Author: Angelina Kalahari (page 3 of 5)

Fear, the mind-killer

fear

I feel with the world in its current state, many of us experience fearfulness. But fear is the mind-killer. Fear paralyses us. Fear makes us smaller than we are. Fear tramples on our dreams.

I am a huge fan of  Frank Herbert’s Dune, from where the phrase, Fear is the mind-killer, originates.

So, I was excited when I came across this blog post by the amazing Kristen Lamb, in which she quotes Frank Herbert, and talks about this topic much more eloquently than I ever could, so I’m sharing her post here. Even though Kristen is talking about fear from the point of view as a writer, I feel it affects us all and is therefore relevant to all of us.

If you want to visit her website, here is the link to her blog  – https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/fear-is-the-mind-killer-in-control-of-your-life/

FEAR—Is the Mind-Killer in Control of Your Life?

by Author Kristen Lamb

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Noemi Galera.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Noemi Galera.

The single greatest challenge you will face in trying to accomplish anything great is FEAR. FEAR is nothing to be underestimated and we need to learn to manage it if we want to succeed. I remember being a kid and Dune was one of my favorite movies. At the age of ten I memorized Paul Atreides’ mantra:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

At the time I just thought it was a seriously cool movie line. It was only when I grew older that I began to truly understand how powerful these words were.

Fear IS the mind-killer. Remember last time we talked about how vital it is to make sure we have our heads in the right spot. Where the mind goes, the man follows and if we are scope-locked on all the stuff that overwhelms and terrifies us? We are doomed before we start. Our head is not in the game.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I find it so fascinating that Frank Herbert called it the “little-death” but isn’t it? Fear is not real. Fear is the work of imaginations and yet those small cracks are what can bring everything crashing down.

I will face my fear.

Words have tremendous power and we as writers are wise to appreciate this. We might be sinking into despair. We are anxious and can’t sleep. We can’t focus and so we say things like, “I am tired” or “I’m depressed” but by using these blanket statement copouts we are only feeding the very thing feeding on us. We need to face it. NAME IT.

It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to give that fear a name because until we know what it IS, we can’t fight back. What is the first thing any doctor does when we come into the ER? He finds the thing’s NAME. Sure our chest hurts and we are sweaty and dizzy and our blood pressure is wrong but that could be anything from cardiac arrest to a panic attack. NAMING what is going on is vital for any kind of treatment.

Do we really want a doctor cracking open our chest because we are having a panic attack? Conversely do we want the doctor to recommend yoga when we have a blocked artery?

I will permit my fear to pass over me and through me.

Feel the emotion. Don’t stuff it. No I don’t need a sandwich, a drink, a nap, a trip to the mall, or yet another pass through Facebook. I need to feel what is going on instead of self-medicating or avoiding it. It’s like a squall line. Just let it pass over and beyond.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Here is the deal, fear isn’t (often) real and even when it is? It isn’t permanent unless we permit it to stay. We will still be here.

So why do I talk about all of this? Because we have to face and conquer fear every single day and maybe you are experiencing symptoms of fear but you aren’t aware of it. Time to peer down that dark alley of the soul…

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commonse, via Pedro Rebeiro Simoes

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commonse, via Pedro Rebeiro Simoes

You Don’t Finish

I can raise my hand and attest I am guilty. I have too many things that I start and I don’t finish. Is this because I am lazy? Hardly. Is it because I don’t love what I do? Not at all. If I get really, really honest and make a list of all the things I have left undone, I can often see fear staring back at me.

A quick story to illustrate…

I remember being SO confident when I scored my mega-agent out of New York. He thought I was brilliant and fresh and my book was sheer genius. I was on CLOUD NINE and bulletproof. I was so sure that I’d have a book deal instantly because Russ was that powerful of an agent.

I remember when I signed with him talking on the phone and he said, “Okay, here is how it is going to go down. Once I get your proposal I am going to make a few calls and then things are going to happen very fast. Are you ready for this?”

GOD YES! Put me IN Coach!

