The Disservice of Love

Language, while being the primary mode of communication that allows us to interact with each other, occasionally fails us. With countless adjectives to describe ourselves, each other and the world around us, we have the ability to precisely construct the conveyance of our realities. But when it comes to love, flaws in the potency and effectiveness of language become more obvious the same way well-worn areas of a favourite sweater begin to thin out with time.

When we love a newborn child, there is an element of awe, of wonder, of almost touching the miracle that is the embodied soul in human form. There is also an element of protection, the instinctual need to fend for and defend the defenceless of the species. There is a warmth that is enhanced by all the soft, fuzzy fabrics we ache to swathe newborns in, a warmth that is palpable within seconds of holding an infant close.

When we love our parents or guardians (assuming they have loved and provided for us), there is an element of reliance, of dependence, of knowing the stability of those who will always swoop in and save us when we lose our way. There is also an element of kinship, of tribe, of belonging through bloodline that no friendship or relationship could ever provide. There is safety, and because of it, there is gratitude in its purest, rawest form.

When we love another passionately, there is desire, there is physical attraction that draws us to them like a magnet finding its home surface. There is an animalistic urge to remove any and all barriers: from protective defence mechanisms to layers of clothing, we ache to strip ourselves bare. There is the need to be vulnerable and visible and to connect with them in a way that transcends the physical and allows us to graze the spiritual realm in a heaving mass of unity.

When we love a material possession, there is a need that is met through claiming proprietary rights over an object that pleases us on a sensory level. There is a sense of validation that comes from owning something we admire. We viscerally, and often unconsciously, believe that we become more worthy of admiration when our belongings are desirable in our esteem.

When we love art, there is a poignance that is elicited that wells up and reminds us of the heart-wrenching beauty and fragility that this life is illuminated, and often shattered, by. Moments in time are immortalized for us as we race through our routines leaving trails of energy behind us, but with few memories of where we’ve been or who we were with. We find breathing space and heart triggers when we admire art, and the most beautiful aspect of what we refer to as the ego emerges, blossoming until tears spring from our eyes and our lung capacity seems to grow with every intake of oxygen.

When we love the fallen, the injured, the damaged and the oppressed, we revert back to energetic beings that thrive on cooperation and collaboration. We want to give unconditionally, knowing in the recesses of our memory that to give to those in need is to give to ourselves. We find purpose, meaning and fulfillment when we extend ourselves for the happiness, well-being and freedom of others, which brings us closer to the union we crave in a world of missed connections.

In all these cases, we love. But how can one word apply to so many cases? Why does, “I love you” not even begin to describe the sensations and emotions we embody that remind us what it means to be alive? How is it even possible that the same word we use to describe the most meaningful of human connections gets used and debased and diminished until we are using it to describe how we feel about a meal or TV show or a new pair of shoes?

There should be more than one word for love. But there really isn’t. Words will never be able to describe the sensation of the energy of love in all its forms, triggers and destinations. The best we can do is live the word, in all its definitions. Embody it. Breathe it. Ooze it and live it.

The best we can do is live love. To do anything else is a life wasted.

When Words Fail…

I am home after spending the past twenty-four hours promoting the launch of my new book A Year In The Light: Daily Spiritual Life Hacks, Intentions & Reminders. I am flabbergasted and humbled by this whole experience. The reaction has been nothing less than extraordinary. It is often said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but I believe that to give one’s time is the most sincere form of flattery, and hundreds of you did just that to support me and the launch of this work. Thank you for showing up, literally. Thank you for showering me with beautifully kind words and appreciation of what I devote my life to. To those of you who gave me the spaces to promote the book and give the readings and the signings, I will never be able to fully communicate my gratitude. And to the crew at Indigo Bookstore in downtown Montreal, know that you have been instrumental in creating a moment for me where I felt legitimized as an author by encouraging me to do the book signing today.

