Movie Monday: Letters To Juliet

It’s cold and rainy and windy in Wellington. The temperature inches barely into the two digits. So it makes perfect sense–to me–to watch a movie set in one of my favourite regions: Tuscany/Italy. Seeing the red Fiat with Claire, Sophie, and Charley drive along country roads studded with slender cypress trees… ahh. Is there anything more beautiful?

Maybe the scene almost at the end, when the whole family sits around a large rustique dining table in the lush Tuscan garden beats the car scene. It’s hard to pick because the views of Tuscany, Siena, and Verona are simply stunning. Trust me on this: the movie is worth seeing for the scenery alone. Continue reading “Movie Monday: Letters To Juliet”

5 Ways to Spend a Winter’s Day

Winter is coming to an end, but the weather forecasters already promised a cold, wet weekend ahead. Is there anything more relaxing than sitting with your favourite buddy close to the fireplace and enjoy whatever you are doing with a cup of hot chocolate? (Steffie and Sorcha asked “Is there anything else?). Yes, we should listen more often to our pets! Continue reading “5 Ways to Spend a Winter’s Day”

Message From Your Past

When we find an old bottle with a message inside on the beach, we get immediately excited and expect at least a romantic love note if not a hint to sunken treasure. I remember as a child I waited for the postman, convinced he would bring a letter from a forgotten uncle in America, telling me I inherited a fortune. Needless to say, it never happened.

I want to talk about the other messages, those that cause heartache and pain for years on end. Messages we carry with us–sometimes from early childhood on–that cause deep scars and can get in the way of a happy, fulfilling life. They are often given through hurtful words and actions or through the absence of caring and nurturing words and behaviours. They are emotionally crippling and can cause gazillions of problems. Continue reading “Message From Your Past”

Romance Writer? Seriously?

 

origin_630008218Just the other day a friend asked me what I am doing now, being retired, and having moved to Wellington. When I told her I’m writing romance novels, she said, “Romance Writer? Seriously? You? The Mills & Boons kind of stuff?”

Yip, I suppose, the Mills & Boons kind of stuff, if it means writing stories where it’s pretty obvious on page number two who’ll end up in their own Happy Ever After on page number 289. And even though it’s predictable, I love going for the ride and rejoice with the heroine and fall in love with the hero.

I used to be a psychotherapist—though on second thought, ‘used to be’ may not be quite right. Thirty years of identifying people’s behaviors, actions, thought patterns, language expressions, and body language, don’t stop because I’ve turned sixty-five and received a Gold Card.

My friend’s surprise said loud and clear, in her eyes I sank from the lofty heights of psychology into the mud-filled gutter of rubbish scribblers, who are unable to write real literary pieces worth reading, like Shakespeare or Dostojewski—did I miss one?

I know romance writers are looked down upon in general, and my friend affirmed that for me. But it got me thinking. Why is that? Why is writing about people starving for love, longing for the one person who understands them on a soul-level so frowned upon? I’ve got an idea! Bear with me for a brief psychology rendition. I promise to make it a short one.

I have a Ph.D. in Mental Health and Environmental Sciences. For my thesis design and analysis, I used recognition theory (RT), a critical social theory formulated by Axel Honneth. If you are interested in sociology, go and read up on it. It’s cool!

RT says human beings need recognition to be ‘healthy’ and function adequately in society. We get recognition through LOVE, RIGHTS, and SOLIDARITY. If any of these forms are absent, we struggle. We fight for recognition. Have been in the past, and will in the future. It’s in our nature.

LOVE provided by parents, partners, and other important persons. If we are not affirmed by love that our existence is important, we struggle.

RIGHTS granted through legal systems and structures in society. If legal systems don’t grant us rights to vote, equality, freedom, to name a few, we struggle.

SOLIDARITY through acknowledgment by our peers and community as someone who contributes something valuable. If our lifestyle or our work, are not appreciated, we struggle.

How does that relate to romance writing? Because recognition through Love is the most important one for all human functioning.

We romance writers provide that in spades. Romance stories guarantee a happy ending, the fulfilling of a dream, of a need we all have. The hero and heroines show us the way of overcoming obstacles to the magnificent outcome of everlasting love. We read the last line and know they will make it. It gives us hope – we might make it too, there could be love for us too.