So a month passes, then two, then six and all this time my confidence is leaking out like air from an overfilled balloon *Kristen’s ego makes long farting sound*. After a year and a half?

Nothing.

I had avoided talking to my agent because I just couldn’t bear being a failure. Finally, I had to do something so I emailed and he gave me the news I knew was coming but had avoided. NY didn’t want a social media book. They believed my teachings were the tip of the spear and were afraid of it.

And I know all of this sounds seriously weird because every publisher at the time was requiring social media for all of its authors. I had many long and grueling conversations with authors who are household names who’d come to me vexed out of their minds because their publishers wanted to know why they didn’t have a million FB fans. They were desperate for help.

But these same publishers that were requiring social media, didn’t want the manual.

*head desk*

I was crushed. I didn’t want to be self-published. I wanted to be legit. I wanted to be a Random Penguin but it wasn’t in the cards. So, I gathered what was left of my ego and self-published Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World because my ego was not as important as you guys’ futures.

But how long did I sit on that book?

Too long. Too long would be the answer.

I was terrified of failing. I was terrified of being grouped in as “one of those self-published hacks” even though I knew (in my mind) that self-publishing was just as viable as legacy and in many ways MORE viable. My head and my heart just could not get on the same page because I was afraid.

So fast-forward a couple more years and I have finished this AMAZING romantic suspense. I send it to an agent friend and she loved it…but didn’t rep the genre. She told me the book was awesome and to just query publishers direct and she would handle the contract. I got rejected. Then a publisher accepted (then they were no longer financially solvent so I didn’t feel good about signing). Then another rejected. So about this point I am batting 500. 50% love the book and 50% don’t want it.

I couldn’t leave the book unpublished any longer even though it was tempting. All the voices were there.

You teach writing, so if your book sucks you are FINISHEEEEEED.

Why can’t you get a real publisher?

Maybe you should stick with social media.

And what did I do? Again, I sat on a great book…because I was afraid. I was afraid of failure, of you guys tossing digital tomatoes at my work. Even though I know there is NO way to write a perfect book. I have read reviews for every book I adored and thought was perfect and someone else hated it. I knew this. I know this. But I was still scared sh….. witless.

But I have learned that when I feel fear that 1) it is often BS and nothing to really be afraid of and 2) it is generally a good sign I am going in the right direction. So I made some more connections and now my book is with a new and amazing publisher who I think is a great fit. Maybe the book flops. I dunno. I won’t know until I put it out there.

I was afraid of failure but also afraid of success.

What if it does well and it is the only book in me? And I can’t do it AGAIN?

Yeah well we will cross that bridge when we get there.

So if you have things you are NOT finishing, ask yourself WHY? What are you afraid of? Then do it anyway.

You Fixate on What You Can’t Control

I can always tell when I am operating in a place of fear when I pay attention to what is on my mind. What am I constantly complaining about?

***Which first of all, ditch complaining. Complaining alone is a BIG RED FLAG something is wrong.

Often we will fixate on the things we can’t control at the expense of things we can because it offers us a handy excuse if everything craps the bed. If I spent my time moaning about how unfair it was NY didn’t want my book instead of hustling and figuring out how to unleash my book onto the world?

I’d still be complaining. Then, when I never published the book and my career as an expert withered and dried up, I would have someone to blame other than myself. I sure wouldn’t have the single most popular book on branding for authors.

Same with the fiction. I had a choice. Whine about the rejections and shelve the book and hide as a blogger or suck it up and step it up.

Well, I would have been a huge deal if only someone else had done X.

NOT TODAY!

You Can’t Make a Decision

Here’s the deal. No decision is still a decision. But often when we are scared we hem and we haw and we fail to ever decide because deep down we know if we put it off long enough? Someone else WILL decide for us. Then, if it goes badly, we have an out.

Early in my writing journey I bounced from genre to genre to genre. Maybe I was a romance writer, no a thriller writer, no science fiction. Notice how this looks a lot like never finishing. Decide and commit. Do it afraid.

There are a lot more symptoms of fear but these are the three BIGGIES. Remember that nothing great is ever going to happen in your comfort zone. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is doing X in spite of fear.

