Join Bram for a 90-minute workshop designed to offer guidance and direction for those at a crossroads in their life. With the right questions and practices being offered, new insights and realizations will be attained helping to offer some gentleness and accompaniment as we navigate this transitional moment in life. This workshop is open to all, and will be recorded for those unable to attend live.
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Once again, I find myself feeling drawn to write as the end of another year, another cycle, winds down before delivering us into the beginning of the next one. These blog posts used to be my main outlet for expressing myself through the written word, and despite having transferred that outlet to the realm of book-writing, I have to admit it’s lovely to come back to this medium to leave a few words to commemorate this moment in time.
2021 has been, for those of us who have the capacity to recognize it, a microcosm of tumultuousness within which we have collectively been led to inhale sharply and hold our breath, only to exhale once permission was granted. And once that exhalation was passed and forgotten, we found an old pattern of breathing that felt familiar and which brought relief after the season of hollowed fears which convinced us we’d never be permitted to breathe freely again. We knew it wasn’t a one-time thing. We knew we’d be inhaling sharply again and doing our best to get on with life despite whilst holding our breath in anticipation of the permission-to-exhale moment. We knew we weren’t out of the woods. But what we forgot, collectively and in the moments of solitude and isolation, was that perhaps, once again, the literal expression of life as pandemic/variant/fear/inhale/holding pattern/exhale/forget/pretend/uh-oh/inhale was not the sole experience unfolding. We forgot that perhaps the undercurrent of meaning which ties everything together with purpose was having us navigate this experience of life not being easy on purpose so that we could be presented with the opportunity to heal in the face of fear and chaos. We forgot that every so often, we as a race of ant-sized critters scrambling entitledly across this globe we inhabit will be subject to the life education we were enrolled in at birth. The lessons which will be meted out will serve to humble us and remind us that the quality of our experience of life is entirely and wholly dependent on what we do with our thoughts, because the world as we all know only exists in each of our minds. These words exist in your mind, your loved ones exist in your mind, the meaning assigned to a pandemic exists in your mind, as do the ways you will deal with it.
This year brought us way, way down into the depths of despair and then roller-coasted us to the heights of relief and hope, only to do what roller coasters do, which is scare the shit out of us as we breach the crest of the downward trajectory. And as we navigate the ups, the downs, and the sacred moments between them, it would be irresponsible of us to not recognize that life doesn’t present us with turmoil for nothing. The turmoil without mirrors the turmoil within, and the real lesson here is that if we are not ready or willing to work with and find resolution and peace within ourselves, then we have absolutely no right to pass judgement on what occurs without. None. We have no right to judge a pandemic, a government, an anti-vaxxer or those who believe vaxxing is the solution. Understand that life expresses itself as everything, and within that expression will be aspects and elements that make us uncomfortable. We, as those who suffer from the plight of the privileged, have been conditioned to blame others for our discomfort in order to shift it, leaving us feeling better and justified after slinging our shadow onto others. That’s not a fix. That’s a Band-Aid. And there is no healing there. Just hurt.
This year has very much been about testing each one of us to see if and when we will finally be ready to heal. Not from the fallout of Pandemica, but rather from the wounds which we have been carrying with us for decades. Sometimes it takes a pandemic to recontextualize life, and with life recontextualized we find ourselves dealing with old patterns of fear, old patterns of helplessness, old patterns of getting on with life without looking at what’s scaring us senselessly, old patterns of projection/blaming/suppressing/repressing/avoiding/anesthetizing.
This has been a year in which many have finally decided to do the work that will address their shadow, their past, their wounds. The law of karma tells us that if we don’t learn the big lessons initially, cycles will repeat to continue giving us the opportunity to learn. And so the roller coaster speeds along, our stomachs heaving with every lurch and dive, until we understand that we were meant to voluntarily get off the roller coaster and assign the trajectory ourselves. Life has been trying to teach us that we could either be held hostage by what “happens to us” or we could step into the roles that have been our birthright from the first inhalation we ever took and recognize the power and influence we each have in assigning meaning that is helpful and constructive to a life that will present as anything but.
This process of healing requires us to question. Question the thoughts that come into our minds and ask if they’re really valid or if they are the product of years of dysfunction. Question whether being plugged into news outlets is actually helpful. Question whether the “news” should have been named the “bad news” from the get go. Question whether we have been encouraged to thrive in life or encouraged to contribute to an economic system which never had our best interests at heart, but which simply needed our taxes to continue to get paid. And once we have questioned and mulled over possible responses, our responsibility, especially this year, has always been to sit back with it all, find calm in the breathing, the musculature of the body, and the mind, and realize that it’s all just a test. All of it. Every second of all it is a test to see whether we will give our power away to whatever it is that will leave us disempowered and distracted or whether we will be able to witness it all and see it as the trickery of a life that demands that we transcend turmoil and chaos and finally rest in the homeground of our being.
