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Susie was back in London from France and she suggested I go check out the protests at St Paul’s Cathedral.

“I was impressed,” she said. “They are really organized.”

Susie should know. She’s done her share of NGO work.

I’d been meaning to go down there. It was on my to-do list, just like washing clothes,  scheduling an appointment with a dentist for a checkup, jogging every morning and finally getting my life in general order. But no, I really should do this. I need to educate myself and understand what is going on. The only way to do that is to actually get out of my routine and make it happen.

I arrived and realized Susie was right. They were organized.

I had expected to see the protestors the moment I got off the central line at St Paul’s Cathedral, but instead they were neatly aligned on the side. Once you arrived in the area, posters and banners containing political messages were prevalent, but most protestors themselves were at the general assembly meeting in front of the cathedral. After wandering around and spotting the kitchen where 3 meals are served daily, the library where books are freely loaned, the first aid tent, a music tent and the info centre, I decided to climb onto the steps of the cathedral and listen in.

Working group announcements were taking place. Since St Paul’s had been so kind as to let the protestors stay, it was strongly encouraged and required that all members cooperate with the cathedral’s requests. Certain hours of operation were to be respected. Safety and fire hazards were to be obeyed.

A leader from the media working group stood to announce that filming was going to take place. The good, bad and the ugly were all going to be recorded. If there was any ugly, it was not going to be edited out, no matter what the circumstance. “We need to be honest about everything,” he explained. “That is the only way to be the change we want to see.” Hands in the audience raised and were shook to express noiseless excitement and agreement.

Another working group leader stood up and took a vote regarding meetings with public officials. Several people in the crowd stood up to express their opinions. Anyone who wished to speak was allowed their time to talk with proper attention and respect. The debate continued on. What is our goal? Are we heading toward our goal without compromising? Is this a compromise that we feel OK making?

Oh my. Could this be the type of democracy I learned about in grade school? Where we all listen to each other and go forward with a majority consensus? Where we respect one another and focus on a common shared end goal?

It is true that I only dropped in for a few hours. The real trick at these things seems to be to stick with it without compromising your core values.

I left the general assembly in search of the Tent City University. This was what truly sparked my interest: a series of lectures given for free. I wanted to know more about the issues.

When I arrived, Anthea Lawson from Global Witness was giving a talk on the process that enables criminals and brutal dictators to outflow their money into the global tax haven network of banks.

Next up was academic Mike Neary to discuss different approaches to education. As a group, the room explored concepts and strategies for education and skill sharing.

A woman sat breastfeeding in the corner. Two school aged children entered with their dad and stood in the back. A middle-aged visually impaired woman came and sat on the cushion next to me. The people in the room were from all over and represented various socio-economic backgrounds, ages, colours and life circumstances.

I left for the day more knowledgeable of our social system and with an understanding of what #OccupyLSX was all about.

I thought about how I could stay and learn for quite a long time. I then thought about my life and how I was a bit eager to get back to it. I have a lot of respect for those who have relocated here away from their comfy beds  or those who commute in and give up their days to organize and run such a long-term event.

If you have some spare time, I recommend a visit. Even if you are unsure about the movement or don’t care to volunteer, they are happy to have you stop in and learn.

Knowledge is power and truth is love, y’all.

OccupyLSX has expanded to include Finsbury Square. Check out the organization website to find a schedule of events or how to get more involved.

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Krishna Das was in town a few weeks ago. Two friends and I snagged the last few tickets. We followed the trail of flowing skirts and mala beads from Kings Cross St Pancras to the Camden Centre to find a rockstar style line. Actually there were two lines. One was for the VIPs; the special guests, studio owners and teachers who had front row tickets, and another line for us plebeians. I chuckled to myself at the incongruence of yogic chanting and VIPs.

We entered the building, settled on three seats together at the middle left of the hall and waited for KD to take stage. Whew, that was hard work.

