Post-Paros Musings

I am sitting poolside at Margarita Studios, the location where we have spent the last ten days practicing yoga, sharing meals, laughing, bonding and basking in the Parian energy that keeps me coming back with different groups of friends and students year after year. It is always emotional for me to say goodbye to the people with whom community was built during these events, and this moment is no different. The degree of joy that came from every person throughout our stay and the oversaturation of beauty that we soaked up from this island is simply not communicable through mere words. This time we have shared together is a concentrated moment of intense radiance, one that every one of us will be illuminated by when our thoughts meander back to our time together. 

Once again I am struck by how fortunate I am to be able to bring people from all over the world to experience the incomparable beauty that is Paros. It is because of how affected this year’s group is by what they’ve absorbed here that I have decided to announce the 2017 Yoga Vacation on the Greek Island of Paros. For all of you who have been following our time here through social media and have been feeling drawn to what you’ve seen, begin your planning now! We will return here September 9-19, 2017. Shared/double occupancy – $1550+taxes, single occupancy – $1950+taxes…AND, there will be a $100 discount offered to every person who has previously joined our groups over the last 5 years! Block the time off work, start shopping for your airline tickets and get ready for an experience you will never forget! Contact me at for info or to register!

To all of you whose energies still surround me as I sit here in the space that we have all imprinted through this trip, please know how grateful I am to have been able to observe your experience in Paros. Seeing that joy and experience of wonderment is exactly why I work so hard to make these journeys possible. Sharing meals and laughs, in the spirit of family, was a privilege, and I’m looking forward to reuniting in the near future. 

With love, Bram

The Sights We Have Seen

I’m writing this from the island of Paros in Greece with only a few hours before the 2016 yoga group arrives, and I’m feeling nostalgic. Five years ago I set off on a new branch of my career by organizing my first-ever solo yoga retreat on the Greek island of Santorini. I remember how fiercely I was plagued by doubt when I was about to begin the PR on that event. I also remember consciously pushing aside all uncertainty, firm in the knowledge that because my intention to share wisdom in one of the most beautiful geographical locations on earth was so pure and honorable, I trusted that all would go well. And it did. It has. For five years now. 

I am beyond grateful to everyone who has joined me on the globe trotting we’ve done so far. From Santorini to Mljet (Croatia), Istanbul (Turkey) to Paros (Greece), Berlin (Germany) to Bali (Indonesia), Ravello (Italy) to Paros (again!!), Prague (Czech Republic) back to Paros (AGAIN!!!). We have seen, and continue to see, the world because doing so gets us out of our comfort zones and our routines, allows us to meet people we may never have come across and see just how similar we are, despite language and cultural differences, and gives us the opportunity to make memories that will always be saturated with beauty.

Thank you. To every one of you who has taken whatever risks you’ve taken to invest the time, money and energy in your own well being. Thank you for placing your trust in me. And thank you for your friendship, because the best by product of these trips is the friendships that have grown into family bonds.

Here are some images from the last 5 years. Here’s to the next 5, and the 5 after those, and the 5 after those…you get the gist :) 

If You Read One Blog Post, Make It This One

More shootings. More terrorist attacks. More opinions being slung into the collective consciousness. More judgement. More blame. More division. More “I am me and you are you and I have nothing to do with you.”

Let’s just get to the fucking point, shall we? I say it incessantly in classes, workshops, lectures and retreats, but I’ll just keep on saying it until it’s understood: this moment in time will be looked back on by historians as a dark age. Why? Because even with all the channels we have of technology, of communication, of interaction and of being able to follow each other’s every breath, move, meal and vacation, one thing, ONE THING, continues to evade us.

We don’t take care of each other. We allow fear to supersede trust, we work from the default that our differences are stronger and allow those differences to motivate the pulling of a trigger, the launching of opinion into social media networks, the creation of a world where we’re divided and, essentially, killing each other.

I also constantly remind people to rise up and meet darkness with light. What that means in real terms is to somehow overcome the differences that keep us in the rigidity of “black” or “white”, “male” or “female”, “straight” or “gay”, “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Muslim”, “you” or “me.” Get over it. We are all trying to navigate our difficulties and successes, all at the same time on the same planet. All struggling. And just because the faces of those struggles looks different person to person, don’t ever doubt that the root causes are the same for us all.