Find rest. That’s the point of the game of life. The game will seduce you into believing that it’s about the race, about the win, about the competition, about the cars, the homes, the travel, the dollars, the stature, the job, etc… The game will demand that you be distracted enough to not realize that to level up over and over until you win the game requires you to find the sword in the stone, the one ring to rule them all, the holy grail, and that is rest. Rest for your mind, rest for your body, rest for your emotional state, rest for your soul.
When faced with situations in life that draw you into fear, uncertainty and turmoil, understand that it is at that specific moment that the game is ON! That’s your cue to find the rest that is yours. Instead of passing judgement on those you don’t agree with when YOU are the one filled with tension, instead of choosing more wound, more hurt, more turmoil, more chaos, choose to finally, at long last, heal. And we heal when we rest. It’s that simple.
I am wishing you all healing. I am wishing you all rest. I am wishing us all that which brings the nervous system back to default settings and which helps center us in calm and clarity, symbolic sight and the reality of truth. Happy, healthy, healing holidays to us all, and may 2022 continue to guide us back to the homeground within which healing awaits.
We have had a challenging year, challenging on so many levels. Thrust into uninvited change, most of us were forced to look at our relationships to our careers, to money, to our husbands/wives/partners, to our children, to our health, and, most of all, to the structure of life that we have bought into, played along with, lived according to. Livelihoods were, and continue to be, threatened, and we were all forced to look at the life decisions we have made through the lens of “Would I have chosen this if I knew I would be immersed in it 24/7?”
Speaking for myself, when everything kicked off in the first wave of the pandemic back in March and April, I had some hard days, days which made me come to terms with the fact that even the most hopeful and spiritual of us can lose sight of any deeper meaning, can lose sight of all hope, can wonder what the point of a human life is if the suffering experienced in it is unbearable. It brought up a lot of issues from my childhood, memories of carrying around dread, fear and a deep-rooted desire for something, someone, ANYthing or ANYone to just help me feel lighter and better. It was rough, both back then and earlier this year, in moments.
With all of that said, I know that so many people are happy to see an end to 2020, happy to wipe it off the face of existence, happy to refer to it as the worst year ever. While I understand why many feel that way, especially those who have lost loved ones to Covid, I cannot, even with all of the harder moments that I slugged through, jump on board the “burn 2020 into oblivion” train. This year was impossibly difficult to bear, in many ways, but the degree of that difficulty speaks directly to the value of the lessons 2020 had in store for every one of us.
I have been teaching students for years that we had been living in a Dark Age, that with all of the innovation, freedom and technology we had at our disposal, the only thing we were not being encouraged culturally and socially to do was to take care of each other. That one little detail had been conveniently omitted from the syllabus that we had been given for our Life Education, and that one little detail would have changed things drastically. It would have conditioned us to look beyond the superficialities that our governments and corporations use to breed division among us, and find commonality regardless of race, gender, religion, language, sexual orientation, financial status and all the other trivialities that we have prayed to as false idols for so long. I spoke in classes, workshops, podcast episodes and trips around the world about how something would happen that would affect everyone, everywhere around the world, simultaneously, something that would scare the living daylights out of us all, and in that moment, we would start to learn, because the shadow side of the human condition is that we do not truly learn when things are good. We do not learn when we have money in the bank, when we hit our ideal body weight, when everyone loves us and thinks we’re the shit, when abundance flows easily towards us and we feel like we are winning at the game of life. We learn when the shit hits the fan. We learn when the luxuries we foolishly took for granted through the lens of entitlement get jeopardized, when they get yanked away, and we have to finally examine who we are when all the frills and dressings get stripped away and we are laid bare to the world in our uncertainty and confusion. I knew something was coming, knew we were headed for something that would school every single one of us around the globe, but I thought it would be a world war, not a pandemic. And so there we were, caught up in our own little games of me-ness and ignorance until along came a pandemic. And what was the first thing we were told to do? Act as if we had the virus so we could take precautions not to potentially spread it and infect others, especially those more vulnerable. We were immediately told to take care of each other. The irony of the turn of events was not lost on me, trust me. Do I think that we will emerge from this situation having attained a new Age of Enlightenment? Probably not, at least not on the macro level. But I do believe that many of us have something of inestimable value that we gained from this year, something of beauty and true-ness that we will take with us for the rest of the lives we are blessed to live. We are more of who we were meant to be because of the events of 2020, and while many have been lamenting what they had to give up, it would be irresponsible of us all, including those same people, to not take stock in what we have gained from Pandemica.
