Rodent Spirit

I saw something last week and it has stayed with me.

The image was that of a dead rat, laid out near the Grand Union canal, limbs spread, claws raised and torso twisted…the moment of death had been perfectly captured and temporarily preserved.

Its body was ravaged but its eyes were wide open and bulging, jaw clenched, with its head turning to its right, bearing its teeth in a last-gasp attempt at self-defence.

The rat was surely never more alive than in its last moments. Death and life were equally there, with the exact crossover point on display. This was a warrior posture, pure yoga-unity.

The predator

I presumed it was the prey of the urban fox that has been sniffing around the canal side, ripping apart black bags and other foxy things. I’d seen a big rat scuttling by the kerbside a few days prior, the fox sniffing the same path shortly after.

Death comes to all creatures, but the rat’s fighting spirit was striking. I stopped and admired it. I have seen death come to people’s spirits long before their physical demise. The dead eyes of the addict in Ladbrokes, not so different to the eyes of the politician at the press conference justifying dropping white phosphorous on children.

But the natural death of the rat is not mirrored in our unnatural environment. Our number one predator is not a stronger creature, but the very economic system we live in. Stripping lives of their meaning, atomising people, herded with officespeak, corporate mediaspeak, propaganda, consumerism, the housing crisis and more. Lives are directed to acts of malice, avarice and injustice.

We all know people born in the wrong place at the wrong time, ill equipped for the assault that can come; not given time, let alone guidance. Then blamed as they suffer. From individual despair and loneliness to North Kensington suffering the slow puncture of jadedness. It’s not the chem trails, it’s the system that deadens the soul.

The end

Seeing the deceased rat, I took out my phone to take a photo, already knowing I would write about the morbid scene. But the grisly sight would not have portrayed the inner disturbance. My eyes took in the image, my mind furnished it with the nightmarish detail. An inverse of Proust’s madeleine, the dead rat took me into the future, right to my very end…

The one inevitability for all of us, but how will I go out? Quietly content with how I lived? Happy with what I did? Did I challenge injustice? Did I look after my offspring with benevolence and wisdom?

How will I live? In fear – clinging on to a wage and a hope for a better future? At what point will I fight? And when will I let go and accept?

Alive

What was truly alive was the rodent’s spirit; its desire to stay alive was the equivalent of the human whose eyes flicker with love and openheartedness, who can’t be beaten down by the trials and hardships they face.

Horror and death captured perfectly until an environmental health employee shovelled it up. We all face that fate, however we dress it up. How will I live? Playing the game to get b(u)y? Or honouring my aliveness and humanity? If those are the alternatives, I choose the rodent spirit.

 

 

Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Simple and Deep

When a moment of knowing cuts through the mental chatter of depression, emotional pain or a turbulent time, it is a relief.

At that moment I receive a reminder of a place already known to me and I’m taken home again, where it’s warm, where there is always good company because when I am home – emotionally, mentally, spiritually – I am good company. 

There’s sense and order – everything is in flow; the material world is abundant and interesting directions open up.

What takes me from one state (heavy, Tamas) to another (light, Sattwa)?

Usually something simple and deep. Meditation; exercise; a realization – simple acts. Deep too, because each contains so much personal history, work and thought. It is the culminating moment containing many more moments within it. They’ve merged and manifested something rich – a temporary state of satisfaction that propels me forward, energised.

But while this knowledge accrues, satisfaction dwindles eventually. Boredom, agitation, anger, pain…the ego dog is on guard.

But the way back home will present itself again soon enough and it will be simple and deep – just like us.

 

Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Mind of Steel

This week we passed the middle of Ramadan and it probably means little-to-nothing to you so it makes no sense getting into the whos, the wheres and the whys about this topic because the aim here is not to convince you of anything political, religious or otherwise. It’s just an appeal to take three minutes of your WhatsApp time to think about something pretty deep.

For whatever reason, those who choose Allah as their bulwark/bastion have decided to honour this particular month as Ramadan and to only eat when the sun declines each day. They’re fasting a fast that doesn’t include water or any other oral sustenance at all.

Sounds simple, but to say it is one thing; to do it is another thing altogether. Continue reading

Urban Dandy Meditation #2

Urban Dandy Meditation #2 was on 29th March 2018 in Notting Hill. You should have come.