That explains why romance is the most read genre currently. Why do other’s (critics) put it down? Maybe because they can’t do it. It might surprise you, but it’s damn hard to get a contract with Mills&Bohns. You have to be a really good writer!

Are romances realistic? Yes and No.

The latest count from 2016 showed there exist 1810 billionaires in the world. If we take our beloved romance writers by the word, they lurk at every corner. But please, don’t be so harsh and take that literally. It’s not meant to be. IT’S FICTION, PEOPLE!

Even though the stories, characters, and settings are idealized and rarely possible for the average Jill and Joe to reach, we all search for love, recognition, and a warm body to cuddle up to when we go to bed. We might even learn real valuable life skills we can use in our real life relationships. For example, Headboards are for handcuffs! Thank you, E.L. James.

A Tuscan Affair

Book excerpt: A Tuscan Affair

 

Anna froze and held her breath.

One glance at the two men Mackenzie led into her office unsettled her trademark cool composure. How many years had she fantasised that he’d walk through her door? But not after over thirty years! Her knees trembled, and then, like a deep-sea diver who’d been too long under water, she came up for air and took a deep, gasping breath.

Did he recognise her? That would not do. She ignored the flutter in her chest. This was not an occasion for fluttering. As one of Auckland’s leading lawyers, she had enough experience and self-control to deal with the appearance of a mistake from a long time ago. She schooled her face and closed the door behind them.

“Good morning. I’m Anna King. Please, take a seat.” Without a smile of recognition, she kept her voice cool and detached. Not by accident was she known as the Ice Queen, an image that took years to perfect. She motioned the two men to the group of chairs in front of a modern fireplace and picked a seat opposite them.

The older of the two said “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Francesco Falcone and this is my son, Antonio. He came all the way from Tuscany to help me with my divorce.” She could relate to the pride and joy in the father’s voice. “Your colleague Mark Peterson handles my business affairs and said you would be the best lawyer to take on my divorce.” He smiled at Anna. “Your colleague is an ardent admirer of you.”

“That’s very kind of him.” So, Antonio was his name? Call me amore mio, he’d told her thirty-four years ago. That blissful night his soft whisperings were enough for her. She didn’t have a need for a name.

It was he, wasn’t it? Could she be mistaken? She, the lawyer who never made mistakes? Although no longer the sun-tanned young man with the body of a Roman God in red swim shorts, he looked the picture of sophistication in his expensive, tailored suit. His short, black hair showed a titillating dusting of grey at his temples.

There was no doubt. Back in nineteen-eighty-two he swept into her life like a force of nature, and, like the outgoing tide, vanished from her life the following day when she boarded the train to Rome. Now he stood in her office with no signs of recognition! She couldn’t very well ask whether he remembered their night at the beach around the bonfire. It wouldn’t be professional to bring up the past. She took a deep breath and looked up from the folder in her hand, calling herself to order.

“I’m having coffee; may I offer you each a cup as well?” The situation called for a coffee, an extra strong one. She rose and walked over to her desk. Both nodded and Antonio held up two fingers.

“Two espressos, black, each two sugars. Thank you.”

She switched on the intercom and relayed the order to Mackenzie, her assistant. Then it hit her.

Lucca.

It would be a disaster if Lucca came to work this morning. She shuddered and switched on the intercom again. “Please, call my son and tell him, he doesn’t have to come into the office this morning. I’ll meet him at court.”

On the way back to her chair, she caught her image in the antique mirror next to her bookshelves. Her reflection showed no signs of the young careless girl with a backpack and sandals, who danced around bonfires with her gypsy skirt and an infectious zest for life. Though the years have been kind to her, even with the lines around the eyes and her mouth. Not bad for fifty-six. She straightened her shoulders and joined the Falcones again.

Mackenzie entered the office. Balancing three cups on a tray, she passed the coffee to them and asked, “Is that all?”

“Thanks, Mackenzie. I’ll call you if we need anything else.”