Thank you. Without you all, I’m nothing. Everything I do in my career and my spiritual life is an offering, and you all made it abundantly clear that you are all there to receive that offering. I couldn’t do it without you. I hope these words convey a fraction of what I’m feeling. CTzr9EbW4AAR6yv (2)Thank you.

If You Remember One Thing…

The reason some get a thrill out of extreme sports is the same reason why some love exercising or binge-watching television or spending money or drinking alcohol or practicing yoga or getting a massage or ingesting drugs or hanging out with friends or meditating or eating or listening to music or having sex or doing whatever it is that brings them contentment. The elation they feel is the result of releasing the contractions or tensions they have absorbed in the body through the pairing of their thoughts with the events they encounter in their lives. We seek relief and release so that we can let the tensions that have landed in the body as contractions dissolve. This allows our musculature to de-contract, to relax, thereby permitting our breathing to deepen and our mind to stop obsessing over all the details typically keep us busily distracted. These outlets let us breathe deeper than we typically do, which brings about the sensations of ease and peace. When discussing the topic of smoking cigarettes with students recently, a few students who had been smokers told me that they loved their cigarette breaks so much because it was in these breaks that they had the opportunity to intentionally take deep breaths as they inhaled and exhaled. They loved smoking because they breathed deeply.

There will be tension relievers that will be productive and those that will be harmful. There will be those that will carry us safely to a place of well being and others that will have repercussions that would be better anticipated than faced. Remember this: that which brings you release which allows you to breathe deeper does not have to be what instigates your relaxing. You can instigate your relaxing. You can intentionally remember to breathe deeply when tension overwhelms, when situations spin out of control and when your fears and insecurities start to distort your understanding of what really is. If you remember one thing, let it be that breathing deeply when things go any way but the way you hoped will save your life. It will keep you in reaction, perspective and clarity. Simply by breathing deeply.

Give it a try. You will see what I’m talking about sooner than you think.

Falling Free

IMG_6787I’ve been back from Greece for almost two weeks and one moment stands out in my memory more than others. All the students had left the island and Stephane and I were lying down in the sand dunes on a beach after spending the morning editing my upcoming book. We spent hours there soaking up the heat, going to cool off in the crystal blue waters of the Aegean sea and then coming back to our towels to simply laze around. It had been years since I had lounged around like that and it was wonderful. Once the sun started to descend and the lighting became more of a soft glow on the sand and the sea, we packed up our stuff and started walking back to our car. I was almost overcome by the feeling of fullness, of completeness, of being so, so grateful to be alive to experience this feeling of being alive. I told Stephane how lucky we were, and he replied by saying how we may be lucky to have bodies that are healthy and functional and to live in a part of the world where democracy and freedom reign, but that the rest of it was up to us. He reminded me that all the decisions I make in my life, the ones I make for how I will create space for my students at home and abroad as well as the ones I make that are in keeping with how I want my life to be, have nothing to do with luck. They have to do with intention, hard work, perseverance and a stubbornness to never settle for anything less than exactly what I envision.

I believe that everyone should be living the life they dream of. I believe that every one of us should be making decisions that bring us to a place where we are so grateful to be alive and to experience the wonder and the greatness that is available to those of us who are lucky enough to have food, shelter, health and freedom. Everything I do in my career is intended to facilitate the journey towards living those moments for all of you who read my words, hear me lecture, take my classes & workshops and follow me around the world for our yoga vacations.

Pursue your joy. At every opportunity. Live those moments that leave you vibrating with vitality, gratitude and wonder. A life not lived in joy is a life that will potentially end in bitterness, resentment and regret. That is not how we are meant to live. Pursue your joy and don’t settle for anything less.

Of This, I Am Sure

FullSizeRender (1)Three and a half years ago I woke up from having a dream while visiting my extended family in England and immediately wrote down its contents because I knew it was somehow necessary. I then wrote about it in the blog post Repairing My Cabin, but, in a nutshell, I felt that, through the dream, I had been called to India by a sadhu or guru there waiting for me (visit the post from 2013 to read the details of the dream).

