We’re Still Here – One Night Only with Bram Levinson at the Rialto Theatre

I am beyond excited to finally announce that I will be doing my own show/speaking engagement at the historic Rialto Theatre in Montreal! After years of lecturing in yoga studios, convention centers and festivals, I’m proud to bring what I do to the theatre, especially one that has played a part in my life and is a Montreal landmark and institution.

Event description:

For one night only, Montreal-based author and teacher Bram Levinson is taking his wisdom, irreverence and humour to the stage. Join him for an evening of insight, laughter and exploration into life, family, love and what it means to be spiritually awake in today’s world. Brandishing his usual refreshing, deeply personal, edgy approach and sense of humour, stories will be told, wisdom will be shared through his experiences and perspective, and inspiration will be what’s left after everything is said and done. Don’t miss this one night with Bram at the historical Rialto Theatre!

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Doors Open: 19h/7pm
Show Time: 19h30/7:30pm

Box Office/Tickets: $40+taxes, available through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/were-still-here-one-night-only-with-bram-levinson-tickets-38155077865

Special thanks to Mandy’s, the sole sponsor for this event!

Photos courtesy of John Dabarno Photography,
https://www.smashingpixel.com/blog/rialtotheatre

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Paros Musings Pt 3

I just woke up after the deepest sleep I’ve had here over the last two weeks, and as usual, the dogs are barking in a call and response manner, the roosters are crowing (don’t get excited, they do it all day, every day…even a broken clock accurately tells the time twice a day), and the birds are chirping. But instead of just taking it all in, the thought, “It’s the last day” came hurdling through my mind, and with it the onslaught of emotions.

This year’s group of people is a special one. Every year I fall right into the community we create, and every year I feel all the big feels when it’s time to splinter apart and go back into the world to resume where we left off just over a week ago. My hope is that those people who join me for these trips around the world find something unique and worth integrating into their lives, and then go back home and do exactly that. Last night one of the students here texted me to let me know that, “Need you to know this experience has changed my life.” And I couldn’t reply because even though that’s my intention in putting myself out into the world, I get so emotional when it actually happens that I can hardly put into words a response that conveys my gratitude and emotions.

For those of you who are still here, sleeping for the next few minutes before you get up to take our last yoga class together in Paros for this year, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking a risk and coming here for this event, because I know every single one of you did. Whether your risk was a financial one, whether it was related to leaving your family or your kids for this length of time, whether it was related to asking for time off, for yourself, to travel and get some introspection time, or whether it was related to joining a group of people you didn’t know to share an experience you couldn’t have envisioned, I thank you. Know that for me to execute my dharma in this life, I need other people to be on the receiving end of what I put out into the world, and your presence here closes the circle for me and for us all. Thank you for taking your risks. I hope that it either continues the pattern of doing so, or instigates a new one that reminds us all of the glory that is possible when we jump beyond our comfort zones.

I’m going to be the most unprofessional mess of emotions and childish “I don’t want this to end” thoughts today. But I know that although it may feel like the end of something, in actuality, for every single one of us, it really is a new beginning of sorts. I hate to sound like a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. I wish you all the highest of life’s highs, the wisdom to navigate the lowest of life’s lows, and the presence of mind to know your Self and your potency as you make your way forward. Know that I am here for you all, wherever we may be in any given moment, and always remember this time we had. No one could know exactly how beautiful is has been, and still is. Only us. Take the energy of our community and the beauty of Paros and bring it back with you.

With gratitude and so. much. LOVE,

Bxx

Paros Musings 2017 Pt 2

It’s 5am and I’m awake listening to the roosters and the dogs calling their existences into the pitch black night. Students and friends have begun to arrive for our yoga event that officially kicks off tomorrow, and after showing one of them around last night and hearing her constantly remark about how peaceful it is here, I flippantly remarked how there’s always one night every September where a wedding occurs in the area. And it’s a full-on Greek wedding. The music starts blaring for allllll to hear around 9 or 10pm and lasts until the wee hours of the morning. That conversation occurred at 10:30pm.

The music just stopped at 4:50am. This couldn’t even be scripted. And, ironically, I only woke up when the music stopped. I think that I may be an honorary Greek, after passing this final initiation stage.

And so I’m awake, reflecting. This kind of late-night introspection never happens anywhere else in the world. It is part of how my soul lands here. I effortlessly begin to look back, something I almost rarely do in this way, one that’s devoid of judgement and which is purely observational. And in these early hours of the morning, I’m taking stock of the people who have given me the breaks that have allowed them to see who I really am and what I’m actually capable of, aspects of myself that aren’t visible superficially.