They sipped their coffee until Antonio broke the silence. “Pardon me, have we met? I have a strong sense we know each other, but I can’t…” his voice trailed off and he squinted his eyes, scrutinising her.

Acting on impulse never served her well, so she dipped her head to the right and looked at him, as if trying to find a memory to fit him in.

“Not that I recall.”

He came much too close for comfort. Their situation was not like two acquaintances enjoying a reunion after many years. It was much more complex and required a well thought through strategy. She turned to Francesco.

“Would you mind telling me about the circumstances that led to the divorce proceedings? I’ll then be able to devise a strategy for us to go forward.”

Antonio Falcone glanced at her in disbelief. She would bet a month’s salary he usually had women laying at his feet instead of being dismissed with four simple words.

His father folded his hands on the table. “Angelica is a New Zealander. She came to our vineyard as part of an organised tour and bought a few boxes of our best wine. I delivered them to her hotel and the rest is history. We were happy, you know, even though she’s thirty-five years younger than I!” His voice softened, and he swallowed, recalling better times, no doubt.

Francesco’s struggle touched her. He told the story of their marriage like a rehearsed script he had gone over many times to find where things went astray between him and his much younger wife. He fought to control his emotions when his son barged in.

“Angelica is a gold digger. There is no doubt. She told my father she wanted a divorce with no prior indication she was unhappy in their marriage.” He huffed, and his voice turned bitter. “Why would she? She’s lived the life of a princess. I want you to set an investigator onto her and do a thorough background check. I bet there is more to the story. Why file for divorce now?”

His attitude showed all the signs of someone used to command and having people at his beck and call. He’d figured it all out and expected her to jump. She suppressed the urge to grin. He’d soon find out she’s walking to her own sweet drums and nobody else’s.

“You’re welcome to hire a private investigator. Ask him to send a copy of his report to my office.” She hoped she smiled without too much of a smirk.

Francesco cleared his throat. “You’ve to excuse my son. He’s used to commandeering people and doesn’t know when to stop. What he meant to say is, we would love if you would contract one of your trusted investigators to look into Angelica’s circumstances. Her request for a divorce came out of the blue. Nobody can make sense of it.”

“I’d be happy to do that for you. Please forward any correspondence you had so far with your wife or her lawyer regarding the divorce.” She then finished her coffee and collected the notes she made. “This is an excellent beginning and gives me lines of inquiry to pursue. Can you think of anything else we need to discuss?” She checked her calendar. “If not we can meet again Friday this week, at the same time. By then I’ll have a strategy ready for you.”

Anna closed the door behind the men and sank into her chair. Tears welled up. She wrapped her arms around herself. Thirty-four years. Fate had a cruel way of interfering with her life and reminding her of times she’d rather kept buried.

When the first tears pearled down her face, accompanied by little sobs, she bit her fist to stop the scream building inside her.

Mackenzie entered Anna’s office. “Lucca asked me to tell you…Anna! Oh dear!” She stood next to Anna’s chair and put her hand on Anna’s back. With a soft voice, Mackenzie said, “That…was the twin’s father, wasn’t it? They look so much like him.”

Anna pulled herself up, took a deep breath and gazed at her assistant. “Yes, but you can’t breathe a single word about it to anyone.”

Die 3 Prinzipien in Deutsch

11156737_10206273706339122_1325046971_nHeute hat mich jemand gefragt of ich die 3 Prinzipien auf Deutsch erklären könnte. Das ist gar nicht so einfach, zumal ich schon seit 33 Jahren im Ausland lebe und mein Deutsch ziemlich brüchig geworden ist – wie ein alter Landungssteg am See! Viele Ausdrücke kenne ich gar nicht auf Deutsch. Ich hoffe, meine Umschreibungen sind verständlich. Über die Grammatik will ich gar nicht erst reden!

Der Grundgedanke ist zu verstehen wie wir als Menschen ‘funktionieren’, dass wir leben, und wie unsere Gefühle generiert werden. Das erste Prinzip baut darauf auf das wir leben, dass es eine Energy gibt die genau andeutet of wir leben oder nicht mehr leben. Das kann man Natur nennen, oder Gott, oder Universelle Energie, Sydney Banks, der diese Gedanken zuerst formulierte hat den Ausdruck MIND genommen um neutral diese Lebensenergie zu beschreiben.

