Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘London’

Something Dangerous

51YshZA25gLA Risky Christmas Affair by Nina Romano.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Serena is married to Walter. They have a jewelry store in Rome. They’ve traveled the world. Their marriage is complicated. A previous loss effects them deeply. Walter wants Serena to take one more trip (a flight alone, to London, to make a deal), before they spend more time together, or she goes back to school. She doesn’t want to go.

One of the treats about A Risky Christmas Affair is its solid sense of place. “For centuries, the castle had been a place of refuge for Popes, and the sight of the fortress gave her the strength she needed to rid herself os something dangerous. When she had the miscarriage, she had stayed at Our Lady of Angels Hospital, which overlooked this same castle.”

A lot happens in this story in a short time. There is mistrust, resignation, attempted robbery, an unwanted gun, expectations, a car wreck, meeting a member of parliament,  remorse, and jealousy. Ms. Romano is an excellent storyteller, and it shines through with this tale. Though it is fiction, it felt like A Risky Christmas Affair could be true.

A Golden Process

The Dream Alchemist: A Woman’s Search for Love, Bliss, and Freedom Across India, Time and Dreams – A Memoir by Anna-Karin Bjorklund. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51yhA4S1y4LThere’s a lot of insight, love, clarity, visions, and bliss in The Dream Alchemist, and it all feels genuine. This journey, by Ms. Bjorklund, isn’t always a piece of cake. It takes courage to be with oneself and see what is present. She never turns away, gives up, or blames others. Whenever in conflict, confusion, or difficulty, the author turns within.

“This book,” Anna-Karin says, “is a memoir of my own adventure at a small ashram in India, and the philosophical remnants that followed – a golden process of soul growth, the majestic journey of stepping into my own power, and finding the path of self-love.” Thus, she describes her stay at Brahman Sanctuary in southern India.

She describes the people she meets, what she learns, and the experiences that stayed with her. Most of the retreat is done in silence, accept for meeting with her Dassas (guru’s helpers). The guru’s (teacher) name is Brahman, though they only see him briefly on the last day. Fellow followers include Nicolita, Richard, and Ananda.

“Every day in our sessions with the dassas we’re reminded to observe our thoughts, breath, and emotions. This is a good exercise. After all, the most profound insight came to Buddha just from observing and being in this in-between state where he was simply not trying anything to hard. Every now and then I manage to float away and just observe, which is an amazing feeling. Sometimes I struggle more – thoughts swirl around in my head. At the end of the day, this meditation technique is all about being in a state of observation and being aware of our perception. This applies to suffering as well!”

How Ms. Bjorklund lives, and adapts, to her life in the “outer world”, when she returns from her time in India, is just as interesting as the original retreat. Job, immigrant status, relationships, school, and pregnancy, all play big parts in her new found awareness. The Dream Alchemist takes readers’ on a reflective journey inside and outside our selves, and a part of the world we may never personally visit.

A Gradual Awakening

Kellcey by Kacey Kells51-mxCqbmHL
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Kellcey reads like the personal journal of a teenage girl, and is in fact, the true story of Kacey Kells. Ms. Kells writes this memoir in the first person and describes in detail her happy life as a teenager in Vancouver, Canada, her family, and friends. Later, she must confront family turmoil and an event that shatters her understanding of human nature, and a safe world.

If you want to get inside the head of your teen, and want an honest look at the feelings, thoughts, actions, and insecurities that may exist, read this book. It is frank, sincere, and has no filters about what should or shouldn’t be said. It was also written fairly recently, as the author is still in her early twenties, and close to the age range within which this story takes place.

There is not only a wonderful explanation for the ups and downs, and worries, of a teen, but also some insight into the differences between genders (expectations, biology, and emotions), and what it feels like when you have your first love, and someone says they want to be with you, and will love you forever. As times goes on, it also conveys some of the behavior to look for that may be warnings signs of the possibility of abuse.

Kacey begins to become aware of her boyfriend, Ben, and his friends, and changes in how they treat her at a party. “It is distressing to see how some people can change when they’re under the influence of drugs and alcohol! After the first euphoria, which corresponds to the release of all inhibitions, comes the metamorphose; however, instead of a lovely and innocent butterfly, this is a monster that pops up.”

At first, Kacey is ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse and rape she experienced at the party, and begins to withdraw, and feel completely alone. She trusts no one. Slowly, with lots of support, she tells her friend, her grandmother (Joanna), and her mother. After moving to London with her mother, she gets help, and inspiration, from a doctor, rape crisis center, counselor (Sybill), new friend (Jean), an Afghan war veteran (female), and her college drama class.

