Firstly, may I wish you all the most magical and precious Winter Solstice. Today is a precious day. May it cause all our hearts to open courageously.
Secondly... I am so grateful that you subscribe to this blog. Your support means so much to me! THANK YOU!
And so, here's my latest story, if you like it, please do share with friends and family.
Here's to a joyful Christmas for everyone. And may 2016 be our bravest most kindest year yet.
I once lived in an apartment, on Ladbroke Grove in London.
There were 3 rooms, 4 if you counted the small loo by the front door, the seat of which was permanently broken. It was cosy. It was warm; it was a good home. I slept some of my deepest sleeps there, meditated with friends there, danced alone in the sitting room there and set up a company that lasted a year there.
It was also the place that Monday Meditations were born, which meant that every Sunday, I’d send out an email to anyone I knew, who either already meditated, had definitely mentioned an interest in it, or was perhaps, potentially thinking about it saying tomorrow: my door’s open, please come. Lets meditate.
There were regulars and irregulars. People who came once, who I never saw again and friends who bought friends, who became friends. It became my go to card when I met people: hey you meditate? Then come to mine on a Monday.
Sometimes there’d be just me, sometimes myself and one other. Other times a bit more, so that we’d spill from the sitting room into the hall, which was just space enough for one bottom and then on we’d flow, moving into my bedroom, circling the foot of my bed. When the hours practice was up, some would stay and we’d chat over tea, or we’d make our way to Ukai Sushi on Porta’bello Road and feast.
This home was also the place where I taught my first yoga client, the estate agent who I’d bought the apartment from. Our classes would happen in my kitchen, beside the fridge. Later, I taught another client there. An absurdly good looking blond man, whose looks prompted me to pour extraordinary effort into pretending that his handsomeness had absolutely no effect on me whatsoever. Subsequently, I delivered a sermon of a class, speaking in a voice devoid of any intonation in my best attempt to appear professional. The gentleman lasted 2 classes.
It was also in that apartment that I’d stay up late, chatting to friends, on the huge over sized sofa that made up half of my sitting room. It moonlighted as my spare bedroom (I still have this sofa, and am rather attached to it. I imagine and hope it shall be with me for the course of my life. So that when I am old, with hair that is white silvery grey, and with a face run with lines like the rivers of this world trickle over our planet, and my eyes will shine when I look at it and I can recount story after story, of oh there was this one time....) because it was also on that sofa that a friend and I imagined an event where Londoners would come together and give money for charities whose work impacted lives in London. So that one year later, on October 9th 2009, our family and friends, and various strangers who we’d begged and pleaded to take part found themselves clutching a bucket with our logo pasted across it, standing in the entrances of the 750 pubs, bars and clubs that had signed up to the London For London campaign.
Later, it also became the home of a morning routine that the mother that I am now, looks back in longing at. I’d wake at 5am, meditate for an hour and then make my way to my fridge, out of which would be pulled a plate of home made raw chocolate cake. I’d then slice a slice and then head to my sofa, lie down across it and enjoy that cake very, veryslowly. After the cake was finished, I’d turn on the music and then do my yoga practice, after which I’d shower, have a second breakfast and then be at my desk by 9am.
That home was also the place where a friend called Bruv and I invited friends to come and partake in a Kundalini evening led by a friend with more energy then, well actually I can’t think who. Suffice to say her surname is Power and it is a fitting one! And there she stood, leading us through a routine as we huffed and puffed straddling ourselves across any orifice or free space, that we could find in my sitting room cum kitchen/office. Some of us ended up on the kitchen counter, some on a table, and others hoisted along the back of the sofa, like enlarged white cats.
But even though space was at a minimum, everyone tried. Everyone showed up and did their best, even though, perhaps, none of our guests had the faintest idea, why or what exactly this was they’d come along to do. And indeed, had even paid money to attend. But they came. At the end of the evening, whilst our heart returned to a more normal beat, we listened to Adrian Freedman play the shakuhachi. There was silence and stillness as we did. I still remember sitting there, on the floor, watching and listening. Feeling vaguely exposed and yet touched by something I can’t explain.