As the building began to fill, the room became hotter and hotter. The girl in front of me opened a garlicky take out rice and began to eat. We tried our best to hold our collective yogic cool, but everyone was having problems. The girl behind us began to fuss over jackets being hung on backs of chairs and we were all trying our best to try and accommodate one another. The chanting desperately needed to begin.

Finally KD entered the stage with Radhanth Swami, an American Swami whose book, The Journey Home, we had all been given a copy. After some introduction, the chanting began, then stopped so that Radhanth Swami could tell his story. And a big story he had. His tales of love and his times in India were very interesting, but not what the audience had expected from the evening. I tried to pay attention, but the heat was still unbearable and now the garlic was beginning to seep out of the pores of the girl in front of me. Radhanth Swami was describing being stuck on a severely overcrowded train in India where you could not breathe for 12 hours and I made a personal vow always to splurge for first class trains in India. How could I survive that when I could hardly deal with the smells I was encountering now?

Packed house for Krishna Das at the Camden Centre

Finally Krishna Das took control of the stage and began playing again. It was already too late. One of my friends was in her second trimester and couldn’t take it anymore. We went to the back of the room where a door was left open and ventilation was available.

I am so glad we did because as KD continued to play, we had the freedom to dance, greet others and, well, breathe.

Finally the Kundalini was rising. By the end of the night the group at the back had formed a community, and we were all a little lighter than when we began.

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When I came to London last May, I left friends,  a city I loved, and a very dear project and blog behind. I learned so much and had more fun than I ever imagined with Dining In Austin Blog. I met good friends and amazing acquaintances through it.  It was a project made out of love for life, food and community in the ATX. Best of all, I got to share it with my amazing friend, Mariah. This creative outlet designed to complement our rigid science-y careers told the stories of our lives as lived through our food. We included irreverent and offhand tales of life as a 20-something (and then 30-something) Austinite.  People started reading it and before we knew it, we were involved in the Austin food scene in a way that we’d never expected but that made us really happy.

This was a good lesson for me. Do the things you love. Success will come.

I consider Austin, Texas a home. The people and culture are unique. The city is a blend of urban cowboy, artist spirit and burgeoning eclectic beautiful city. A huge chunk of my heart will always be there, but I have wanted to experience another country and culture and the time and opportunity was right. My intuition said to go.

I have such a desire to love London with the same passion and tenacity. I’ve wanted to devour every bit of it and live it completely. I get frustrated and homesick when the impossibility of experiencing it all becomes obvious. I have had to dramatically adjust my mode of thinking.

…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.

– Samuel Johnson

The two cities are distinctively different. I found it difficult to experience all of Austin. I find it downright impossible to experience all of London. I can’t afford to. I don’t have the money. There will never be enough time. I don’t have the social network and close friends I had in Texas. My approach has to be entirely different. Friendships have to be developed. Places and experiences have to be explored for the first time. I feel less on top of everything and more like I’m swimming about, tasting life along the way. I’ve come to realize that this isn’t better or worse. It is just different.

Consequently, I can’t write about London like I wrote about Austin. I struggled with this at first. Should I create another dining blog? I couldn’t afford all the dining out and I definitely couldn’t write about London like an expert. I also wanted to expand. I wanted to write about events, art, community, food, yoga, life, travel, philosophy – the things that I love. Or just whatever happened. I didn’t want to be tied to a particular subject even though I knew successful blogs were more often singularly focused.

To hell with success. It’s ok for things to be about the process instead of the outcome.

So what did I do? I just wrote. I picked a name and I got on with it.

After a bike ride around town early on in this blog’s life, I arrived back at home and turned to then-Boyfriend “so… that’s London.” Thus a temporary name was formed.

And I wrote more. I let the blog take on it’s own personality. I let it develop organically and become what it was going to be – a reflection on life in London as told the only way I could tell it. The honest account of a Texas girl hanging out on this city along the Thames. Not quite the same Texas girl anymore. Definitely not British.