Kellcey provides a perspective on violence, and rape culture, which is often missing – the direct effects on a young woman, as experienced, and told, from her perspective. There are no sudden flashes of insight, or knowing all the right things to say, but a gradual awakening to how things are, what we do when something terrible happens, and how we can survive and make choices to love again. By writing her story, Ms. Kells has opened the door for further conversation and provided hope for survivors.

 

Is That Him?

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Two Girls in a Café – A Short Story by Lawrence G. Taylor Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Almost immediately, it seems as if you are sitting at a table nearby listening to Ruth and Felicity talking. They see a man pass by (Sam), who doesn’t see them, and both say they went out with him, thus begins a conversation about what he is like.

Dino, the waiter, is annoyed with how long Ruth and Felicity have been at the table talking, but as a reader, you wish it would never stop. It turns out that Ruth has a completely different perception of Sam then Felicity, and they have a difficult time understanding why the other feels the way they do about him.

The author’s writing style is clear, easy to follow, and realistic. There is no fancy metaphors, dream sequences, flashbacks, or gimmicks. Two Girls in a Café is a pure and revealing story, with an unexpected turn of events at the end. I have not read Mr. Taylor’s previous books, but am definitely inclined to do so now.

Saudi Arabian Women

Dear Gabriel,

Sarah Attar made history this morning when she ran in the 800 meter race for Saudi Arabia. It took extraordinary international pressure, but Saudi Arabia finally sent two women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time.

Yes — Saudi women can now go for the gold. But they are still denied basic rights like driving a car, enrolling into university, or boarding a flight out of the country without approval from a male guardian.

Amnesty International is focusing our attention on supporting the Saudi women who are working to remove the barriers to women driving in Saudi Arabia — an important first step in the ongoing fight to end the severe discrimination and harsh restrictions the Kingdom places on women.

Please support our efforts. Make a donation in honor of women human rights defenders everywhere.

As Saudi Arabia receives worldwide attention for sending women athletes to the Olympics, Amnesty is mobilizing our global movement to support Saudi women’s groups like Women2Drive that are pressuring King Abdullah to lift the ban on women driving.

We can win this fight. Signs, like King Abdullah’s promise to allow women to vote in the 2015 election, are growing proof that Saudi women activists are changing the tides.

With your support we can leverage this important moment on the world stage. If Saudi Arabia’s leaders truly want to “go for gold” this summer, they should allow women to drive and lift all restrictions on their rights and freedoms.

Sincerely,

Cristina M. Finch
Policy and Advocacy Director, Women’s Human Rights
Amnesty International USA

Flash Mob Meditations

From Positive News (October, 2011)

“Flash Mob” meditations awakens public interest!

Hundreds of meditators are converging in public spaces in London to take part in ‘flash mob’ meditations. The pre-planned events have startled passers-by when, following a signal, groups of strangers seemingly going about their business have suddenly sat down to meditate together.

Since June 2011, events have taken place at Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, and City Hall by the river Thames. They are coordinated by Wake Up London, a group of 16 to 35-year-olds inspired by the teachings of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Wake Up London believe the flash mobs are a demonstration of peace and show how anyone can sit down and experience inner silence, even in the centre of a huge city.

Elina Pen, a member of the group, says the events raise awareness of the joy of meditation while enabling people to unite as a multicultural group of all ages and backgrounds.

“We are a microcosm of the rest of the world here in London,” says Elina, “and we are very proud of that fact.”

Marie Kennedy, also a representative of Wake Up London, adds: “Meditating together creates so much peace, within and without.”

Simultaneously, significant numbers have been gathering together in the more traditional setting of the Swiss Church in Covent Garden, for group practices of transcendental meditation ™, organized by a new charity, the Meditation Trust.

“Over the past few months, diverse meditation groups have seen a significant and what seems to be a spontaneous growth in interest and enthusiasm for group meditation experience,” says Colin Beckley, director of the Meditation Trust.

Marie Kennedy agrees. “This has gone global. There are more and more groups being created every day; pods of meditators.”

Wake Up London is working with an international movement called Med Mob, which is coordinating meditation flash mobs across the world at around the same time each month. Fourteen groups are involved in the UK, from Aberdeen to Brighton, as well as many more globally.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE AT POSITIVE NEWS.

Muslims Help Stop Riots

Excerpt from story by Robert Lambert on 12 Aug 2011 in AlJazeera.