This was the home I lived and loved in. It was accessible by friends, being close enough to tubes and centrally located enough to be an easy enough destination. So that even though I lived alone, for the most part, I rarely felt alone. Instead I felt safe. Well, mostly. Apart from the day I came back during the Notting Hill Carnival and someone got shot outside my front door and I went up to my first floor apartment and the music boomed and voices called and I felt scared and hid under my duvet.
I wasn’t the only woman in the building, who lived alone however. Above me, was a woman in her early fifties with purple hair and a thin wiry face. We’d meet occasionally in the stairwell, up and down, down and up. Hello, a smile. I’m away next week. I think she was a meditator too.
And then there was the elderly lady who lived below me. If you walked too quickly, you’d miss the entrance to her apartment, located directly to the right of the stairs. I’d go in occasionally and say hello.
When I did visit, she’d always be in the same place: sitting at her kitchen table, her back to the window, facing the door, ready for a visitor, any visitor. Her family lived in Poland. A son visited, occasionally. Young folk from a Meals On Wheels type organisation, came by daily. Sometimes, I’d meet her on the street, being placed in a black cab to go the hospital for check ups. I can’t remember how many cats she had, nor if the smell was just from then. But her loneliness and that smell were obstacles that more often then not, meant I stayed away.
Visit her more Lau, my mother would say. Go and see her. And I would, a little. Though not a lot. Truth is, she scared me. And so I made my excuses, ran, fled, skiaddled. All the while living above everything that terrifies me most in this life: death, decay, disorder and that desolate smell of a human being ignored.
Now that I am removed from the situation, I can say, well yes, death is going to happen. Decay, perhaps. Disorder, at times. But it’s still the desolate smell of a human being ignored that squirms most uncomfortably in me. Because loneliness does cause a stink and it’s a smell that most of us want absolutely nothing to do with. It’s too uncomfortable. Too… possible, that precipice that tremors between what's acceptable and what's not, so very very fine. And so we exert Herculean effort into denying and moving away from all those, and all things that remind us of it.
Which brings me to love. Or at least learning to love. Because in that home I got awfully confused about what is this thing love. Falling and tumbling and hurtling into love that somewhere along the way, I found myself reflecting: hmmm maybe this is anything but love. And yet and yet and wonderful yet, that home was where my daughter was conceived.
That home, on Ladbroke Grove, was a whole eco system to me. In fact, writing this, I’m beginning to get suspicious that I ever actually left that home. Why did I need to? It provided much: nourishment for my soul, a place to sleep, wash, somewhere to entertain friends, a place to meet new friends, a place to work, to explore, to learn, to come back to.
And now, I’m preparing to move once more. For various reasons, my daughter and I have moved 5 times in the last 4 years. Not having a place to settle has been discombobulating for both of us. And yet, and yet, even though all the parenting books and websites and magazines are forever highlighting the importance of consistency, I think there is something they’re missing: we can live in the same home throughout our whole lives and never find our way to our heart’s.
Of what use then is a home?
In many ways my daughter’s first years, mirror my own childhood. My father died when I was 7 and in the years afterwards, we moved frequently. However in all that disarray and turmoil, my family found something that will stay with us forever, although it is an easily dislodged truth: home is not only “where the heart is,” it is our home. Our true home, is to be found in our ability to rest in our own small and great truths. To do that, we must cultivate the courage to trust those truths. Because when we do, we discover a language, that whilst we may be the first interpreters of it, it is then up to us to begin the adventure of channeling it to the rest of the world. So that they too might understand. It is this home then, this home in our hearts that has the potential to enrich our lives in a far juicer way then a bricks and mortar, or even mud and water home ever could.
Although, it is one thing to state a truth, another to live by it; which is to say this is a maxim that I struggle with daily. But recently, rather then beat myself up about not being able to provide something more externally consistent for my daughter, I’m doing my damnest to provide something more internally consistent. Not only for her, but also for myself.
The homes we live in then, are the cherries on the cake. And if they are anything like the one I lived in on Ladbroke Grove, then what a damn good cherry that is.