Start making an effort to connect to what you’ve previously avoided or had an aversion to. Come together. Try exposure therapy. Try communicating face to face. Try.

There will be an age of enlightenment that will follow this dark age. Our work now is to not succumb to the darkness. None of this will end until we wake up and start looking after and caring for each other instead of killing each other.


Re-Repairing My Cabin

Let me set the scene for you: I’m lying back on a zero-gravity garden lounger on the stone terrace that separates the Old Rectory from the sprawling green lawn that rolls away from the house for some fifty meters. The lawn sprawls away into the overhang of the wall of trees that softly shades the spearmint green of the grass into a dwindling palette of shaded greys and muted blacks. The irony of the vibrant morphing into the gloomy isn’t lost on me knowing that on the other side of the fence that borders the immense lawn and gardens is the Litcham church cemetery.

I’m back in England. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been here, the place and people I have been coming back to annually for the last twenty years. It’s rare to have people in one’s life who have consistently and uninterruptedly been present, in all respects of the word, for almost thirty years. I am beyond grateful to be privy to that rare blessing, and have been coming back to England to spend time with her, her husband and their two boys (one of whom is my godson), all of whom I consider to be my extended family. 

I’m here in July, which is somewhat of an anomaly considering I usually make my jaunts over in the dead of the January winter. That period of the year is usually down-time for me career-wise, but after five years of exposing myself to the cold damp that introduced me to the James Herbert-esque weather condition known as freezing fog, I decided to explore the warmer clime of early July.

I’m surrounded by wild lavender shrubs, serenaded by cooing doves and pigeons and, in the distance, the low-rumbling swishing of passing cars. The sun is out, warming the legs of my jeans as bumblebees, drunk from the pollen of the lavender, dive bomb past my head. I’m relaxing, which might sound typical given the nature of my work, but the last 7 months have been anything but relaxing. Since January 2016 I have succeeded in promoting my latest book, A Year In The Light, and have done more teaching in classes, workshops, teacher trainings and conferences than ever before. I have also over-scheduled myself, running myself relatively ragged until two months of antibiotics were required to help me regain the balance in my health and life that I had lost in the pursuit of helping others. You know that expression, “The carpenter’s cabin is the one most crooked?” I’m repairing my cabin. Again.

And so I am here, with no intention of working or committing to anything other than relaxing for the next two weeks. And yet, with the seemingly easiest of tasks before me, I find myself once again applying everything I have learned and taught. A daunting task now that it is just me and my thoughts, no distractions or commitments. 

My mind is entrepreneurial by nature. I am my own boss, and am passionately dedicated to my career of guiding others down their paths, helping to facilitate their journey. I am constantly thinking. About the next project, students and clients, scheduling, the administrative side to my business, and countless other facets of my career. And that’s just the stuff related to my work that keeps my mind whirling. Add to that courses and continuing education, my relationship, friendships, family, my dog, life, etc… It’s a lot for one brain to process, and I know that I’m not alone, that we all download and store copious amounts of data that either stays stored, gets extrapolated for some purpose or another or pops up in the randomest of moments to remind us of the connectivity and non-randomness of life. And I’m having trouble unplugging my thoughts from the “doing” outlet they are normally plugged into so I can replug them into the “being” outlet where there’s no need to plan the next project or consider how to keep my marketing fresh and compelling.

I woke up last night at 3am, still on Montreal time, but slowly acclimating to the UK time zone. After a few minutes of realizing my thoughts were wandering into aspects of my life that would keep me awake, I did what I always do and refocused on body sensing, the art of noticing sensations in different parts of my body. This exercise of focusing the mind usually lulls me into sleep within minutes. It took longer last night, and I was aware of the extra effort it took to drift back off into sleep.

Today I keep noticing the pull towards doing; filming something for my YouTube channel, starting the new online course I’m enrolled in, working to put together next year’s yoga retreats. With the intention of not working, I instead pulled out a novel from my friends’ bookshelves and started reading, only to observe my thoughts wandering away on a path of their own. 

It will take a few days for me to successfully unplug and replug. The process is, quite simply, fascinating, regardless of how much time I’ve spent in my life practicing the art of concentration. It’s an art that demands one always remain a beginner, and I, once again, find myself at the starting line.