Now that I’ve found a voice, this blog has been appropriately renamed. You can now find me directly at www.TexasOnThames.com

I hope you enjoy.

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“What have you been up to in London?” my soul sistah Kristen asks me. I point her towards my blog. “Um, so you’ve basically been eating at different restaurants and gone to a few museums?”

Well, not exactly.

We then dive into a conversation about what it’s like to be in a new environment, trying to create community, finding interests and the qualities of being alone. There’s no bluffing Kristen. About a year ago we were complete strangers. Then we spent a few weeks camping on the beach in Mexico meditating, practicing yoga and learning how to teach these skills to others for about 16 hours a day. It was full on. With that kind of shared experience, you just don’t do small talk.

My tent on the beach in Mexico.

I have struggled with this move more than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, I have met some really cool people here in London, but I still miss the amazing friends and city I left behind. I didn’t think much about packing up all my possessions and shipping them across the Atlantic because, let’s face it, I’m impulsive. Of course, living abroad was always something I wanted to try, but sometimes the only way I get things done is to just not think about them.

I enjoy alone time. Lucky for me since I am getting a lot of it. I like deciding what I’m going to do, when I’m going to do it and for how long. I love idly wandering my way and exploring at my own pace, not having to justify it to others. Sometimes I indulge that part of myself too much and am left feeling unbalanced. After all, there is a part of me that is an extrovert and we all need community.

I’ve particularly been struggling to find a solid yoga community. I felt like there were so many talented teachers at my fingertips in Austin. I would attend classes with my regular teacher, but also drop in on “pay what you wish” classes at a local studio.

I’m now on a search for a teacher I connect to in London. My friend Mike asked me “Why do you need to go to classes if you are already a teacher?” My personal practice often gets stagnant without outside influence. I tend to practice the same asanas over and over again while avoiding others. It’s important to have an outside influence challenging you from time to time. I still have a lot to learn and will never be done. Although it will be different than what I had before, I’m sure I will find something fulfilling here in London. Unfortunately my patience gets the best of me at times and my wallet is light.

In my search, here are a few meditation and yoga outlets I have come across.

Life Centre in Notting Hill

The Life Centre has a wide variety of teachers, alternative therapies, and the sister nonprofit, Yoga Campus, puts on excellent workshops. I attended a powerful teacher training through them with Shiva Rea last June. Classes run £13 – £15. Community classes are £7 and take place once a day Mon-Fri. A first-timers 14 day trial membership costs £14 and is well worth the money.

The Light Cenre Belgravia

Similarly named, the Light Centre is located in Belgravia. It is more a broad alternative medicine centre than a yoga centre. It equally provides therapies like acupuncture, osteopathy, homeopathy and kinesiology. Some of these I whole heartedly believe can help people and others just aren’t for me. Classes run £7 – £11. I purchased a month’s off peak pass for £48. It allowed me to attend yoga, pilates, and qigong classes on weekdays between 9 and 5. This encouraged me to go as frequently as possible to get my money’s worth.

The London Buddhist Centre

I decided to take another route to the problem and made my way over to east London for a Monday night Dharma talk and meditation at the London Buddhist Centre. For a recommended donation of £5 you get a guided meditation and discussion. They even give you a tea and cookie break which is a very warming feeling that made me nostalgic for elementary school. The London Buddhist Centre has a whole slew of courses and retreats to attend. I recommend trying them out during a weekday lunchtime meditation class for £2 or a Wednesday night beginner’s meditation for £5. Of course you don’t get the asanas with these classes, but the more I practice the less yoga is about the physical postures. Besides, no one looked at me funny as I stretched and bent by myself between sessions on Monday night.

The LBC

Two other studios I have yet to try are Battersea Yoga and the very popular Triyoga.

They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Of course, they also say you fall in love when you aren’t looking and I think that’s a load of ca-ca. You’ve got to be open to it and put yourself out there.

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