All posts by bramlevinson

Author (www.theexaminedlifebook.com, www.ayearinthelight.com), yoga & meditation teacher, blogger and mentor. www.bramlevinson.com

Start Your Next Chapter Now Weekend Workshop Aug 11-12

For the vast majority of my career, I have worked on projects and endeavors on my own because I a) felt that what I wanted to convey was deeply personal and had to be expressed as my own unique expression, and b) needed to feel a deep connection with whoever I collaborated with, because without it, I would lose connection to the inspiration that motivated me to share my offerings. I can count on one hand the people I have collaborated with over the past nine years, and it has been a while since the last time. I’m happy to announce that it will happen again in a few months, and I’m beyond thrilled to be working with one of my closest, most inspiring friends, Christelle Franca.

I have known Christelle for almost 15 years, and in that time I have seen her incarnations as sound artist, DJ, healer, Masters student, and so many more that words would only diminish. She has worked in Lebanon teaching students how to express, contextualize, externalize and shift the energies of trauma from living with/in war on a day-to-day basis. She has grown into a woman who shares my belief that there is no greater purpose for any of us than to accompany others through their suffering, through their moments of stuckness. And so it only makes sense that I would team up with my true soul-sister for a weekend workshop of transformation, movement, contemplation, discussion, creation and actualization.

Start Your Next Chapter is a co-creation that Christelle and I have worked on to facilitate whatever changes you may be aching to incorporate but feel too paralyzed to initiate, while also being an opportunity to be exposed to tools that can alleviate the suffering of dealing with changes occurring that are not self-imposed or chosen. Bringing psychotherapeutic tools together with movement, meditation, energy work, writing, discussion and deep contemplation, this weekend is truly going to be the most brilliantly beautiful opportunity to get the ball of change rolling with certainty and clarity. Christelle referred to us both, months ago, as “les gardiens du passage” (the guardians of transition, of change), and this weekend workshop will be exactly that for all in attendance.

This event will take place at Equilibrium Yoga (4812 blvd St-Laurent, suite #101) over the Aug 11-12 weekend, 9h-16h30 both days with a one-hour break for lunch. Space will be limited to 22 people so that we can properly give appropriate time and attention to everyone, and registration is now open, all payment types accepted. See you there!

Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop

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Use Your Words, My Love

This is not a time in history to fuck up in the public forum. Across the world, and even more specifically, south of the Canadian border in the country that tenuously holds onto the “land of the free and the home of the brave” title, a wave of intolerance has been gaining momentum over the past few years. A few months ago I watched the CNN series “The Sixties” and was somewhat educated on how politically unstable that decade was, and how volatile the fight for human rights made the 1960’s. I was pretty shocked to see that regardless of how far we think we have come since then, many of the issues people in the US were giving their lives for to see colour barriers come down and have all humans treated equally seem to be as present today as they were then.

With the current administration in America doing its best to divide people and their opinions, and in an age where those opinions have countless platforms through which they can be expressed, it is no surprise that the US is splintered and fragmented. Those whose history is made up of overcoming hate, genocide, slaughter, slavery, discrimination and dehumanization have every right to be on guard right now, as they do for the rest of time. There are those, goaded on by the president’s apparent refusal to out-rightly condemn hate and intolerance, who take to social media outlets with the sole purpose of instigating conflict. There are organizations with social media bots whose sole purpose is to do the same, resulting in human beings with the best of intentions ending up in Twitter wars with bots designed to amplify the conflict until emotional reaction erupts. We have every right to staunchly stay on guard and be as vocal as the troublemakers so that we continue to fight the good fight and ensure the freedom and happiness of all people.

Late last month, one of my childhood heroines, Roseanne Barr, posted a tweet that read, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” to her Twitter account, referring to Valerie Jarrett, who, among other accomplishments, was a senior advisor to the Obama administration. Rightfully so, within days, Roseanne’s career was over, and within weeks the show she had created and which was in a successful reboot was rebooted once again, this time without its namesake having anything to do with its new incarnation. I decided to boycott anything to do with her, and chalked it all up to her being one more casualty of this period of carte-blanche xenophobia that emboldens even celebrities to spew hate.