Zuerst müssen wir gewahr werden das jedes Gefühl, jede Sensation die wir im Körper verspüren, von einem Gedankenprozess verursacht wird. Von Langeweile, über Depression, zu Freude, Angst, Hunger, Schmerz, oder Ärger, nichts passiert in unserem Körper ohne das unsere sinn-machenden Gehirnprozesse es in Bewegung setzen und dirigieren. Im englischen benutzen wir für die sinn-machenden Prozesse das Word “THOUGHT”, das zweite Prinzip. Es beschreibt nicht nur einen konkreten Gedanken,sondern auch unsere Kapazität zu denken.

Was auch immer unsere Sinne in uns oder von unserer Umwelt wahrnehmen, diese ‘rohen Daten’ wird von unseren sinn-machenden Gehirnprozessen vor dem Hintergrund unserer lebenslangen Erinnerungen und Erfahrungen interpretiert und dann als Körpersensationen sozusagen an unser Bewusstsein weitergeben. Unsere Fähigkeit bewusst zu werden von inneren und äußeren Vorgängen ist das dritte Prinzip, CONSCIOUSNESS in Englisch. Das Problem mit unserem Bewusstsein und Wahrnehmungsvermögen is jedoch dass es nicht sehr zuverlässig ist und IMMER auf Interpretation aufbaut, was sehr subjektiv ist. Wir nehmen mehr wahr was wir wahrnehmen wollen und nicht was wirklich in der Welt wahrzunehmen ist.

Das sind die 3 Grundbausteine unserer Existenz: Ohne die Lebensenergie gibt es keine Gedanken und keine Wahrnehmung; ohne Gedanken können wir nicht am Leben teilnehmen (z.b. jemand im Koma).

Die Frage, die mir gestellt wurde ist: wie man dieses Verständnis anwenden kann, wie es helfen kann, was man da machen muss. Die Antwort: man muss gar nichts machen sondern nur verstehen. Sobald wir erkennen das unsere Gefühle nicht von unseren Umständen herkommen, sondern von WIE WIR über unsere Umstände denken, dass wir die Gefühle selbst generieren, können wir uns zurücksetzen und sagen “Ach, wieder mal ein dummer Gedanke” und es nicht so wichtig nehmen. Nur weil wir etwas denken meint nicht das es auch wahr und wichtig ist. Wir haben zwischen 50.000 und 200.000 Gedanken am Tag, viele von denen sind ziemlich sinnlos und banal.

Wenn ich denke “Ach es ist ja nur ein Gedanke” dann werde ich nicht von der Gefühlsspirale in die Tiefe gezogen. Und je weniger aufgewühlt mein Zustand ist, je klarer und weiser sind meine Gedanken und Entscheidungen. Um dass zu erreichen versuche ich so oft und lange wie möglich in meiner ‘Wohlsein-Zone” zu sein. Gedanken die mich da herauslocken vermeide ich so oft wie möglich. Das gelingt zwar nicht immer, aber mit der Zeit immer öfter. Übung macht den Meister :). In der Wohlseins-Zone sind meine Gedanken ruhig und gelassen, da geniesse ich den Augenblick, sehe was gut ist, wertschätze was ich habe. In dem Zustand erlebe ich Frieden, Weisheit, und allgemeines Wohlsein.

Wenn Gedanken mich in den “Keller” geleitet haben und ich ärgerlich, ängstlich, depressive ….usw. bin, versuche ich so gut wie möglich meine Gedanken zu beruhigen um zurück in die Wohlseins-Zone zu kommen. Egal wie lange es dauert. Keller-Gedanken sind qualitative nicht sehr gut. (Stell Dir mal jemanden in einem Wutanfall vor. Was da aus dem Mund kommt ist selten von Wert oder reflektiert Weisheit)! Ich versuche keine wichtigen Entscheidungen zu treffen wenn ich im “Keller” bin, sondern warte bis meine Gedanken sich beruhigt haben und dann schaue ich mir das Problem an, das den Sturzflug verursacht hat. In der Wohlseins-Zone ist Weisheit, Überblick, Mitgefühl, Liebe, und Frieden…eine gute Grundlage für weise Entscheidungen.