This business is really really hard and it requires us being so vulnerable and it is super easy to get kicked in the confidence. Rejection sucks. It hurts. But failure isn’t permanent. Neither is success. All of this will pass over us and through us and…

ONLY WE WILL REMAIN.

A huge way to combat fear is like I said, we gotta name it. Then we need to make a decision and if it still scares us? Get help. If you are afraid your book is crap? Hire a pro to look at it, be honest and tell you how to fix it. Heck, email me kristen at wana intl dot com. If branding scares you? Take a class. Got a bunch listed below and anyone who has taken my classes will tell you I move heaven and earth to help you. I can be that big badass sister you need to help you sleep at night.

Get a mentor to guide you.

I have a handful of things on the business side or publishing that are freaking me out right now. Why? Because I don’t yet UNDERSTAND them. Bookbub? How does it work? So what did I do? I called in favors from people on-line, people I have served and asked, “Hey I am freaked out. Can you help a Sistah OUT?”

WE ARE NOT ALONE.

What are your thoughts? I have been struggling with confidence lately. Off my game, out of my groove. I know it is because I am doing and trying new things in new areas where I am NOT the sole reigning diva and that scares me. But I am here. We are here. We have each other.

Do you succumb to your fear too easily? Maybe spend too much time with distractions? Or complain and whine about stuff you can’t change? Hey we ALL do it. No shame here, my kiddos. Write down what you fear. Here, in the comments and we can bond.

I fear that none of what I do matters. That I am really not making a difference and I really didn’t earn any of my success. It was all a fluke or an accident and one day people are going to wake up and see I have no idea what I am doing.

There, got you started 😀 .

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! 

All you need is an internet connection!

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!! 

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 28th

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

Why are we supposed to become invisible after a certain age?

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One of the most disturbing elements of ageing is the idea that we become invisible after a certain age, usually after fifty.

We all age and most of the features of aging sneak up on us. We may notice a few extra lines, a few extra pounds, our eyesight may not be as perfectly clear as it once was, we may have a few aches and pains, and don’t get me started on menopause. But none of these things generally disturb us too much because they happen gradually, giving us the opportunity to get used to our changing bodies.

I assumed becoming invisible – the dreaded concern I’d heard so much about – was also an element of aging that would sneak up on me. But I’ve been told it is very different. Apparently, it is the sudden realization of the feeling that you are no longer attractive to others, no longer considered vital and useful, no longer considered sexy and desirable. And it often comes as a result of others’ reaction towards you.

A few years ago, I was very ill and ended up in hospital. I was fifty years old at the time and relegated to the geriatric ward where – I kid you not – most other occupants were one hundred years old or older.

After I got better and left the hospital, I promised myself that I will never be treated again as invisible just because of a number that makes up my age. Sure, I don’t have my skinny, toned, youthful body anymore, my face no longer carries the glow of youth, but I’m happy in my skin. I keep my body healthy by eating properly. I exercise as much as I want to by walking and swimming weekly and I generally look after myself.

So what if twenty-five year olds don’t fancy me anymore. Do I really want them to? No. I like myself and I make the most of myself. I dress well, wear subtle make-up daily and I feel good about myself. I feel confident, and I enjoy my life. And guess what? Younger guys still look at me, and younger women appreciate my style and ask for make-up tips.

I don’t think we have to become invisible. I certainly don’t intend to, and I urge you not to either. You are still valuable, you are still useful, you are still vital no matter your age. Your mere presence in this world is a blessing to those who know you and to those who meet you.

Some of the most interesting, inspirational, glamorous, confident, funny and stylish women in my life are all much older than fifty.

In my novel, The Healing Touch, Isabelle is already over fifty when she attracts the attention of a Greek Adonis, the man with whom she falls in love, and he with her.

It is time we honour ourselves and each other, and not allow labels to affect who we should become as we age.

A very modern Troubadour, Ed Sheeran

I have been listening to Ed Sheeran’s new song, Castle On The Hill. It’s not the first time that he struck me as a very modern Troubadour.