I believe that we now know the true value and worth of our frontline medical workers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned if we were not all navigating this pandemic together.
I believe that we now know the true value and worth of teachers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned in any other situation.
I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the truckers and delivery people who kept goods coming to our local drugstores, supermarkets and other essential services when we were locked down.
I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the cashiers, stock people, counter people and everyone else who showed up for work when they were scared shitless to be working in supermarkets, drugstores and other essential services.
I believe that we now know the true value and worth of taking care of our health, knowing it to be the most important aspect of life that we could focus on. When one considers how prior to the pandemic many companies and employers operated from the belief that showing up for work was more important than staying home when an employee was ill, one can only stand back in awe at how Pandemica set everyone straight.
I believe that we now know how truly interconnected we are, how quickly we can all find ourselves dealing with the same issues regardless of living on opposite ends of the globe.
I believe that we now know that most politicians, when faced with the task of preserving life or the economy, will align themselves with the latter. And you better believe that we now know that if we do not vote for politicians and political parties which prioritize paying our medical workers and teachers what they have proven to be worth in keeping society going when all else grinds down to a halt, we are shooting ourselves where it hurts most.
On a personal level, what I have gained from 2020 is the understanding that suffering is part of the human experience, and no one is immune to it. I have been reminded that in order to alleviate my own suffering, especially in darker days, it is my responsibility to serve others in the alleviation of their suffering, which, in turn, ends up alleviating mine. I have learned that being able to hug my mom and my dad is a fucking gift, and I am aching for the moment I can do it again. I have learned that there will always be idiots and fuckwits out there, because everyone of us has sides to our personalities that align with idiocy and fuckwittery. As within, so without. I have learned that everyone has an opinion and feels entitled to blast it out into the world, but few of those people have the guts to stop criticizing and actually start acting for change. I have learned to disregard the wicked, as I was taught through my spiritual teachings, and get on with being part of the solution. I have learned that dogs and cats will inherit the earth, because without them many of us would have crumbled into pieces this year.
Most of all, what I have learned is something that is relearned, originally taught to me when a friend of mine died in one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, and that teaching is that anything can happen to anyone at any time. And because of that, because I incorporate that into every single day of this life I get to live, this year has reminded me that life is a choice. It is a choice between operating from the belief that I would get the virus and die versus the belief that if I was responsible and careful, I would not. It is a choice between choosing to be kind when anger or indifference might be more easily accessible. It is a choice between staying hopeful or hopeless. It is a choice between staying plugged into all media outlets versus disconnecting from them. It is a choice between seeing us all as one heaving mass of humanity versus clusters of “others”. It is a choice between accepting a term like “social distancing” when we should in fact be practicing “physical distancing”, understanding that in times like these we need to be more socially cohesive and united than ever before.
Life is a choice. To live or not to live. That is the question. And so I choose to live, big and loud and not giving a flying fuck who has an issue with how I do it. But I live. And I care. And I will keep living and caring and being of service, doing this life thing exactly the way I want to, learning from all the hardship and trials. We all will, as long as we remember the lessons 2020 and Pandemica had waiting for us in our Higher Learning, the education life had in store for all of us.
Happy Holidays to you all. Happy New Year. We made it this far, we will make it to the other side. Stay well and safe and full of life.
The Kindness Calendar. A beautiful initiative my younger brother posted on social media and which was put out into the world by https://www.actionforhappiness.org/. I am making it my daily Mindfulness practice for the month, and I invite everyone to do the same.
With the holidays fast approaching and all of us pushing the pedal to metal until they land, it’s important to remember what a hard year 2020 has been on so many and to propagate acts of kindness wherever we can.
Please read and where able, act upon the gestures in this calendar to brighten someone’s day!
Huge thanks Roger Pugsley for lighting the candle so brightly and being such an outstanding human being!