Muslims tackle looters and bigots

British Muslims’ reaction to the riots should dispel any continued demonisation in the media.

There is a lively debate taking place in the UK media between left and right wing commentators as to the causes of the English riots, in which hundreds of shops and businesses have been looted. However, both sides agree that the looting has been inexcusable. I hope both sides will also agree with me that Muslims have played an important role in helping to tackle the looting and preserve public safety. This would be an especially important acknowledgment if it came from those Islamophobic commentators who consistently denigrate Muslims.

“When accused of terrorism we are Muslims, when killed by looters, we become Asian”, a Muslim student explained to me. He was commenting on the media reportingof the death of three young Muslims in Birmingham on Tuesday night. Like many other Muslims, they were bravely defending shops and communities as rioters went on a violent rampage of looting.

In recent days Muslim Londoners, Muslims from Birmingham, and Muslims in towns and cities around England have been at the forefront of protecting small businesses and vulnerable communities from looting. Having worked closely with Muslim Londoners, first as a police officer and more recently as a researcher, for the last ten years this commendable bravery comes as no surprise to me. But their example of outstanding civic duty in support of neighbors is worth highlighting – especially when sections of the UK media are so quick to print negative headlines about Muslims on the flimsiest of pretexts.
Pro-active response

On Monday evening when London suffered its worst looting in living memory I watched as a well marshaled team of volunteers wearing green fluorescent security vests marked ‘East London Mosque’ took to the streets of Tower Hamlets to help protect shops and communities from gangs of looters. This was the most visible manifestation of their pro-active response to fast moving and well co-ordinated teams of looters. Less visible was the superb work of Muslim youth workers from Islamic Forum Europe who used the same communication tools as the looters to outwit and pre-empt them on the streets.

While senior Westminster politicians started to pack and rush back to London from foreign holidays I watched Lutfur Rahman, the Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets, offering calm leadership and support in the street as gangs of looters were intercepted and prevented from stealing goods in his presence.

Most important to emphasize is the extent to which everyone in Tower Hamlets was a beneficiary of streetwise, smart Muslims acting swiftly to protect shops, businesses and communities against looters. It is often wrongly alleged that Muslims lack any sense of civic duty towards non-Muslims and especially towards the LGBT Community. I wish peddlers of that negative anti-Muslim message had been present to see how all citizens in Tower Hamlets were beneficiaries of Muslim civic spirit and bravery on Monday night.

I am not sure if the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan was robbed of his bike by looters in Tower Hamlets or in another part of London as he cycled home from Hackney to Greenwich on Monday night, but even his incessant negative reporting of Muslims associated with the East London Mosque would not have excluded him from their neighbourly support had they been in the immediate vicinity to help him.

Gilligan reports that police were unable to offer him any advice other than to go home when he finally received an answer to his 999 call as a victim of a violent street robbery. London policing on Monday night was stretched as never before and Gilligan was one amongst hundreds of victims who had to fend for themselves as looters ran amok around the capital city. In these unique circumstances the street skills of Muslim youth workers, who are routinely helping police to tackle violent gang crime and anti-social behaviour in Tower Hamlets, Walthamstow, Brixton and in other deprived neighbourhoods, were a key ingredient in filling the vacuum created by insufficient police numbers.

I first saw East London Mosque and Islamic Forum Europe street skills in action in 2005 when they robustly dispatched extremists from Al Muhajiroun who were in Whitechapel attempting to recruit youngsters into their hate filled group. I saw the same skills in action in the same year when volunteers from the Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Welfare House ousted violent supporters of Abu Hamza from the Finsbury Park Mosque. More recently, Muslim bravery has been seen in Brixton when extremists spouting the latest manifestation of Al Muhajroun hatred were sent packing out of town. In all these instances, and so many more, the brave Muslims involved have received no praise for their outstanding bravery and good citizenship, and instead faced a never ending barrage of denigration from journalists such as Gilligan, Melanie Phillips, Martin Bright…. sorry I won’t go on, it’s a long list!

Sadly, many of the brave Muslims helping to keep their cities safe have not only grown used to denigration from media pundits but also faced cuts in government funding for their youth outreach work with violent gangs. This is not as a result of widespread economic cuts caused by the recession, but because the government adopts the media view that they are ‘extremist’. Street in Brixton is a case in point. Yesterday Dr Abdul Haqq Baker director of Street was forced to close a Street youth centre in Brixton as his reduced team of youth of workers struggled to keep pace with the task of tackling gang violence and its role in rioting and looting.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE AT: ALJAZEERA

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