Chit Chat With . . .
She began her journey with bollywood dancing, and went on to being a mindfulness and meditation teacher. Author of Always With You - a true story of love, loss ... and hope, which went on to be a #1 bestseller on Amazon, and has written 2 more books - Online Dating @ 40 - The Nobheads, Nutjobs & Nice Guys and Happiness! Is It Simply A Mindset Shift? A TedX Speaker and a TV & Radio Interviewer. This month our Chit Chat is with Shalini Bhalla-Lucas, who talks about writing, mindfulness, couple's therapy, morning routine, winding down, and living the dream.
Tell us a bit about yourself, who is Shalini Bhalla-Lucas?
I am the best-selling author of three books, a motivational speaker, TV and radio presenter, podcaster and an award-winning entrepreneur of my wellbeing company Just Jhoom!
I am also an internationally accredited mindfulness and meditation coach, passionate about raising mental health awareness and an activist for women’s rights around the world.
My life purpose is to inspire and empower people to respond to life’s many challenges by turning vulnerability and pain into resilience and compassion to cultivate happiness.
You have written 3 books and been a No. 1 Best Seller on Amazon for the book “Always with You: A true story of love, loss… and hope. Tell us more about your book.
Always With You is a testament of the power of love.
I was born into a successful Indian family in Kenya, and was preparing to one day take over the family business. Everything was mapped out… until I met and fell in love with my English neighbour, Jeremy.
For the first time in my life I found myself at odds with my parents and I was faced with an agonising choice: to follow my heart or to submit to my parents’ wishes.
My decision would take me on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery – one that took in family estrangement, severe depression, spiritual and physical renewal, devastating loss when Jeremy died of cancer and, finally, hope. This is what Always With You is about.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No. I believe the story needed to be told by me from a place of authenticity and truth. I have no fear when it comes to speaking up about my life, injustices I see and what I believe in.
What advice would you give to other upcoming authors?
We all have a story to tell. Writing is hard work but it is also extremely rewarding and cathartic. When it gets really hard, don’t give up! The feeling of having your published book in your hand is really quite exhilarating.
I run a Pen to Published course for aspiring authors. I take you from your idea to being self-published on Amazon. Having a helping hand is always useful.
Who are your favourite authors?
I don’t really limit myself to one favourite – I have a very eclectic taste in books.
What is your all-time favourite book that you loved to read?
My favourite book of all time is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. It is such an epic telling of family dynamics and the politics, art and culture of India – at a certain time. The book is so evocative and expressive. I love it – and have read it 4 times!
As a writer what would you choose your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I have a spirit animal that I discovered as a result of meditation. It is the elephant.
The elephant is known for its strength, wisdom, intelligence and compassion. And, of course, being a matriarchal animal I really resonate with it – the sacred feminine energy!
Do you find writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Yes – I suppose I do. When I am writing about a topic that I am really passionate about I can really get lost in the process, and the words just flow. Sometimes I look back on what I’ve written and don’t remember having written those words.
Do you believe in writers block?
Yes! I have it now as I write my 4th book. But like everything, it is a matter of mindset and determination. And you have to treat writing as a job – be disciplined and write everyday. The block soon vanishes – and the words will flow.
Tell us more about Just Jhoom!
Just Jhoom! is a company I started in 2010. Originally it was a Bollywood dance-fitness training programme. I trained over 300 instructors to teach Just Jhoom! dance. But now the company has evolved into a wellbeing company – focussing on people’s physical, mental and spiritual happiness through my writing, coaching, mindfulness and media work.
As a dance teacher, what style of music do you dance to?
Bollywood and Bhangra… love it!
Who is your all-time favourite musician and what is your all-time favourite song?
Don’t have one… music is too complex to have a favourite I think…
Describe your feelings when you are performing?
When I teach dance or perform, or indeed just dance for myself, it is like a meditation. Dance is a very mindful activity. You aren’t only exercising your body but your mind too. And, dancing raises your vibrations – it is a very spiritual activity.
What is mindfulness and why do you teach it?
Mindfulness at its core is a brain training programme to make us fully present and aware of where we are and what we are doing. It is a basic human ability that we already possess – but most of us don’t know how to be mindful – as we live with regrets of the past or more often fears of the future. Mindfulness made a huge difference to me when I suffered from deep, debilitating clinical depression, and then the grief I felt when my husband Jeremy died. Practicing mindfulness gave me the ability to live again and more importantly be happy again. I have taught mindfulness to 1000s of people from all over the world – Australia to America, and Scotland to South Africa – and have seen dramatic results with people dealing with depression, stress, anxiety, bereavement, insomnia, pain… the list goes on. Everyone should try a mindfulness session at least once. I believe it will change your life.
You recently started The Coaching Couple with your partner Amar. Tell us more about this.
Amar and I are both coaches. I coach in mindfulness, mindset and spirituality and Amar is an executive and business coach. This means that together we can coach people holistically – looking at all aspects from career, money, health, mindset – it truly is the whole package. Together we coach individuals, couples and groups. So if anyone is interested in our work please follow us on social media on @thecoachingcoupleafrica
Do you have a morning routine to set you for the day?
I get up at around 6.45am – Amar makes me a cup of tea which I drink mindfully in bed.
I then get up and do some meditation, journaling, affirmations, reading and stretching – and plan the day ahead for about an hour. I then shower, get dressed and am ready to start my day.
What’s your go-to way of winding down after a long day?
For me the most important part of winding down is sharing my day’s activities and goings-on with Amar (my partner) and listening to him. We then eat, watch a bit of TV – and then I make sure I get ready for bed – I have my rituals… Shower, gratitude, reading.
What is the one word that you want people to associate you with?
What are the challenges you face in your profession?
I’m finding here in Kenya people don’t really understand mindfulness – so it’s trying to get the information out there. Also, there are a lot of people practicing here – therapy, meditation teaching, without any proper qualifications or experience or supervision. It’s very different in the UK where things are so regulated. That worries me a little. We are dealing with people’s minds, bodies and spirits – we need to be very careful.
How do you contribute towards the society/community?
I do a lot for free – from giving courses on IGTV for free, writing about injustices in society and really pushing the mental health agenda – increasing awareness of mental health issues and decreasing stigma. That is my passion.
If you were not an author, dance teacher or mindful and meditation teacher, what would you be doing?
Where can one buy your books?
All over the world on Amazon. In Kenya on rafubooks and at Text Book Centre.
How can people contact you?
On all social media @justjhoom