Over the past few weeks I have acted on, with intention, my disdain for the outgoing so-called president (my autocorrect tried to capitalize the P in president when I intentionally made it lower case for a reason) through the posting of memes and some thoughts written out to share. In doing so, I knew that I was leaving the safety of the wellness community’s ability to hide behind spiritual teachings that convince us that judgement is a bad thing and that we should be as impartial as a tree in the face of a storm. And as much as I know that approach to be helpful in certain situations, I also know that the oft-(un)well-ness community is also often guilty of spiritual bypass, the ability to hide behind teachings and so-called wisdom in order to avoid getting involved, using one’s voice in the name of justice, freedom, equality and fairness.
I will now use his name intentionally for the first time in four years instead of referring to him as he-who-shall-not-be-named. Donald Trump is, as far as I am concerned, an evil person. And if that judgement makes you uncomfortable, I invite you to unfollow me and forget our paths ever crossed. My concern in life is for the suffering of us all, especially those who exist in the shadows, those whose choices or whose accidents of birth and life set them on a course of adversity and resistance, all because of factors that they did not choose. One’s skin colour, language spoken, birth gender, faith, belief system, demographic information and path towards happiness and freedom should not dictate the facility with which they achieve said happiness and freedom. And yet, within the flawed construct human beings have created to exist together, those factors do. And needless suffering is the result of that.
My intention in life and my career is to alleviate suffering for those navigating murky, soul-crushing moments. It would only make sense, then, that anyone who makes that journey even harder for those already fighting for an iota of comfort and acceptance is going to fall into disfavor with me. Donald Trump had the opportunity to contribute to the healing and happiness of not only those whose journeys are already difficult, but to the healing of a nation and of a world being swept away in a torrent of intolerance. He chose, instead, to fan the flames of hate and division. To separate babies from their parents, parents from their babies. To ignore science when millions of Americans were falling ill with a deadly virus. To strip away the basic human rights that our loved ones need to remain safe and protected when humanity’s ugly head rears itself again and we fall into a spiritual moment of concealment, an even darker age of ignorance. Donald Trump did everything to reinforce the Hindu teaching that demons do, indeed, walk among us. And so when I post a meme that I find hysterical showing that little, traumatized man, a man for whom I can actually find an iota of compassion, because no one turns into the devil without being hurt by the devil itself, understand that I am celebrating the shift in awareness and awakeness in a populace that allowed this person to do so much harm for so long.
In the name of the women we love, our transgender brother and sisters, our LGBTQ+ community, our brothers and sisters whose skin color traverses the spectrum, our fellow human beings who pray to Gods we know too little about and whose mother tongues sound fabulously foreign to us, I celebrate this new era in the hope that the government-elect delivers on their promises to focus on freedom, inclusion, diversity and equality. I also understand that a troubling number of Americans did not vote for freedom and equality for all, and many of those people fall into the subcultures I’ve referred to. We are at a pivotal juncture in history, and you better believe that I will voice an objection when I see society’s most vulnerable put at even greater risk by those whose influence and so-called power could drastically improve life for us all.
As for the wellness community, do us all a favour and don’t use yoga or meditation or scriptures to avoid being part of the solution. It hurts the community, and is the farthest thing from what these teachings are meant to do. Find something else to hide behind.
All this to say that if my partiality has made you uncomfortable, I totally understand why. With that said, know that I will always champion those who navigate the path of light, truth, equality, happiness and freedom for ALL. Not just for one pocket of humanity, but for all humanity. I will pass judgement when evil is being unleashed and which contributes to intolerance.
We are on this journey of being human TOGETHER. Any other approach or attitude is, as far as I’m concerned, harmful. So let’s remember that we’re on the same team, regardless of the details we’ve been taught divide us. And do whatever we can, as efficiently and respectfully as possible, to heal those divisions.
Just a quick word to remind us all that the only thing we are not being encouraged to do in life is to take care of each other. We are encouraged to wear a mask, distance ourselves physically while psychologically internalizing the effects of the term “social distancing”, see each other as potentially fatal and stay alive and well. And yet nowhere in all of this have we been encouraged to take care of each other. At no time before all of this were we encouraged to do so.
I believe that giving a shit about each other, listening to each other, caring for each other, agreeing to disagree with each other, supporting each other and simply recognizing that we’re all doing our best to navigate the fuckwittery of being human is the missing link. It’s what would dismantle all of the systems that have had us in competition with each other for so long, and would allow us to actually learn about each other in ways that our bullshit social media posts never convey.
Try taking care of someone once you’ve read these words. Give your time, hold some space, give a shit about someone else’s well-being. What you’ll find is that in doing so, you’ll end up feeling better in your own experience of life. And really consider how this world would be a different place if we were encouraged, conditioned, taught to actually take care of each other.