Today I listened to an interview she gave to her spiritual advisor, Rabbi Shmuley, in which she talked, among other topics, about her spirituality, how inexcusable that tweet was, how she didn’t know Valerie Jarrett was African-American when she wrote the tweet, and how sorry she is about making herself the poster person for hate, or, in her own words, “A hate magnet”. And as inexcusable and horrific as her tweet was, I found myself contemplating the concepts of forgiveness, right speech (written and spoken), the literalist global society that social media has fostered, and these hypersensitive times in which we must be vigilant to hate and intolerance, and in which, for the first time in my lifetime, we need to censor ourselves for any nuance, sarcasm or double-entendre that might get lost in how our words are received.

A few days ago Madonna posted a doctored photo to her Instagram account of a still image from Beyonce & Jay-Z’s new video, Apeshit. The image, taken from the inside of the Louvre where the power couple were looking at a wall of paintings from some of the masters throughout time, had album covers from Madonna’s body of work replacing the works of art, and the caption below written by Madonna was, “learning from the Master…lol”. Fans of Beyonce and Jay Z immediately took to social media to accuse Madonna of being racist by using the word “master”, alluding to its roots in slavery. Madonna removed the word from the post when the backlash began.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Madonna knows that she is anything but racist. But in this moment in time where we are all super sensitive and dealing with the free-floating anxiety of a US administration using its influence to set human rights back to where they were in the 1960’s, it is only normal that we hold each other to stauncher standards in how we communicate. It is only normal that we ensure that our celebrities be held accountable for how their words may be misconstrued or damaging to the communities and cultures who have suffered intolerable mistreatment and are now afraid that history seems to be on the verge, if not the cusp, of repeating itself.

Let me make something crystal clear for anyone who has the intention of taking my words and misconstruing them: I am not defending Madonna or Roseanne Barr. If anything, their examples exist so that we learn from them, so that we understand that we need to adhere to right speech, using words that successfully convey their intention. To not do that, in today’s social climate, is to invite in a tsunami of rage and indignance, understanding that whether or not we applaud or condemn it, this is where we are in time today, this is where we find ourselves.

Do I think that we tend to overreact to judgement these days? Absolutely. Do I think it’s sad? Yes and no. If I were African-American in today’s social climate, you better believe I would be alllllll over that shit, looking for the slightest bandwagon that the troublemakers could jump on to then use a celebrity’s name and influence to jump onto. I get it, and I think it’s an occupational hazard of all this turmoil that has risen to the surface of our collective consciousness. However, yes, I think it is sad that our ability to receive and appreciate sarcasm and deeper meaning is dormant. Yes, I think that it is sad that we are quicker to sling hate towards those who have transgressed instead of realizing that by doing so, we end up contributing to the energy that we object to so indignantly. Yes, I think that it is sad that forgiveness seems to be a concept of the past. Yes, I think that it is sad that we conveniently forget how timely the, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” passage from the bible is. Every single one of us has fucked up. Every single one of us has said things we immediately regret. None of us are faultless. Yet we attack other people from this high horse of superiority when they have a weak, human moment. I remind myself constantly that when I judge others unfairly, I open up the spiritual channel for others to do the same to me.

So what can we learn from all of this? I think that what we are meant to learn is to take greater responsibility for the words and energy we launch into the world, especially through social media channels. We need to mean what we say and say what we mean, and we need to consider how our words have the power to traumatize. We need to speak and write with right action, not emotional reaction. The same way sending that drunken text at 3am is a bad idea, so it is to express ourselves in the forum of public scrutiny irresponsibly, with no regard to how we may be negatively impacting others and making their load harder to bear.

Years ago, as I watched my sister-in-law deal with one of her young children who was being unruly by kneeling down to his level and saying to him, “Use your words, my love”, I made a mental note to do my best to do the same. It looks like we may all need to take a page out of that book.

Barcelona Musings

I was awake last night at 2am with some residual jet lag on my first night here in Barcelona for the Yoga City Break, and as I typically do, I got to reflecting on how really, truly grateful I am to be able to do what I do for work. I shouldn’t even call it work, but it does fall into the “career” category, so it’s the most succinct word I have for the time being.