I’ve always known there was something bigger than what I had been exposed to that was waiting for me, ever since I was young. It was because of that knowing that conventional education did very little for me and seemingly asked everything of me. As soon as I could gauge that whatever I was studying was not going to bring me towards that sense of purpose and greatness I knew lay in wait, I left in pursuit of more illuminated avenues. But we judge each other based on the superficial details that the commonly accepted avenues of our culture guide us towards, and believe me when I say that for the first 35 years of my life, I can count on one hand the number of people who saw in me what I knew was there. I take full responsibility for it, as I didn’t understand what form it would take, and so I couldn’t raise my voice and ask anyone to believe in what I could not name, and so know that I have earned my place in the world, I have worked to get where I am. No American Idol/The Voice bullshit here. I earned it by trusting that I knew better than the pressure I felt to just shut up and get a 9-5 job working for someone else to profit off of. That could never represent security to me, on the contrary. That life would kill me.

There are people who have, however, elevated me so that I could make my way down this winding, often bleak, path. My grandmother, Lillian Berlin, who always reminded me that cream rose to the top and that I was that cream. Danielle Cossette, my 6th grade French teacher, who made me valedictorian as my grade finished primary school and left for high school. Rick Hinojosa, who gave me a job at his boutique Juan & Juanita back in 1995 and allowed me to begin earning financially during a time when I felt left behind by the educational system. Jennifer Maagendans, a dear friend and owner of Luna Yoga, who gave me my first job in yoga and one of the most efficient, on-the-job yoga teacher trainings that could never be offered to the public. Kaeleigh Doherty, a friend and then-Lululemon employee who told me that her store wanted me as an ambassador and that they would wait for me to finish my first training to then take me on. The Lululemon team who got me teaching at Wanderlust all those years ago, and who flew me around Canada for mind-blowing ambassador summits. The Wanderlust team who help me up my game with every gig. Kreg Weiss, who gunned for me professionally and who encouraged me to get in touch with Ruth van der Voort at the Toronto Yoga Conference. And these are just the people that come to mind now, at 5:30am.

To those people who let me do my thing and simply held space for it, know that you have my gratitude forever. You have encouraged me to keep finding my way, and I know there are more massive milestones ahead. Keep an eye out, because some of the stuff I’m working on for the near future, like what has unrolled so far, will be unlike anything that could be expected. Because that’s how I’m supposed to do this, authentically and with certainty.

It’s also how you are supposed to do you. Consider that all these words are meant to reflect back to you what’s possible, to keep looking for the ones who will give you a break as you find your way forward your own way, unapologetically and uniquely yourself. Work hard, earn it, be the best version of yourself possible, and don’t give up. Give others their breaks so that energy can come back to you. Live big. And trust that it’s all possible. Because it is.

Paros Musings 2017

I’m lying in bed at 3am after getting a solid 3 hours of sleep following 36 hours of transit with a full 15 minutes of snooze time getting to Greece. This world traveler couldn’t sleep on a plane if his life depended on it, and so after the coma-like slumber I fell into at 9:30pm wore off, here I am back on Montreal time.

The balcony doors are open overlooking the sea and the island of Naxos on this full-moon night, and floating directly above the island, in my line of sight from my bed, are the bottom three stars of the Little Dipper. They’re twinkling at me, playing games with my eyes as I try to focus on them, only to have them dance around and have me question the stability of their placement in the universe (as well as my 43+ year vision.) Before I know what’s happening, my index finger has floated up and I’m tracing the line of this constellation, careful not to wake up my husband, who has just fallen asleep, long after I did at 9:30pm. *** TANGENT ALERT*** I find it odd calling him my husband. Male same-sex couples need a new term to refer to each counterpart, me thinks. Boyfriend is ridiculous, as if we’re in the initial stages of dating and are still trying to show each other how much of a keeper we each are. Life Partner doesn’t sit well with me either, as if we’re going yachting on weekends in our topsiders and referring to life as “grand.” I guess husband will have to do for the time being. He’s my husband, and I’m his. I’ll let it lie for now. By the way, this is what the cultural influences of the 70’s and 80’s have resulted in, so maybe I should stop praying for a linguistic revolution and just own my fucking happiness. #thingsnogaymantalksabout ***TANGENT ENDED***

Back to the Little Dipper (no euphemism insinuated.) I’m so happy to be back here in Paros, my soul-grounding, energy-recharging home, that I could cry. And observing the ability to shift that vibration in that way, through tears, has me thinking. There is a cultural belief that real men don’t cry. That no matter what happens, tears are not an option for men. To anyone who actually believes that, I invite you to look at who taught you that, and why.