I spent some time yesterday with my friend Nadia and our teacher, my guru, the igniter of my mission and life’s work, Joan, and towards the end of the visit we got to talking about India. I’ve never been, and to be honest, don’t really feel the pull to go. Regardless, I found myself relaying the contents of the dream I’d had all those years ago and told them that I suspected that I had been called to Mother India and had so far ignored that call. Without batting an eyelash, Joan explained to me exactly what that dream meant. She explained to me that for whatever reason, my family stemmed from the yoga lineage, and that I had been the one to answer the call. She explained to me that I had been initiated into the lineage on an astral plane. She explained that what the sage had handed me was my mission to devote my life to this lineage. She explained to me that my immersion in the water was my baptism, and that I had answered the call by devoting my life and career to this path I’m on. The second she told me this I understood, with a peaceful certainty and finality, that I really am the vessel for a divine will that is greater than any words could attempt to describe.

I thought I had chosen this path I’m on as a way of doing what I love to do as a career. I thought I was taking a massive risk to pursue my passion and not settle for a well-paying, secure job with benefits that everyone would approve of. I thought it was all up to me. And then I started having moments of teaching where words were coming out of my mouth and I didn’t know where they were coming from, nor where the knowledge they were conveying was coming from. I started to get students coming up to me after class telling me that it was like I was talking directly to them. And this continued to happen. Often. Really often. I began to not remember what I had said after a class was over, hoping the right words came out and I didn’t offend anybody. And then I started to understand my role as a vessel.

The universal law of Divine Proclamation states that “the ability of an individual to express, speak or proclaim in behalf of the Divine Forces is in direct proportion to the ability of the individual to cease expression, speech or proclamation in behalf of the self.” I was living this law. I had stopped speaking on behalf of myself and found myself speaking on behalf of forces greater than us. And it now happens almost every time I teach, speak publicly or write.

Joan’s presence in my life is so profound from a teacher-student point of view that I really can’t find the words to describe it. I have no doubt that there is a transfer of energy, of information, of insight and of wisdom that I get from her, often without a single word being spoken. This blessing of having a teacher for sixteen years who infuses my life with worth, vital information and clear direction is something I will take to my grave with me. I have never felt so filled with purpose, so sure of why I am here and what I am supposed to do with this time. And I have never been so certain that I am carrying out my dharma as a vessel for the divine. Of this, I am sure.

I’m having trouble conveying what is in my heart right now, but I’ll try to do my best here: Joan shows me what a real teacher is. A real teacher is one who awakens the student to their spirit, to their path, to their reason for being alive on earth, to their individual dharma. A real teacher ignites true understanding that is felt on a somatic level, not memorized from a textbook. A real teacher transmits what the student needs to know to then be able to find themselves undeniably aligned with forces greater than anything they could have ever considered as possible. A real teacher gives the student their life, illuminated and brilliantly meaningful.

Joan has done this for me for almost two decades. I hope that by accepting what was given to me in my dream years ago, I not only honour the example set by Joan, but that I leave at least one person understanding just how deep this student/teacher relationship roots itself. I hope that I affect at least one person as deeply as Joan affects me. I hope I serve as purely as she does.

Thank you Joan.


This One For Matty

The past couple of weeks have been interesting for me in that I have found myself practicing yoga more frequently than I typically do. If I can get 2-3 classes in a week, I’m happy, but over the past few weeks I’ve found myself practicing 4-5 times a week, and what it has brought me is beautifully informative. With more practice has come more strength, more awareness as to when in each individual practice I feel my body begin to respond, open and warm up. I have found myself in a new phase of relationship with my practice and my body, and as a result of the observations I’ve made, I have also found myself compelled to pay more attention to what I’m eating, when I’m eating, if I’m eating. The same applies for rest: I find myself resting when I need to, saying no to things that will interrupt that rest, and being active when typically I could just keep on resting. I am in awe of my body, how it works and responds and, ultimately, the relationship I have with it.