Dass ist die Essenz. Wie es mir hilft? Ich fühle mich meistens sehr wohl, rege mich kaum über Sachen auf. Mein allgemeiner Stresspegel ist sehr niedrig. Es geht mir gesundheitlich besser, und meine Beziehungen zu anderen Menschen sind einfacher geworden. Ich nehme sehr wenig persönlich. Wenn jemand unhöflich zu mir ist, weiss ich dass es nichts mit mir zu tun hat, sondern das die Person gerade in ‘ihrem/seinem Keller’ ist. Ich habe selten das Bedürfnis recht zu haben. Ich weiss dass wir alle unsere eigene, persönliche Realität haben, und dass es nicht anders sein kann. Es gibt nicht die letztendliche Wahrheit. Wir können nur unsere persönliche Interpretation von unserer Wahrheit sehen.

The Secret Weapon in Relationships: Kindness

origin_4187152134

As you may know, I have written a little book about relationships and how to make them work. Over about 60 pages I have-in one way or other-emphasized the importance of kindness. Basically pointing out that if you bring kindness to your relationships, be they intimate ones, work relationships, friendships, or those with family members, you have a great recipe for lasting, loving, relationships.

A friend gave me her feedback the other day, which made me stop and think. Besides some very well-meant comments about grammar and flow issues that could benefit from improvements, she said it offers “surface insight into solutions to very complex problems”. That puzzled me. As if loving kindness is a ‘too simple’ solution for complex relationship problems.

Whoever says that ‘kindness’ is simple hasn’t grasp the depth of insight and high level of awareness it takes to practice kindness. If it were easy to be kind, if kindness were the main driving emotion/attitude people have with each other, we would not have criticism, judgment, hate, wars, violence. It requires humility, love, and seeing the good in the other person rather than looking for shortcomings. “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt (painting above) symbolizes this point perfectly!

I know for myself how often I am unkind, when my ego gets in the way, when I am thoughtless, when I can’t be bothered with other people’s needs, when the inside voice in me won’t be silenced and shouts “What about me!!!!”, and lastly, when I am unkind with myself!

No, being kind is not easy. We all admire Mandela, Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama as they show us the meaning of non-violence, of kindness. Very few people master that level of kindness and love. You can test it for yourself by being highly focused for one day to be kind to yourself and others…and notice when you are not! I would love to hear from you how that experiment went!

So if you want to spruce up your valentines day with a simple, easy solution to relationship problems, go and buy my book Delicious Love Forever: Recipes for lasting, loving relationships  either on kindle or a hard copy, or read it for free on ‘kindle unlimited’. It gives you simple concepts – but don’t be fooled, they take a lot to put into practice!

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/oilpainting-gallery/4187152134/

Why Am I Passionate About the Three Principles?

Often people ask me why I am so passionate about the Three Principles of Mind, Thought, and Consciousness. Obviously, understanding the principles is not a fool proof safe guard from life’s disappointments:

  1. The understanding doesn’t protect us from making mistakes,
  2. getting overwhelmed by strong feelings
  3. misunderstanding people,
  4. or becoming disheartened by circumstances in our lives.

We are human beings after all and subject to our limited ability to perceive ‘what’s out there’

and to keep our own stuff, our ‘diving bell’* out of any equation as much as possible.
However, understanding the principles is showing us the pathway to improved or restored
mental, emotional, and physical health. With increasing awareness of how the principles
work within ourselves and others we are able to
  1. be more often and longer ‘in the zone’ of peace of mind and well-being
  2. are more compassionate with ourselves and others
  3. get quickly out of low moods – or even avoid them altogether
  4. reduce or eliminate stress, depression, and anxiety
  5. are healthier allround
  6. enjoy warm and loving relationships
If you want to deepen or refresh your understanding of the principles, Raeburn House is
starting the courses on the 18th of February (there is no date set yet for the Relationship
course but hopefully that is clarified soon).
As some of you know, I have retired and will move to Wellington in April this year. Term
one courses are your last chance to come to one of my courses. It is not clear whether
Raeburn House is able to secure another Three-Principle-Facilitator to continue the work!