This is the closest to work I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks, and an essential step in my detaching, as writing usually allows me to process and then let go. If your email goes unanswered, trust I’ll get to it once I’m back home. My absence is intentional, and sorely needed for my sanity and the sustainability of my work. 

Your work? Notice your thoughts, in any and all moments. Notice how you unplug and replug, from one outlet to another. For myself, I’ll refocus my gaze onto the bee-populated lavender and the music of Turin Brakes drifting out from the front door of the house.

Peace to us all.

What We Don’t Know

I am currently studying Islam and the Quran through an online course with Harvard University because I was aware of my ignorance when it came to the religion and belief system that over a billion people ascribe to today. I suspected that what I had been exposed to through media and the opinions of others wasn’t entirely accurate or fact-based, and as someone who believes that all talk of God should be talk of peace, I wanted to investigate.

It turns out I was right. Islam, from my very little time exposed to it, seems to be about compassion and mercy. Aligned with the Judeo-Christian history of revelations compiled into book form, Islam is also very aligned with the Yoga teachings which ask us to place God above all else. Not what CNN would have us believe, apparently.

The first question we were asked in this course is how do we know what we know about Islam and Muslims? A seemingly innocuous question, at least until I really started thinking about it. Which led to asking myself how I know most of what I think I know.

We talk shit a lot of the time. We babble on about topics that we are not properly informed about, and yet we keep on talking.

This week’s classes will bring all of this together by asking students the following questions:

How do you know what you know? About what’s right for you? About what’s right for others? About what’s right and wrong? About what you’re meant to be doing with your time? About how you’re meant to love? About who you’re meant to love? About how you receive love? About money? About sex? About rest? About stress? About health issues?

What is your source of information? Is it Google? Is it your parents or guardians who brought you up? Is it the media? Is it what you overheard from others? Is it through the news wire? And is it viable? Is it a source that speaks from fact or from assumption? Is it based in truth or in fear?

Now let’s look at what you know even though you don’t know how you know it. About the difference between right and wrong. About how to treat others, regardless of their skin color or the language they speak or the god they pray to or who they feel compelled to love. About what your life is meant to represent. About what the lives of others are meant to represent.

1) Know that ideology, on any subject, is dangerous without applying that ideology face to face with the people it involves. One can have a million opinions, but those opinions can also be transformed in a second by seeing the faces and walking in the shoes of those they involve.

2) Trust that if it makes you uncomfortable or invokes fear, you need to know more about it. That sensation or emotion of fear is a messenger begging you to look a little deeper. If we all made the effort to dig a little deeper we would find commonality. Every time.

3) If you’re gonna talk, speak fact. Opinion is already saturating our culture. Opinion is killing us. From the mind-numbing chatter of all the talking heads employed by news media conglomerates to endlessly babble stupidity into our personal spaces to the cowards who sit behind the safety of their black mirrors, puffed-up with their false sense of self-importance, spewing hate and judgement through social media on 140 characters or less. Opinion is harming us. What you put out into the world, whether it be through your word (spoken or written) or your actions, has the potential to heal or to harm. Unfortunately, the default when mindlessness is part of the equation, is harm. We harm easier than we heal. Changing that vibration into one of healing can only happen by speaking fact, not emotionally charged opinion. More importantly, we must be able to say, “I don’t know” when we really don’t have enough information to responsibly contribute to the narrative. Even more importantly? Know when not to speak. Silence, in the proper contexts, is golden. It’s grace, it’s power, it’s action disguised as inaction.

We have got to start taking more responsibility for what we project into the world. If it feeds hate, judgement, separation or fear, then we have to acknowledge that and do the work that is ours to do, a teaching that is rooted in the Bhagavad Gita. If it feeds healing and love, then we are living in alignment with why we are here and what we are meant to do with our time.

We are not here to judge or hate or blame or fear. And why does it take disasters that shake us to the core to wake up to that realization? Because we are asleep. We are encouraged to stay docile and meek because that’s how we can be herded in whatever directions governments and corporations want to us to move in.

Let’s wake up a bit more today. Let’s set an intention to continue waking up a bit more every day. Set that intention every day, and every evening, before sleeping, identify how you’ve become more awake in the day that is ending.

This is up to us. No one is going to do this work for us. For you. For me. So let’s do it. It can only lead to good.