I cry when grief overwhelms me, when happiness is so palpable that my body vibrates with it, when I’m so afraid that the tension has to shift somehow, when I’m so emotionally touched by someone or a situation that I can feel their emotional narrative, when I laugh so hard that I’m either going to cry or have a heart attack. I believe that boys who are taught not to cry are essentially being told to choose a heart attack over tears, to choose a lifetime of internalized anguish and tension, to opt for physical pain that ends up armouring the body into a hard shell of defence mechanisms, and that, ultimately, might result in a heart attack, or some other life-ending medical trauma.

I’ll choose the tears, thanks. And you can believe whatever you want to believe, but I know that real men cry. Because this one does, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ll go back now to my first night back here in Greece, where the roosters didn’t get the memo that crowing is supposed to happen at sunrise, not every time a cricket rubs its legs together, and where the packs of barking dogs have me wondering if they ever sleep. These sounds are new again to me, as they are every time I return to this homeland of mine. In a few nights’ time, I won’t even clock them, but for now, I do. And I’m so grateful I could cry.

In Ways That Matter

I’ve always found the term “mental illness” an odd one, as it insinuates that the mind is only supposed to operate in ways that are commonly acceptable. I’d prefer to use a term closer to “mental suffering,” and I’d prefer we all did as well.
 
Arguably, we don’t discuss mental suffering enough in public forums, as stigmas are alive and well related to such issues and we have a tendency to bypass what elicits sensations of discomfort in our bodies. But the issue is getting more and more exposure as more and more people speak about their experiences and give us faces to put on the dis-ease(s) many of us have only heard about.
 
What we don’t hear nearly enough about is how those who live with, love, support and accompany those managing their mental suffering cope. Yes, the mental challenges must be overwhelming at times for the one suffering. But why aren’t we hearing or reading about the caregivers, the husbands and wives, the friends and lovers who walk alongside them? Their work, their struggles, their exhaustion and dips into mental suffering of their own must also be worth bringing into the collective consciousness so they know they too are supported and not alone.
 
The only thing, as far as I’m concerned, that we are not encouraged to do in today’s society (by those in positions of influence) is take care of each other. And one of the first ways we can do that is let others, perfect strangers and loved ones alike, know that they are not alone, that there are millions of people living the same experience in this same second. This goes for those working with mental suffering AND those that live with and/or accompany them.
 
No one is immune to mental suffering. No one. And those that battle with adversity in themselves or in those they love and walk alongside through life are the brave ones who walk closer to the mental battlegrounds where suffering runs rampant. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up, speak out, ask for help, ask for community, ask for support, ask for time to whatever needs to be done to make your way back to the semblance of balance.
 
For those in Montreal looking for resources for this, visit http://www.asmfmh.org/, http://amiquebec.org/support/ or go online and look for the others that exist.
 
We are all in this together, like it or not, so we might as well start to actually be there in ways that matter.

My Work

I don't want to deal with the state of today's world.

I don't want to find excuses or justifications for what I object to, to the injustices that seem to be becoming more and more commonplace, simply to quell my dumbfoundedness and indignation. I don't want to judge, and I don't want to call myself on my judgements because I know that there's already too much judgement being slung around like stones at a stoning. I don't want to placate myself by attempting to cultivate patience as I wait for the world leaders who are abusing their power to fall into the annals of history. I don't want to see the virtuous and the kind suffer, and I don't want to see those that think solely of themselves, with no regard for the well being of others, effortlessly float through existence. I don't want to see the ignorant venom that gets spewed out in 140 characters or less, and I don't want to see my fellow humans get to the end of their lives believing that what they learn through news channels about other faiths, beliefs and points of view is a proper education.

There's a lot I don't want. But like it or not, this is. It all is, undeniably. And I have a choice as to whether I'm going to rant and rave and object and age into a curmudgeonly, bitter man, or if I'm going to do everything I can to work with my own feelings of anger, disbelief, disappointment and fear so that I acknowledge and experience them fully, and then occasionally alter those vibrations into different ones that lift my spirits. I have a choice as to whether the sensations my body experiences day in and day out are "negative" and harmful, or whether they soothe my senses and help to prioritize calm and clarity above all else. I have a choice as to what I focus on, understanding that the object of my attention will dictate the quality of my experience of every single moment.

And so, I pick my battles. I do great things for other people. I help other people with their most difficult obstacles. I bring laughter to situations that are laughable, even when they're tragically so. I elevate others. I am kind to myself. I make time to do whatever the hell I want for myself to balance out the time and effort I dedicate to my work and mission. I balance discipline and comfort, finally understanding how necessary they both are.

I accept the state of today's world, don't get me wrong. But I am hell-bent on making sure it doesn't get the better of me. More so, I do what I can, exceeding personal expectations, to make this world a better place. It's the only thing I can realistically do.

That's my work.

An Homage to Luna Yoga on its 14th Anniversary!