I began my yoga vacations in 2011. Since then some of you have joined me in Santorini, Mljet (Croatia), Istanbul, Paros (the fifth trip there takes place September 8-18 later this year), Berlin, Bali, Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, Prague, and now some of you are on a plane on your way to join me here. It’s kind of overwhelming to look back at everywhere we’ve journeyed to, and I find myself feeling emotional about being able to instigate these trips around the world.

My intention in working on the planning and execution of these voyages is manifold. I want to bring people to beautiful places in the world so they can experience those moments that thrill and fulfill in only the ways that travel can offer. I want to instigate the shifting of perspective for others so that they can see newness and remember what that is like. I want to remind you all what life can be like when you take a risk and go do something for yourselves, even in the presence of all the responsibility you’ve signed up for in your lives. I want to offer a group travel structure that those who are too intimidated by traveling solo can find comfort in. I want to remind us all what it’s like to live life fuller and bigger and more awesome than we’re typically encouraged to do.

This may sound wholly benevolent of me, but trust me when I say that there is a need in me that is fulfilled by making all of this happen, and trust me when I say that it can be incredibly demanding, grueling, time-consuming and emotionally draining. My purpose in life is to make the experience of life better, more positive and enjoyable for others, and when I succeed in accomplishing that, I am fed on a soul-level. It galvanizes me to use my resources, time, energy, and accidents of life to the best of my ability to make these trips happen, and run as smoothly as they possibly can given all the free agents that exist in whatever environment we find ourselves in.

I realize that the path to roll these vacations out is more unobstructed for me because of my gender and skin colour. I understand how my privilege plays a role in being able to do this, and I try, to the best of my ability, to use it responsibly and inclusively. I also am aware of how, with one tiny change in this narrative I find myself living, all of this could never have been, and how it could also change.

I don’t take any of this for granted. As I type these words overlooking the rooftops of Barcelona, I count my blessings and pat myself on the back for my role in showing up efficiently and responsibly to have contributed to this moment occurring. I don’t expect people to sign up for these trips, and when they do, and when they sell out, trust me once more when I say that I am grateful. Grateful that hard graft and divine grace continue to work synergistically so that I can continue to make my soul hum by offering you all the opportunity to do the same.

For those of you on your way here, I’m waiting to see you with a massive hug and a week ahead of living life awake and to its fullest. For those of you who have joined me on past trips, I hope that you still have the fondest of memories of our time together. For those of you who will be joining me on future trips, get ready for some beautiful moments of community and connection.

Sending peace and sunshine from Barcelona.

Bxx

When Your Accidents Of Life…

…result in having a face or body that our current culture deems beautiful, be humble.
…result in being far more talented than the rest of your peers, be humble.
…result in being born into a family with material abundance, be humble.
…result in having the privilege of not having to worry about being yourself in the world without facing resistance, be humble.
…result in anything that could be misconstrued as being better or luckier than anyone else, be humble.

The body, gender, family, culture, demographics, geographical location, skin colour, sexual orientation and time in history that you were born into, seen through the lens of some faiths and belief systems, are completely random, “accidents of life”, to quote Joseph Campbell. You can take absolutely no credit for any of it, and none of it is a valid measure of your worth. More importantly, stop judging other people based on their accidents of life. Be humble and consider that we have all been duped into believing that this literal, human experience is the sum total of the journey we find ourselves on. “Don’t be small-minded”, we read in the Ashtavakra Gita. “The universe exists within you”. Don’t be duped by illusion, by the appearances your limited senses can interpret. The packaging is simply the container for what you should really get to know, which is the spark of energy that is, truly, who and what we are. Seek that out in others and you will not only get to know who they really are, but you will be making connections that transcend what divides and separates us.

We’re Still Here – One Night Only with Bram Levinson Now Available On Youtube!

I am so pleased to announce that We’re Still Here – One Night Only with Bram Levinson, filmed last November in Montreal, is now available on Youtube! It was an evening of sharing wisdom, insight, inspiration, personal stories and serious laughter, and I’m so happy to make it available for everyone to enjoy!

You Had It All Along

When you look up into the immensity of the night sky filled with stars, maybe a planet visible, what importance or meaning do you put there?

When you look at a happy, giggling baby, what do you see and feel?

When you look past the shore of an ocean out to the horizon where the sea meets the sky in an indistinguishable line of blues, what do you envision?

