After the launch of her latest book, Soul Shifts, Dr Barbara De Angelis talks with Bernardo Moya about love, life and how she became a leading personal development author without ever meaning to…
For 30 years, Dr Barbara De Angelis has dedicated herself to helping others on their spiritual journeys. From the age of 18, she spent years in residence with
renowned spiritual masters. From here she developed a unique approach to personal transformation that led her to appear regularly on CNN, guest on Oprah and write chart-topping New York Times best-sellers time and time again.
As we settle down to our interview, there’s one question
I can’t help asking.
De Angelis. Is it her real name?
“My entire family, going all the way back, as far as I know, is pure Russian-Jewish. So, I wasn’t born with that name. I was given it when I was a one-year-old. The name is Italian. After her first husband died, my grandmother married an Italian. My birth father then took his name to honour him and that’s when my name was changed.
As I grew up, and started doing this work, I was very happy that the universe created these interesting circumstances to give me a name that means ‘of the angels’.”
So, did she feel destined to do spiritual work?
“Even as a child, I felt really like a stranger in a strange land, and kept feeling I was here to do something. I didn’t know what. Of course, this was before the personal growth movement existed. If anyone wanted to improve themselves in those days – in the 50s and 60s – you’d go to a psychiatrist. There was no idea of self-help. So, I didn’t have any references to explain what I now call in my work and books the Divine Discomfort.”
She explains, “That’s the thing that’s calling to you, saying, You need to shift, you need to grow, you need to see.”
When she was 18, De Angelis saw a poster in her first week at college that read, ‘Learn to meditate’. It was the start of her spiritual path.
“There was a picture of an Indian Guru. It said something about, ‘Heal the world, heal yourself’. The minute I saw it, I recognised it and said, ‘This is articulating what I’ve been feeling.’ So, I went and learned to meditate. My first spiritual teacher was the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
“My entire life changed and I realised what my purpose was. I call this the, ‘cosmic alarm clock going off’.”
The concept is explained in her new book, Soul Shifts: “There is a cosmic alarm clock,” she says. “A mechanism inside of us where we suddenly start asking what I call the sacred questions. You know, the sacred questions are signs that we’re already feeling our awakening. What am I here for? How can I make the biggest difference?
“When we ask those questions, it means the cosmic alarm clock has gone off. An awakening has happened mysteriously, mystically, that sets us on a path. Something starts to pull us in a direction.”
De Angelis tells me how so many people recognise that feeling. “They have a wake-up call, and begin to see. Sometimes there’s a trauma. Sometimes it happens spontaneously. But, for everybody who has that sense of saying, there’s something more, they really are consciously on their path of growth at that point.
“I was very, very blessed. I had a cosmic appointment with that poster, and I believe people have cosmic appointments with me, or with reading this article, or with a lecture they go to. That’s what teachers are for.”
Teachers are like tour guides that are in the right place to hand you the right information, she says. “We hand out the little pamphlet – a map so you don’t get lost, and here’s this exhibit, that exhibit. Then people can enjoy the experience.”
After teaching meditation in the 1970s, she studied psychology to PhD level.
Combining this with her spiritual insights she developed her teachings organically out of “the alchemy of my experience, my own life, and everything that was happening to me inside.”
Her sole intention was to serve humanity. “I didn’t have a goal of being a best-selling author or having a TV show. I had a goal of serving. I tell people that if they have the goal of serving, or living their purpose, the details will work out.”
That’s what happened to De Angelis. After teaching in bookshops, she was invited onto the radio to talk about
communication and relationships. Before she knew it, she was the Love Doctor. “It wasn’t something I set out to do, it just happened. Then I was put on TV…”
De Angelis wrote and produced a TV infomercial called Making Love Work, which won top honours in the industry, and was viewed across the world.
After that, her first three books became huge best-sellers – all of them about relationships.
Then came her weekly appearances for two years on CNN, her own daily television show for CBS TV and a string of network TV appearances.
Concerned she was pigeonholed as The Love Doctor, she followed her first three New York Times best-sellers with Real Moments – a very different book. “It was about how to live authentically and experience real moments within yourself, with your family and to bring awareness to each moment.”
Another best-seller, Real Moments, broke her into the wider spiritual sphere that was her natural home.
De Angelis explains that the number one biggest misunderstanding people make is thinking there’s something wrong with them that needs fixing. There’s a much simpler answer. All answers are inside, but the soul needs to be woken and reminded of them.
“I call this shift from being a seeker to a seer. We’re not really seeking something, we’re trying to have a remembrance, a return. That shift from feeling there’s something wrong to something exciting, a discovery…”
Another mistake, she tells me, is when people collect information about growth and think that simply doing so is transformation.
“Authentic transformation is not an activity. It’s a state, it’s not behaviour. So, changing, and really shifting, isn’t acting better, it’s being better. Many people on a path to personal growth become an expert on what’s wrong with them. They can tell you everything about their issues, but they haven’t actually shifted. It’s the difference between, rearranging the furniture in your house, or moving into a new house.”
In her latest book, Soul Shifts, De Angelis urges people not to judge their lives in comparison with others. Those who are seekers have a more complex life than those who aren’t because, “many of us are jamming 20 lifetimes of learning into one lifetime.”
Instead of judgment, we should review our “life experiences with an eye of compassion, understanding and sophistication.” This approach helps people relax, enjoy and accept their lives.
De Angelis teaches in small groups right the way to big seminars. “I love helping people shift,” she beams. “When I work with 5,000 people for a few hours it’s a vibrational experience. I’m in a relationship with those people in real time. Whether it’s with one person, or 5,000 people – that’s joy for me, because it’s love. In that space there’s a wonderful resonance and transmission of energy that powerfully impacts people.”
The profound knowledge in Soul Shift is born of the decades of De Angelis’s personal journey teaching tens and tens of thousands of people. The book is “a very polished gem of personal growth,” she tells me.
The book is also deeply practical.
“There are things you can do immediately; it’s not esoteric, and it’s not theoretical. It’s one thing to say, I know that I’m part of everything. That sounds nice, but if you’re walking around, and you’re frustrated with your boss, what good is that? What can you do in that moment to feel more expanded?
“So, it’s very grounded. I’m not sitting somewhere in a lotus posture talking to you and saying, We’re all one, and we should all just remember the light. That’s nice, and it’s true. But, it doesn’t help you when you think, My partner’s frustrating me, what do I do right now?”
And although she teaches, she is still learning. “I’m a student every day, you know. I learn from my own students, I learn from people on my radio show. I always say, I’m just a delivery person for a cosmic corporation. I drive a truck, that’s all I do. It comes through me, but it’s not mine. So, I have to keep my truck in order, and the truck is me, so I can make deliveries to people.”
She gives a smile. “The book is a big delivery, this interview’s a delivery, every conversation’s a delivery. I feel very humbled and grateful to have been chosen to do that.”