UDMed2

A new venture, aimed at people from North Kensington and further afield to engage in the practice of transcendental meditation and to stimulate discussion and creativity.

The theme for the second Urban Dandy meditation event was ‘What is freedom?’

Within this broad theme, the class considered the question ‘What kind of freedom is experienced in transcendental meditation?’ 

The group discussed the tightrope of being in the world, grappling with a plethora of pressures and seeking truth, whilst simultaneously not being fully of this world, and the resulting question – ‘If I’m not of this world, what am I of?’     

“I”

All participants reported that meditation facilitated a letting go, including of conventional understandings of the concept “I.”

This concept “I” can represent habitual roles, identity via nationality, religion, social class, political affiliation/non-affiliation, a strong identification with physical appearance, opinions, resentments, or taking a view of oneself as superior/inferior to others…

A human tendency is to spend energy looking for recognition and affirmation by playing any number of roles based on these identities, both consciously and subconsciously. We can deploy our energies fending off threats to these identities…

However, if these roles are seen for what they really are – habitual thought patterns – this energy is released and can be directed to benefit the whole person. 

Patterns

In meditation, socially constructed identifications become more noticeably insufficient and, over time, distance is established between them and the observer – the identifications start to be viewed as patterns created by the mind rather than absolute truths.

Underneath the choppy waves of these thoughts and beliefs is a deep ocean of stillness. In meditation, this ocean is accessed and experienced directly by letting go of expectations and letting go of reliance on thought as a way of knowing oneself.

This is what transcendental meditation offers access to…it is experiential, not intellectual, making it subtle, powerful and effective.

An experience of freedom in Notting Hill…but it didn’t stay in the building, a drop of it traveled with each participant into the night… 

 

By Tom Charles

@tomhcharles

Thanks to AC

Art by Angel Lewis

The Cookie Monsters & The Cost Of Con-venience.

The Scramble For Your Information

 

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The Scramble For Your Information

Those who would give up Essential Liberty
to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
 

Benjamin Franklin. 

 

If I were a little more ignorant, this writing would have been entitled Big Brother or something as clichéd as that but, I find ‘Big’ is too large a word to attribute to a mind so small. It’s a mind that would entertain the petty ambition of extracting information from those who are unaware of the consequences of giving it, under the guise of convenience.

It sounds like the mischievous ‘Little Brother’, so called by the native Americans, who were also duped into giving up information for convenience in the 15th century. That didn’t end up going too well at all.

I pick up MY phone to call a friend, I’m trying to tell him I’ll be late. Instinctively, I look for an envelope or some other icon on the phone menu showing a possible missed call, something or other. I see a caution sign, I’m thinking maybe the battery needs replacing or there’s a serious software issue. Naturally, I explore and the alert reads ‘Enable Google Play services.’ Really, I must? I thought I’d ignore it but it kept coming back.

After spending precious time that I did not plan to, I still couldn’t disable it. Totally frustrated I eventually give in to the pressure as I realise, not that it won’t stop but it can’t stop, it’s an alert that’s not designed to be turned off. Does this sound like a typical event in your smart (er than you) phone life?

By Fiona Hawthorne.png
By Fiona Hawthorne

Nowadays this type of android-human master-slave interaction gets me more and more frustrated. When I think about the number of details I’m forced to provide just to open an online trading account: email verification, card details, text verification messages, addressed utility bill and passport scans, I often think about who’s collecting all this information. Behind the request, there is no face yet we have come to accept this. We send verified personal data to unknown sources everyday.

Continue reading

Urban Dandy Meditation #1

UDMed

Urban Dandy Meditation #1 was on 15th February 2018.

A new venture, aimed at people from our community and further afield to engage in the practice of transcendental meditation and to stimulate discussion and creativity.

A theme of ‘Who are we, really?’ guided us through the hour – the class were told:

Urban Dandy’s writers look at context, we explain things, point out pertinent detail, tell the truth and discern. But, Urban Dandy is for the whole human, which means we’re interested in looking beyond context. If we let go of this role of journalist, poet, or whatever label we could pin to ourselves, what remains?

Discomfort might be one thing…

The class was led into the first few minutes of meditation practice, Continue reading