Lesley, participant from last terms self-confidence course is interested to set up
a discussion group of people who would like to meet and discuss their understanding of the Three Principles to keep things fresh. If you are interested to participate send me a note and I forward her details to you.

* The diving bell is one of my favorite metaphors for how we get in our own way. To
know more about it, you’ll have to come to one of my courses run by Raeburn House
or get my book(s).
Credits Photo: Title: 255871551752875   Owner: alleyntegtmeyer7832

Your 10 DayHome Spa Retreat

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get away ‘from it all’ and have a 10-Day-Spa-Retreat without actually having to leave home – and without spending large amounts of money? A health boot camp, so to speak, that is nurturing our body through some fun activities and lots of self-care? A place feeding our mind with some wonderful insights of how to stay in a healthy, resourceful, positive state of mind longer and more often! A place that would also offer some soulful, lip-smacking recipes for cleansing and re-vitalising the whole of you!

Title: Hammock    Owner: Daria Dubinin
Why not join me and a group of wonderful women and men on this pamper holiday on a budget?

In many ways life has never been easier for us, yet people struggle terribly with stress related health issues. Stress is considered the #1 health hazard of our time. It impairs people’s relationships, self-confidence, jobs, physical, and mental health. The question asked most often is “how can I stop this?”. The answer to this very simple, yet challenging question can now be found in my new book Delicious Mind, Body, and Soul: Recipes for Pampering Yourself Back to health.

This is NOT a self-help book. You won’t find 5,7, or 11 steps to follow that will bring you miraculously loving relationships, self-confidence, or happiness. There are no “Steps” that bring lasting relief from stress, distress, and emotional turmoil.

It is a holistic guide offering inspirations for 10 days of yummy, healthy home-spa-retreat indulgence on a budget. Each day we follow a person and learn how he or she resolves a particular emotional problem such as stress, depression, or low self-confidence for example. We also look at a range of activities for self-care and physical wellness. The recipe section introduces healthy smoothies with many health benefits to kick-start your way back into health. Indeed, a holistic and nutritious ‘meal’ that feeds mind, body, and soul!

How can I stop negative Feelings?

I am running about 15 courses each year, basically addressing how we think, feel, and behave often in ways that don’t serve us – instead getting us into some form of trouble. And each time we unpack how negative feelings, feeling bad, stressed, or depressed actually harm not only our physical body but our relationships, our careers, our mental, and our emotional health, I am asked the same question over and over again: Then how can I/we stop negative feelings?

So let me turn the question around to see if I am making sense: What happens to your when you look at the picture below?

Title: Cut lemons     Owner: Helen in Wales

You saw the picture and …….? Salivated! Could you have stopped it? I don’t think so. You saw the lemons, your personal mind went into your memory bank confirmed “it’s lemons” and associated smell and taste and your body reacted to these recalled thoughts. This is not much different with all feelings we have, either negative or positive. All we are dealing with is THOUGHT. We ‘think’ lemons and our body reacts. We think we are lost or abandoned, we react with fear (unless we are Indiana Jones, then we might get excited).

Can we stop feeling fear? No, not as long as we are thinking fearful thoughts. That’s just how we are built. Only when our mind gives us the ‘All Clear’ signal will the fear subside.

You can’t stop negative or bad feelings you have. When you become conscious of them they are already there. You have already thought them and thereby brought them into existence. All you can do is to know they are just thoughts and not take them so serious. That might be easier when you look at the lemon above than when you are lost in the jungle, but the principle is the same. We always feel what we think.

The next question would then come as predictable as the night follows the day: How can we stop thinking these unhelpful things. That will have to be covered in future posts, because we need to do some groundwork about thinking first.

Those of you who want to know more about it (all in one place) can read up on it in my book Delicious Love Forever: Recipes for Lasting Loving Relationships or the 2nd in the series: Delicious Mind, Body, and Soul: Recipes for Pampering Yourself Back to Health. Both are available as downloadable kindle version and now also as paperback.

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