Last week I was notified by a friend that an old friend of ours with whom we worked years ago had been hospitalized and was currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Mathieu Leroux is the epitome of an artist: he is an actor, an author, an avid fan of music and has staged his own one-man shows. He is a creator, taking the intangibility of thought and inspiration and making it manifest into his art that he shares with the rest of the world. This man who uses his body, his movement and his words to continue to give to the world has been rendered physically immobile by a syndrome that goes by the name of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Now, I don’t know what brought it on in Mathieu’s case, but at this point it doesn’t matter. What matters is what is, and what is is an almost-total state of paralysis. Guillain-Barré syndrome occurs when the immune system recognizes the cells found in the sheaths surrounding the nerves in the body as threatening, and then targets them. This is a very rare syndrome that, in some cases, occurs after one has recovered from a viral infection. Regardless of what causes it, all I know is that I went to visit Matty in the hospital this past week and found him asleep, intubated and in a state that I want him to recover from quickly. The good news is that he will recover, as the recovery statistics with this ailment are great. But it’s going to be a long road, one full of highs and lows. I know, however, that Matty has what it takes to come back from this and let it inform the rest of his life.

I teach yoga and meditation and write the books I write because I am firmly convinced that we all need more education in mindfulness. We need to have more conversations about what the nature of the mind is by default and how it, in many cases, does us a disservice by honing in on that which is most extreme. If yoga and meditation, in certain traditions, are about deprogramming initial response, then we need to work on being present enough to recognize when the mind is focusing on, obsessing over, something that is not helpful, that is allowing tensions to wriggle their way into the body’s musculature and make themselves at home. One of the key Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (from the Ashtanga Yoga System) is Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam, which translates to “in the presence of negative thoughts, think of opposite ones.” An almost childishly simple piece of advice, but wiser and more effective than you can imagine. The root of this teaching stems from the knowledge that in any given moment, we have a say in what we point our mind to. In the most extreme of circumstances, we have the ability to not fall victim to them and be at their mercy. We have the ability to focus on areas of least or pleasant sensation when there is physical discomfort or pain. We have the ability to point the mind to a hope, a dream, to faith. We have the ability to direct our thoughts to that which is useful and serves us, especially when our thoughts would get pulled into the chaotic and unpleasant, which is usually what happens. We typically spend our time mulling over what brings us pain and suffering, and so in these moments it is our duty to deprogram initial response and re-point our mind to that which allows us to maintain calm, stay in action and not succumb to fear or pain. That is yoga.

Mathieu is currentFullSizeRenderly in a situation where he has two choices: to either succumb to fear, visualizing how all of this could go even more horribly, or he could re-point his mind to healing, to faith in that healing, to the community of family, friends and loved ones who have gathered around him like protective parents, to getting through this and emerging stronger, more informed and more galvanized than ever to bring this experience with him as he continues to spoil us with his art. His situation is an extreme version of what I discuss in my teachings: moments that we wish would pass quicker than they do and what tools to use to navigate the passage of those moments wisely, in action instead of in reaction. We breath deeply when that’s available, but more importantly we take control of what the mind is focusing on and we refocus it. To light. To faith. To healing. This is his yoga practice.

I have spoken to my students this week about what’s going on with Mathieu so we could dedicate our movement, breath and intentions to not only him, but to others in our lives who could use a little infusion of light, of love, of energy, patience and resilience. I hope and pray that a fraction of all that love has landed with those to whom it was directed.

Matty’s recovery will no doubt be longer than any of us would like it to be, and despite his community having banded together over the past week to raise money for him to not have to worry about living expenses as he gradually makes his way out of this moment, any and all donations will not only be appreciated, they’ll be essential. The only thing we want him to expend energy on is coming back to a fully mobile state, and so I’m including the link to the crowdfunding site where all donations are going. Visit to donate whatever you can. Think of Mathieu, even if you don’t know him, and send him your thoughts and good energy. Be grateful for that which we typically take for granted in the pursuit of our goals and dreams: these bodies that allow us to make our way through life, these voices that allow us to express ourselves, this community that we are blessed to be a part of.