Here is a singer/musician who gives us songs about love and tells stories through his songs that we can all relate to. He does so in a simple yet sophisticated manner. His songs convey sincerity and realness, which his voice is effortlessly able to communicate. Often, it’s just him and his guitar, performing whilst wearing jeans and a t-shirt, hence my reference to him being a modern day troubadour. I feel this is most likely why he has succeeded where others have not.

You may well ask why I’m blogging today about Ed Sheeran and music. Many of you may well know that in a previous life, I worked as an operatic soprano and that I continue to teach. The voice has been, and remains, an obsession and I cannot help but notice when I come across a voice that touches me, that stands out in its ability to be the musical instrument it is, to convey its messages clearly and with sincerity. Ed Sheeran’s voice is one such voice for me. But by his own admission, he didn’t always sound like he does today. It took incredible hard work, tenacity and deliberate practise to get to where he is today, and for that, I admire him even more.

His new song, Castle On The Hill has a great message for us all, don’t you think?

When I was six years old I broke my leg
I was running from my brother and his friends
And tasted the sweet perfume of the mountain grass I rolled down
I was younger then, take me back to when I

Found my heart and broke it here
Made friends and lost them through the years
And I’ve not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home

I’m on my way
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill

Fifteen years old and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes
Running from the law through the backfields and getting drunk with my friends
Had my first kiss on a Friday night, I don’t reckon that I did it right
But I was younger then, take me back to when

We found weekend jobs, when we got paid
We’d buy cheap spirits and drink them straight
Me and my friends have not thrown up in so long, oh how we’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home

I’m on my way
Driving at 90 down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill

One friend left to sell clothes
One works down by the coast
One had two kids but lives alone
One’s brother overdosed
One’s already on his second wife
One’s just barely getting by
But these people raised me
And I can’t wait to go home

And I’m on my way, I still remember
These old country lanes
When we did not know the answers
And I miss the way you make me feel, it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill

 

 

 

What are the most important elements that glue together a long-lasting marriage?

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I’ve been pondering this question a lot. What exactly are the important elements that glue together a marriage?

It came as a result of a question from a reader of my novel, The Healing Touch, in which the protagonist is struggling with the possibility that her sexless marriage is failing. Her feelings are exacerbated when a new man arrives on the scene who gives her a lot of attention.

The reader – let’s call her Jane – sent a long email with her thoughts. She highlighted two elements in particular, which I’d like to share with you. I’d be very interested to find out what you think.

Jane felt that sex was a very important part of a marriage, perhaps the most important part. She explained that sex functioned as the barometer in the relationship. When things get rough, or stressful, or out of sync with each other, sex is often the first thing to disappear. But it is worth making the effort, because it brings you closer together with your partner, and its healing function within the relationship cannot be dismissed.

I agree with Jane on her points wholeheartedly. Sex is the first thing to go when a relationship is in trouble, for sure, but it is also the most healing, nourishing, good-feeling thing that can happen in the relationship. It’s very important to make sexy-time and to honour that appointment.

The other element Jane felt was of utmost importance in the success of a long-lasting relationship is respect. She said that she had been married to the same man for thirty years. Through that time, their relationship had changed, they had changed, but the one thing that remained was a deep and lasting respect for one another. Without respect, there is nothing. She said that whenever she has a problem with him she talks about it with him in a very open way, no matter what it is, even if it’s hurtful or scary.

I feel Jane is right about respect being a very important element to the success of any relationship. Without it, there can be no basis for a real no holds barred relationship, right?

I’d love to hear your ideas and feelings about this topic. You can either join in the discussion here or on social media where I will post this blog, or you can email me privately on angelinasbooks@hotmail.com.

In pursuit of excellence

excellence

 

Several of my students are currently either getting ready for important exams or awaiting results from universities. All are in pursuit of excellence. But not all will achieve their dreams.

It put me in mind of the way in which we approach these things. My personal experience includes years of auditions as well, and I know that our frame of mind, when we go into something, is very important.