IMG_3113I first came to Luna Yoga in the late summer of 2008. Until that point, I had practiced a much gentler style of yoga with the first teacher I was blessed to find along my journey, Joan Ruvinsky. I was initially introduced to the deeply rooted philosophical teachings that Joan incorporates, but I soon found myself craving a more physical practice. I had quickly formed a home practice after first starting in yoga, and as I found myself attempting more advanced postures at home, I always kept an element of caution to my movement, knowing I needed to find a space where I could be supervised as I went deeper into it. My sister from another mister, Sonia Papasimakis-Collins, was at that time the Store Manager of the Ste-Catherine St Lululemon store and had been telling me for months that I had to come try this teacher whose studio was in Old Montreal, and whose classes were beyond what she ever could have expected from a yoga session.

I hemmed and hawed, super intimidated to actually put my feet down in a studio where I assumed most of the other students had established practices that would leave me struggling to catch up. It was only after Sonia brought her illustrious teacher and owner of Luna Yoga, Jennifer Maagendans, to my home that I decided to just let go of my fears and see what lay in wait for me at the studio in Old Montreal. The rest, as they say, is history.

IMG_2769From my first class, I felt I was home. The energy that spills out of the studio itself is indescribable. In equal measures peaceful and stimulating, I found a missing part of myself within the security of those four walls. I spent the next few months attending classes and deepening my practice while developing a real, true friendship with Jenn, and then with her partner Jason Kent. Sonia had told me that Jason was a tough sell, hard to get to know, but I knew I was on the right track when his response to my calling him Debbie Downer at our first meeting was met with a reluctant grin (accompanied by Jenn’s sheer delight in Jason being addressed as such by a stranger :)).

Little did I know that the events that brought me to Luna would serve as the foundation for the next  chapter of my life, in which I would completely leave my then-career behind with no clue as to what I would do job-wise. Events unfolded that saw Jenn ask me if I would be interested in co-managing her studio, saw Jenn challenge me to follow my heart and pursue careers in the domains that nurtured my soul, and saw Jenn take time out of our workdays to train me one-on-one to complement the Ashtanga training I was doing in 2009. Jenn became the person who, with little pomp or grandeur, illuminated the path ahead of me and simply helped me re-shift my gaze so I could see it as a viable possibility, one that has since brought me to a place where I continually, and on a daily basis, am reminded of the blessings that being true to one’s Self bestows. Jenn challenged me in those training sessions to teach her as a group class, as an individual private class, and as a private group class, but her teachings didn’t end there: she led by example, in every single thing she did and said. She continues to do so, demonstrating how by combining passion, a strong work ethic, and proper attention paid to that which comes naturally can propel one further along one’s dharmic path. She constantly challenges me to be a better version of myself, even when she’s completely oblivious to it.

So what has Jenn been to me? An opener of doors, a pillar of support, the remover of darkness, and the swelling of laughter that buoys my own giggles past the point of control. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and she continues to be my guru, my mentor, my example, confidante, and friend.

And Jason? Without Jason, I’m not sure Luna would even have gotten off the ground. Jason was a huge support for Jenn when she was first considering opening a studio, and has been ever since. If Jenn has become my soul-sister, then Jason is my soul-brother. A fellow Libran, Jason reflects back to me my own habits and tendencies, and he has grown from Jenn’s partner into a true friend, someone who has helped me, often without even being aware of it, when I most needed it. His heights of sarcasm and jest are matched in kind by the depths of his kindness and sensitivity.

1E0A7408-resizeJenn and Jason are the real deal. They have built up the studio over the last fourteen years with the sheer force of their collective will and focus, creating a home for the teachers they have welcomed into their fold, as well as a space for me to bring my business knowledge into their creation, and then topping it all off with the two most beautiful little boys to add to their brood of yogic misfits.

On July 13, our community will celebrate Luna Yoga’s 14th anniversary. The studio they originally started with limited funds and maximal dreams 14 years ago has grown into a force to be reckoned with, with its own sold-out Teacher Training Program, as well as classes and workshops that reflect the diversity of the students who call Luna Yoga home, all the while maintaining its grassroots feel and sense of real, true community. Luna has students who have been around since before the studio opened its doors. This is more than a testament to the studio’s location or teachings: it’s a testament to Jenn and Jason.

If you’ve got a glass handy, raise it to these two, whose drive and ability to weather the toughest of storms has kept Luna’s doors open for well over a decade. If you don’t have a glass, then close your eyes for a moment, and silently send them a kind thought. They continue to show how doing something for others always brings you to where you need to be, and they do so with respect, intelligence, and grace.

Happy anniversary to you both, J & J, and to the entire Luna family, past, present and future!

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