What’s truly fascinating about this entire experience is that in the efforts to find our way back to “normal”, the Canadian government is shedding light on fault lines that I’ve always been aware of in our society.
We go to school and educate ourselves, ramming information into our brain, spending sleepless nights studying, putting our nervous system through the minefield of exams, only to get a piece of paper that qualifies us to get a job that then requires us to spend inane amounts of time in traffic to get to and from work. We do our best to live up to the career standard of working as much as possible, including waking up earlier than our bodies need, going to work when we are ill and should actually be resting, getting home from work a few hours before we need to get to sleep so we can wake up early the following day to do it all over again.
We look forward to Friday evening. We look forward to the vacation that, when it arrives, our nervous system recognizes as the perfect time to finally let go of “fight mode”, and the body gets sick and demands the rest it needed all the while. We look forward to promotion so we can get the ever-elusive pat on the back that allows us to feast on scraps and have a reason to keep the charade going. We look forward to retirement, when we don’t have to spin why we do all this into a reason we can be at peace with. And hopefully we don’t drop dead of a heart attack soon after. We save for a rainy day. And hopefully we don’t drop dead of a heart attack soon after.
Four-day work weeks. 10 paid sick days per person annually. There will be more discussion as to how we can have the economy run efficiently while keeping people healthy in the process..and I guarantee you that the economy will suffer, and it’s about fucking time it did. The priority should not be how valuable one nation’s currency is in comparison to any other country’s, in fact our notion of currency itself should be reexamined and redefined. This experience has proven to us that the economy is more fragile than anyone dared to fear, and it’s the last thing we should be putting importance on.
The health of a population comes down to their physical and mental well-being. Period. Full stop. This universal truth, however, has been inversely proportional to what governments, politicians and economists have considered valuable. Invest in your people and you invest in the health of your nation, your company, your family, your community. Why is this so revolutionary?
The future I expect to see:
When you feel ill, you are encouraged to stay home. Finally.
When you want to take a break from work to, as is said in our Québécois French, “penser à autre chose” (think of something else) or “changer les idées” (change the thoughts/ideas), you will have the freedom and time to because you will most likely be working remotely, or your company will recognize the mood-fatigue-stress-immune system correlations. Finally.
When you want or need a day off of work because your body needs to rest and relax, you will get paid for that day. Finally.
And by the way, for those of you who end up working for people and companies who aren’t learning the big lessons from this experience and get grief for prioritizing your health going forward? Find a new job. Ditch the bitch and make the switch. Survival of the fittest will be the greatest judge of a company’s longevity now, and being corporately fit will be directly related to the wellness of the employees. Take the leap you’ve suspected needed to be taken all this time and stop wasting time with people and employers who you’ve been so loyal to for so long, but who couldn’t give the slightest shit about you and your well-being.
It only took a global pandemic. Use it as the wake-up call that it is. Today.
I’m not a fan of newsletters. I used MailChimp ages ago and felt like shit every time I sent out the latest info because I knew that most people, like me, resent getting emails they didn’t sign up for and just delete them without engagement.
This morning I considered sending out a one-off newsletter. I wanted one go-to reference for people to know when and how they can find what I’m putting out into the zeitgeist, and because people have been asking me how they can arrange for birthday/bachelorette/private classes. I decided that I still don’t want to do the newsletter thing. So instead of going that route, I’m putting this post up here now. Consider it your Bram Levinson newsletter 🙂
Weekly Yoga Classes via Luna Yoga Thursday, 18h-19h30 Saturday, 11h-12h30
This is an old meme made about five or six years ago that I stumbled upon this morning, and its relevance speaks volumes in this current situation. There’s a quote from Sadhguru that always puts things into perspective for me, “If your stomach is empty, there’s only one issue – food. But once the stomach becomes full, you have a hundred issues going on.”
We have always had abundance. We have never known scarcity or having to do anything other than what we were privileged to do. And in those times, we had hundreds of issues. The “shoulds” were sometimes crippling. I should making more money. I should be taller. I should be prettier. My hair, my clothes, my house, my body, my intelligence, etc… We have obsessed over what we were not and let that overshadow the miracles of what we are.
In times like this we are FORCED into perspective. We have one issue now, to circle back to Sadhguru: food. Survival. Live through this. And so, consider that there was never really anything wrong. Consider that you were perfect, as you were, as you are, as you will be.
Stop treating yourself the way you don’t want to be treated. Recognize the blessings. And recognize how fortunate you have always been to be worrying about the stupid shit.