Think of Matty and join me and all his network support in gunning for his recovery. We love you Mathieu. You will get through this. We will be here to make sure that happens.

A Pill to Swallow

10827994_10153292025159258_1015895408197009231_oA few months ago I organized a yoga benefit to raise money for Women Aware, a Montreal-based non-profit organization that provides assistance and “long-term support to those living with the dynamics of domestic violence.” At around the same time I became part of the #HeForShe international campaign put together by UNWomen. This campaign is a call that “brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all,” essentially serving as a call to all men to raise their voices and awareness to fight the inequalities and suffrage women are exposed to simply because they’re women. I got involved with them for the same reason that I organized the fundraiser: I was traumatized at an early age when the concept of rape was explained to me and since then I have felt a visceral alliance with anyone dealing with the fallout of violence against women.

My career started out almost seven years ago as a yoga teacher, but little did I know that in finding my voice to teach I would find my voice to start speaking up for those whose voices have been muted by abuse, inequality and sheer terrorism. By now, most of you know that I’m not a mild-mannered, meek teacher. I have an opinion, especially when it comes to injustice, and I’m not afraid to voice that opinion, especially when I come across intolerance of any kind. I have been told that I can be aggressive in my expression, that I’m not adopting the right “yoga” attitude of non-judgement and compassion. Hear me now, because I won’t ever be repeating myself: I understand that every single one of us has the potential, if influenced by certain variables, to do or be anything or anyone, and I use the “There but for the grace of God go I” expression daily. I also feel tremendous compassion and empathy for those who have perpetuated the cycles of chaos and violence that they have found themselves a part of. With that said, I also believe that we have to stop tip-toeing around in this moment of political correctness so that we can expose the root causes of how we’ve arrived at this moment in time with such a heavy cloud of ignorance, darkness and intolerance weighing us down. And so sometimes I’m going to communicate in ways that you may not want to hear your yoga teacher or spiritual guide communicating in. To those I may be offending, please accept my apologies now and understand that all my actions in my career and on my path of dharma stem from the desire for peace, compassion, unity and spiritual understanding. Also understand that this is the way I’m doing it. My way. If it doesn’t resonate with you, there are hundreds of thousands of other teachers for you out there, and I encourage you to seek them out.

10413309_10153081125548426_3971799968709502221_n I, as I progress in my studies and work with helping others heal from their emotional and physical wounds, am constantly helping women heal from sexual assaults. This is an epidemic, take my word for it. And it’s unacceptable. It keeps coming up, over and over again, in the work that I’m doing. The pain and trauma that is being afflicted on women in the name of power, of control, of taking what someone else thinks they’re entitled to, is reprehensible. And I will continue to raise awareness with MY voice to make sure that we don’t get complacent or ever think that violence in any form is a necessary evil that we have to learn to live with. Bullshit. I’m calling bullshit, and I will continue to call it with every person I encounter who has been hurt at the hand of someone else. I will write (as I did with this blog post months ago for International Women’s Day), I will speak, I will teach and I will continue to learn so I know what I’m talking about and fighting peacefully in the name of.

Understand this: violence against women is not going to be tolerated. I will make sure that women’s voices get heard, even if it means me raising mine to amplify theirs. This path I’m on with yoga means nothing if all I’m doing is instructing people to fold forwards or balance on their tip-toes. My path is one of awakening, for myself and others, so that we can address what needs to be addressed without fear of rubbing people the wrong way. Sometimes we need a little shaking to wake up and see clearly what we have been allowing to occur right on our doorsteps.

To support Women Aware, please visit their website that is hyperlinked above.





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