Berlin Musings

As I take some time following the Prague Yoga Vacation to unwind in Berlin, I find myself observing sensations and emotions bubbling up that fascinate me. 

I’m in my favourite city in the world, the one I’d live in if I ever left Montreal. The current weather is hot and sunny, and all is well in my world. And yet, even with all of that in place, I still feel a yearning. For what? No idea. But it’s there. An itch, a restlessness, a hunger. It may be the swell that propels my current creative projects into structure and form, it may be the knowledge that I go back home this week. Regardless, it’s there.

I’m left wondering if we ever really find what we’re looking for, if we ever truly find long-term, full-spectrum, 360-degree peace. And trust me, I know that typical yoga psycho-babble would have me recite some Hallmark affirmation about the universe providing or meditating on it all. My version of that would be to simply observe, to ask questions and know that this experience may seem individual, but is quite the opposite. I believe we live with the hunger of the unfulfilled. 

And so, the conclusion I have come to is that if we live authentically, aligned with our individual dreams and intuition, then we do find what we’re seeking, but only temporarily. Pockets of perfection, I like to call them. I often experience these moments when I’m teaching or lecturing, when I find myself exactly where I want to be (like here in Berlin) and, most intensely, when I find connection with others. 

There’s always a wistfulness when these pockets of perfection, these heartbreakingly pure moments begin to fade, slowly transitioning into what was. But I am awake enough to recognize them as they occur, and even more so when I have faith that there are more waiting for me as I navigate my way through this experience of life. 

The final word here? Make your pockets of perfection. They rarely come to you without effort and perseverance. Make more moments that inspire you to keep making more moments. Have faith that they’re just around the bend. I’ll do the same and we can compare notes along the way🙂

The Queen’s Been Slain

As a general rule, I don’t get up early. I have created a schedule that allows me to sleep in 6 out of 7 days a week, and I often teach the importance of getting as much sleep as possible. And yet on this lazy, rainy Sunday morning I find myself woken up at 7:40am (!!!!) by words forming in my mind that should have been written decades ago, but were not. I suppose that’s because they had to come from me, and, apparently, that is what this morning had in store for me.

Over the last 5 months we have lost too many musical icons to count, influencers who affected the collective consciousness for decades, men who with no apparent hesitation let their freak-flag fly and expressed their artistry for the world to be affected by. David Bowie and Prince, to name two of those icons, didn’t just write songs and get on stages to perform them. They shocked us. They titillated us. They had us buzzing about whatever offering they had most recently thrown into the ring long after the fact, and in many cases, they did it by including blatant sexuality with that offering. Androgyny, outrageously revealing costumes, fluidly sexual dance moves, lyrics that would make the devil pray. These men changed the world for us by pushing our boundaries of what we believed was acceptable and normal, understanding that rules aren’t necessarily meant to be broken, but rather meant to be malleable. The rules have changed because of these Gods, these heroes. And yet with the tsunami of respect, love, appreciation and tributes that have roared across all media platforms since their deaths, there is a conspicuous lack of chatter about how all that same behaviour, all the antics for shock value and artistry packaged as provocativeness, does not get celebrated in the presence of one of our last living pop culture and musical icons. In fact, instead of looking at the examples of how the deaths of Prince and Bowie have affected us, we remain a culture that doesn’t just attack the behaviours of the person I’m alluding to, we attack the person.

I first saw a photo of Madonna in December of 1983 while in Florida. She was wearing a pair of boxer shorts, a t-shirt, a sailor’s cap and three inches of makeup. And she was doing the splits. I didn’t know who she was, I didn’t know what she had done to get into the pages of the magazine, and I didn’t care. I was hooked. And I have been ever since.

In those early days of the 80’s Madonna was brash, unapologetically sexual, dressed up as if a cyclone had inadvertently lashed fabrics to her body in the eye of the storm. And she was quickly dismissed by critics who would sit in the privacy of their writing spaces and throw judgement at a young woman who was bold enough to get up in front of everyone and demand our attention. They called her “Minnie Mouse on helium”, vapid, devoid of any talent. They were wrong.

