by Joe Holtaway
They sat in that window seat for 5 days as we moved through the house as normal, 106 Erlanger Road in London. We had a pact in that house that came from somewhere deeply rooted, you could feel it in the wooden corridors, in the table, the cups and furniture, it said, you’re ok – whatever is happening inside and outside, we got you.
15 of us shared the space, the landlord, living out in the countryside, set it up years before to be a kind of sanctuary I guess. They interviewed prospective tenants and also trusted friends of friends to fill the rooms.
Listen to the album while reading the text.
We did a lot together, at home in that big kitchen space with the wise old wooden table! Meals, meetings, talking about this and that, art, politics, food, family, life, always life. At different times we had different interests coming through, Katja was a dancer, Val an art curator, Jacob a musician, Dan made films and had a sound-system that lived in a bike trailer appearing at events. There was a kindness there, that was rooting. It was like how you might feel if someone takes you by the shoulders, looks you right in the eyes and gently says, I love you!
Back to the window seat. They were tired, overwhelmed with what they were doing as I remember; studies and having no time for what they really wanted to do; part of that was gardening and part was writing books for children. A few of us in the house were into meditation. The counter-consumerist, anti-toxic-capitalist model of sitting down, closing the eyes and feeling the breathe coming in and out of the body.
We shared talks over email; Pema Choldron, Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, Mooji… we knew it was more than ok to do nothing sometimes – so we either suggested it or supported it, but either way it happened, they took to stillness for about a week; watching the garden, watching us come in and out on our days of doing stuff! From there, I’m glad to say, they got more aligned with that stuff that they wanted to do. They felt better.
The song Be Still came a few months later, at a friend’s house, playing my guitar. For some reason, they were out and I was alone in their front room. Be still dear one… inspired by the words of the monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, someone I would go on to read more of and stay in his monestary for almost a year, some years later – though I didn’t know that at the time.
The song is my reminder to myself: stopping is sometimes the most important thing I can do.