When you hear the chanting of Hindu sadhus, of Muslim imams reciting the Koran, of rabbis, cantors, priests, bishops and cardinals bellowing out prayers, what response do you observe in yourself?

When you walk through cemeteries or participate in the burial of a loved one, what significance or meaning do you put to the scenario?

We put whatever importance we want to any given moment in time, an importance that somehow fulfills a need in us. A need to defend our beliefs, to change or alter them, to lay them to rest and to adopt new ones. But we see and interpret what we want to. The world as you know it is a construct of your own mind.

Consequently, whatever you fear is in large part a construct of your mind. It is adaptable to change, as adaptable as it was when that fear first landed into a mind that had not associated fear with that particular experience or stimulus. You want change? Then look at your situation differently.

You can look at the night sky in all its splendor and see the impossibility of infinity and oblivion, randomness and chaos just waiting to swallow up this earth and all its inhabitants, or you can see the miracle of what we can barely grasp and the beauty of that not-knowingness.

You can look at a smiling, gurgling baby and feel the fear of the responsibility associated to ensuring the well-being of something so helpless and vulnerable, or you can see the possibilities associated to this beautiful bundle of joy and its potential to grow, learn, lead and inspire us all.

You can experience a funeral ceremony as the grief-drenched ending of the beauty your relationship with the deceased has been, or you can see it as the transformation of what was into what is, with the excitement of seeing what will follow, as no cycle ends without another one beginning, holding the promise of beauty to come.

This entire dream of “life” is just that, a dream. If you don’t like the dream you’re dreaming, change the filter you’re seeing it through. All you need is the knowledge that you have always been able to do it, but you were never told. I’m telling you. Now you know.

Authoring A New Year

As the cycle that was named “2017” comes to its end, and “2018” makes its entrance, here are some intentions to commit to instead of relegating to the realm of the forgotten after a few weeks into the new year.

1) Do your best, as often as possible, to focus on what’s going well instead of what seems to be going wrong. Do this more often when things seem dismal or hopeless. This is it. It’s now. The good and the bad, the uplifting and the horrifying, the light and the dark. It’s all occurring simultaneously. Despite everything that we object to, we have the choice as to whether we spend all our time obsessing over the infuriating or whether we remember to also focus on what co-exists with the infuriating, which is the beauty, the kindness, the connection and the love we all seek.

2) Balance out the time you spend doing with the time you spend being. This means letting yourself have the down-time, or “gap-time” (to quote my late teacher Joan Ruvinsky), necessary to change your thought and behavioural patterns from the constant rhythm they are used to. Let me clear here, this does not mean incorporating some practice you think you should be doing, like meditation or yoga, if that practice will simply be something else you do, but which does not facilitate unplugging from everything else you do. Let yourself simply be, as yourself, with nothing else to do, with nothing else to fix.

3) Make more and more time in your schedules to put your passions ahead of your obligations, and do this consistently and unwaveringly.

4) Welcome all adversity and fear as the life lessons in which you are meant to learn what you’ll need to be armed with for future stages of your journey. Instead of putting the blinders on and just trying to survive through life’s darkest moments, infuse light into them by understanding that you have a choice as to how you respond to them. You do not have to be held hostage by them. Take a deep breath, face what has manifested with your head held high, and keep asking yourself, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, because there is always something to glean from what induces suffering.

5) Disregard what other people believe are “best practices.” Best practices are for sheep who want to conform to other people’s structures and rules in order to attain what is deemed as success in other people’s eyes. Do it your way, how you feel compelled to make it happen, whatever it is.

6) One of life’s truths is that not everyone does their best to be kind, to be generous, to uplift and inspire in the name of the betterment of the world. Some people are just hell-bent on contributing to chaos and destruction. Recognize these people, especially when they present themselves as part of the solution in order to get more power with which to destroy. Recognize them, call them out, speak up against them, keep a watchful eye on them, and then disregard them. They would like us all to focus on them, because any attention is better than no attention. Don’t let them disrupt your peace, your contentment, your intention to be part of the solution.

7) Be kinder.

8) Laugh more and laugh harder.

9) Speak your truth and speak up if you’re not being heard.

10) Consider that these days are golden. Appreciate them, regardless of everything you may believe is going wrong.

All the best for a happy, healthy year ahead!