By the 90’s Madonna was being called “a brilliant businesswoman” (a term that many were reluctant to fess up to until Forbes magazine made her their cover girl flanked by the words “America’s Smartest Business Woman?”) while also being labelled as blasphemous, even being excommunicated by the Catholic Church. She began the conversations about gay rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the hypocrisy of the Church on a global scale. Her pairing of religious imagery with overt sexuality was not new, but the way she brought it to us was. She revolutionized concert tours with her Blond Ambition tour in 1990, ushering in a new amalgamation of pop music, theatrical presentation, Broadway-style choreography and seething social commentary that was guaranteed to leave everyone in attendance slack-jawed and re-evaluating their beliefs about life, sex, religion, politics and gender roles.

In the first decade of the 2000’s Madonna was riding the wave of her late 90’s Grammy sweep. The haters seemed to be at bay (with the exception of the reception of her American Life album and video that challenged George W. Bush’s motives for the Iraq war). She was a kinder, gentler Madonna. Did it have to do with her being married and raising kids, finally appearing to acquiesce to the expectations of a global culture that had always wanted her to conform to the commonly agreed upon roles that a woman should play? Was it because her philanthropic efforts to Raise Malawi ( were making headlines? I think so. We tend to celebrate what makes us feel good and set fire to that which does not. We were comfortable seeing Madonna write children’s books and accompany her husband to film festivals. She was no longer threatening (insert collective *sigh*). She was inducted into Hall of Fames across the world and her world tours were breaking attendance and revenue records.

Enter the second decade of the 2000’s. Madonna was divorced. She had adopted two children from Malawi and had been lambasted in the media that questioned whether or not she was given preferential treatment throughout the process. She had been criticized for her ongoing Kabbalistic studies, scoffed at (even by some Jews I know) for adopting a spiritual practice that helped her move from self-absorption to empathy and compassion. As she entered her 30th year of artistry and superstardom, the haters pulled out a new card from their deck of weapons. Madonna was now old. Photos of her hands started being reported on. If a wrinkle appeared on the face known the world over, she was torn apart. If her face looked wrinkle-free, she was torn apart. Are you getting an idea of what WE have done to her? Her lyrics got angrier. Her MDNA world tour gave her the platform to express her post-marriage hurt and her objection to the rising wave of intolerance that had been sweeping Europe. She raised her voice to oppose the brutality of the anti-gay policies in Russia, the blatant xenophobia of Marin Lepen’s Front National in France and continued, after thirty years, to champion for freedom. Her Rebel Heart tour that ended recently showed her more vocal than ever, seeing her challenge her “fans” to not come to her concerts if they took issue with what she did and said.

Madonna is still with us. She has endured scrutiny previously reserved for witch trials and public executions. She has done what Bowie and Prince have done, and she continues to do it in her late fifties. And yet instead of being hailed as a visionary, she’s a good businesswoman, lucky, shrewd, a bitch, old, tired and laughable. Over three decades later, nothing has changed except that now everyone is a critic writing from the privacy of their writing spaces, and the judgements are now inexcusably scathing, personal attacks.

Why is it that when a woman acts provocatively, she gets burned at the stake, but when a man does it he is hailed as a genius? It’s time we took a long, hard look at ourselves and started redirecting the judgement we throw around so thoughtlessly so that we can become more responsible and accountable for how we affect our world and the people we are blessed to still have with us paving the way for freedom and basic human rights. Who, in today’s culture, is brave enough to stand up against injustice and hold a mirror up to our faces to reveal the hypocrisy we constantly leave in our wake? Who is resilient enough to withstand the arrows of hate and resentment that today’s critics unleash in 140 characters or less? Who will lead us towards a more tolerant, accepting, live-and-let-live society? Think about it. People like Madonna are few and far between, and as we have seen this year, a dying breed.

Trust that when Madonna’s physical presence is gone, we will not be complaining. We will be deifying what we had been demonizing. We have a habit of not knowing what we’ve got until it’s gone, of not recognizing our heroes until they are gone. So now it’s time to recognize and celebrate the commitment to collective, societal growth that Madonna has been driven by for over thirty years. In 1991’s rockumentary Truth or Dare she said, “I know I’m not the best singer and I know I’m not the best dancer, but I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in pushing people’s buttons, in being provocative and in being political.” She knows exactly what she’s doing. She has all along.

Pay respect while she’s around to receive it. Don’t wait until she’s gone to realize how much she has done for and affected you.

Long live the Queen.

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