If we approach an exam, a university entrance, an audition or an interview with trepidation and the feeling or thoughts that we may not be successful, we have just upped our chances of being unsuccessful, for sure. When we feel that others are in charge of our future, feelings of insecurity in our abilities, and feelings of “are we good enough” surfaces. This in turn, paralyses us to do our best, to appreciate our possibilities fully.

But when we go into any situation with a positive mindset we increase our chances of success. This may seem obvious, but how many of us remember this when we’re faced with something we deeply desire, like that dream job, or the issue that reminded me of this in the first instance – a place at Oxford University, for example.

It’s a catch-22. Often, when we desire something intensely, adversely, we actually focus on its opposite. We become tense, obsess about it and talk about it with fear in our hearts. Metaphysics calls this type of thinking and feeling “living from a place of lack,” and you can see why, can’t you?

But as we think and feel ourselves into our desires in a positive way, our pursuit of excellence ceases to exist, because we hold ourselves to a higher standard automatically and we free ourselves in order to achieve an excellence seldom dreamt of.

When we can relax, when we can change our mind and look at our most coveted opportunities from the point of joy, excitement, fun and success, we stop obsessing. We start looking forward to having it. That’s when we’re able to do our best work, and to elevate ourselves to a higher level. That’s when we can genuinely imagine ourselves already at Oxford University, or already in possession of our dream job, or already playing our dream role.

Are good manners important?

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“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners
without seeing any.”
Fred Astaire

I was humming and hahhing about posting this today. The reason is that I’m not interested so much in Donald Trump the politician as in the character of the man, if the two can be separated in this case. Trump’s non-stop insults and threats tell us that he is full of uncontrolled malice toward others, and a bully. No wonder people’s reaction to him.

Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes yesterday was powerful and galvanizing. In particular, she commented specifically on one aspect of Donald Trump’s behaviour. Here are her words:

There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

You can watch her speech here:

Her words reminded me of other, unsavory actions and words I have witnessed during Trump’s campaign. To me he seems to be lacking in empathy and he clearly has an enormous ego. But call me naïve, Meryl Streep’s comments made me wonder if he simply just lacks good manners? The particular incident that Streep referred to sounds like something from kindergarten.

I’m not going to voice my opinions of him as a politician, but if all that was at stake in Trump’s insults was bad manners, that would still be regrettable. Good manners are about respect for other people, and surely a president should be respectful.

So, are good manners important?

For me, good manners refer to polite and good social behaviour. Good manners lay the foundation of stable social patterns and imply certain values of human relationship that keeps society alive and kicking. Good manners imply stable values. Values like respect, loyalty, kindness, concern for others or even obligation are fundamental to our social and family rules of conduct, which have been determined by our respect for such values.

Besides, good manners are an indication of the degree of refinement whether in an individual, a society or a nation.

I believe that good manners are closely linked to moral values, and that good manners are very important for success and a happy life.

It is the crux of a healthy human relationship.

What does loving yourself actually look like?

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Many of us aspire to loving ourselves more. It may even be one of your new year’s resolutions. But what does loving yourself actually look like?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe I had good role models for this growing up. Sure, I was surrounded by inspirational, hard-working, honest people. But I don’t believe any of them actually showed me how they loved themselves other than the things we usually associate with it, like earning your own money, being clean and healthy, having a home of your own, etc. but these are simply things we need to survive and fit in with society. It didn’t tell me anything about how to actually love myself.

Surely, there’s more to it than that?

So, I’ve been thinking… and for me, it means having the best, most positive and joyful relationship that you can with yourself. It means not being a bitch to yourself or to others, not putting yourself down, or killing yourself with work, or giving your power away in relationships, or expecting others to make you feel good about yourself. It means being kind, giving back or paying forward, helping others when they need you, being vulnerable, open and loving.

Pretty much what I’ve been doing for most of my life anyway, so maybe I am on the right track.

I found this blog post by Dr. Margaret Paul recently – it’s a great read:

https://projecthappiness.com/what-does-it-mean-to-love-yourself/

 

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!

winter-solstice-2016

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.

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