/more hair, etc. We cut bits off when we have operations and never give a second thought to thanking the part that was removed for having been a part of us until it became ill.

So, I feel my friend has a very good point, and we wondered what a possible perfect blue print for our bodies might mean? When we take the courage to heal our emotional pain, when we’re able to banish it from our bodies with love, perhaps our physical pain can be healed, too.

Years ago, I read an amazing book, called Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom – Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing in which the Author, Christiane Northrup, MD, talks about our bodies as our allies and how important it is to thank your body for carrying you through life in the best way that it can.

I’ll let you into a little secret – I start every day off by looking into my mirror and telling myself that I’m awesome, I’m enough, I’m a goddess and that I love myself. Then I give myself a hug before I start writing my happiness journal that used to be my gratitude journal. But now, I may also thank my body for helping me to be here for another day!

A great question about fear from a fictional character.

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I talked to Isabelle Cooper about her fears today. She is the protagonist of my novel, The Healing Touch. She is also the protagonist of my next novel, Forever And Ever Love, a continuation of her and Angelo’s story from The Healing Touch.

I talk to Isabelle every day, but she surprised me today when she wondered if she was being selfish to want to be in both novels?

Her question put me in mind about what we believe we can and can’t have in life, and the wonderful quote from A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson:

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Confessions of a vocal coach

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I am lucky enough to work wearing several different hats. When I wear my vocal coach hat, I work with wonderful voices and help to develop those voices. It never ceases to amaze me what the human vocal instrument is capable of, and I love seeing my students’ voices develop.

As a vocal coach, guiding voices, especially young voices, involve not only teaching the correct techniques for optimum vocal expression, but picking the right repertoire. This is important to build the voice’s strength and flexibility, and requires great sensitivity to the voice you’re working with.

A number of my students started studying with me when they were ten years old. Then, they were cute little kids with squeaky voices to match their little bodies. At that time, they were often shy with soft, tiny voices. Most had never had a singing lesson before, and often it was their mothers who felt that singing would bring them out of themselves and imbue them with confidence. Their mothers were not wrong. Singing is great for building confidence and good posture.

Today, aged fifteen, these same students are gorgeous young men and women with beautiful voices, and confident singers and performers.  Their great communication skills that will stand them in good stead as they traverse their working lives and beyond. At the moment, they all seem to be especially stressed by too much work and preparations for their GCSE mock exams in January, to be followed soon after by the real thing. So, for now, we’re focusing on breathing lower and deeper in their bodies which will help them to relax.

What they eventually want to do with their voice training, will dictate the length and intensity of their studies. Obviously, if the goal is to become a professional singer, the training will be very different from someone who is studying to pass exams in order to improve their CV for a new school or University, or someone who is studying voice for improved confidence, or as a hobby. But hopefully, every student who ever studied with me will feel that they received the very best voice education I could give them. And I’m lucky, since it seems my students really do feel that way, judging by the lovely cards, letters and presents I have received from them over the years.

I’ve kept all their cards and letters in a big brown envelope, and on those days when life seems harder than others, or when life throws me a curve ball, I take out their writings and re-read them. It never fails to make my heart sing!

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