Category Archives: Health

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

In a previous episode of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast I read out a list of musings I had written down and compiled years ago, musings that I felt were helpful to keep in mind when navigating life. For lack of a better title, I quickly (and flippantly) names the list the Brama Sutras, not really expecting it to ever find its way to the general public. That obviously happened when I decided to read it for an episode of the podcast, and since I did, many of you have asked for the list written out, so voilà!

I have retitled the list Η Σοφία Sutras, as Η Σοφία (The Sofia) translates to “The Wisdom” from Greek to English, and it was in Greece where I felt compelled to share that piece of writing. The word “Sutra” means “thread” in Sanskrit, and so these are the threads of wisdom that, when woven together, can form a fabric of wisdom to keep in mind when navigating life.

Here they are, exactly as they were read for the podcast. Enjoy!

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

1) These words are your call to presence, to attention, to this moment.

2) Transformation is the only constant. Everything will change, from the greatest blessings bestowed upon us to the darkest moments we will survive. If it arises within your awareness, it is already in a state of transformation.

3a) This moment is more important than the ones that preceded it and the ones that will follow it, in this moment. This is true for each moment, as with each passing second, a new moment is.

3b) The present moment is your priority. What came before and what come after must be secondary to the present moment, in all moments.

4) Concentration on the present moment is a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is the practice of working with our thoughts. It is the ability to hone one’s attention in one specific direction, onto one thing specifically, for longer and longer periods of time. It is also the ability to be present enough to notice when the thoughts are focused on something and then redirecting the thoughts to something else.

5) Mindfulness is the art of awakening. Accessing this art requires paying attention. By paying attention, we begin to tune into a different frequency, and the more often we get into the habit of tuning into that different frequency the more we work at changing our experience of life.

6) This experience of life will be wholly and entirely dependent on our perspective and our ability to reframe a situation so that perspective is changeable and fluid.

7) Our unique understanding of “reality” is almost entirely based on our perspective, which informs the understanding we have of our environment and scenarios, of everything that arises within our awareness.

8a) Conflict may arise when one person disregards another’s understanding of “reality” in favour of his or her own, and then attempts to impose it.

8b) Harmony may arise when one person acknowledges and validates another’s understanding of “reality” while allowing it to coexist with his or her own, with no need to suppress the other’s in order to validate his or her own.

9a) Self-conflict may arise when one person adheres to his or her understanding of “reality” instead of welcoming alternate perspectives.

9b) Self-harmony may arise when one person welcomes alternate perspectives that reveal the relativity of “reality.”

10a) The experience of life will be greatly influenced by the honesty and transparency with which we assess whether we naturally gravitate to conflict or harmony.

10b) We have a choice as to whether our time is spent in conflict or in harmony.

11) The human brain, untethered and undisciplined, leans towards the negative aspects of our understanding of events.

12) We ruminate over the fear we have of the negative outweighing the positive in our understanding of events, which takes us out of the present moment and propels us into the abstract, into what is not.

13) Mindfulness is the discipline that allows us to focus on the opposite of the negative, the opposite of what scares us, the opposite of conflict.

14) Mindfulness practices are most useful in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15a) One key mindfulness practice is setting an intention to prioritize harmony over conflict, negative over positive. This is Attention to Intention.

15b) Intention must be prioritized over reaction in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15c) Intention is a commitment.

15d) Intention sets the direction that we commit to move in, the path we commit to follow, the behaviours we agree to override those that only serve to contribute to our suffering.

15e) Time spent without intention is time spent at the mercy of the meanderings of the mind.

15f) Time spent with intention is time spent closer to the energies of that which we wish to be in alignment with throughout this lifetime.

16) Setting an intention effectively and efficiently requires acceptance of what is.

17) Acceptance is the precursor for change.

18) One cannot efficiently move in the most meaningful direction without acceptance of what is and of what life has brought to our table.

19) Acceptance may involves grieving for what was once hoped for, but what was never meant to be.

20) The mind that practices meaningfulness is the mind that seeks to see beyond the literal, beyond the obvious, beyond the appearance of any given moment, person or object.

21) The practice of meaningfulness contributes to our ability to reframe our situation so that our perspective of it is altered. It aids in seeing past the seemingly random so that we find connections where, on a superficial level, none would appear to exist.

22) To find connections where previously none were apparent is to find meaning in the innocuous, to find a deeper understanding that possibly informs events and our relationship to them.

23) The practice of meaningfulness is the practice of finding meaning that serves us to align with the intentions we set for the time and events which await us.

24) Initial stages of practicing meaningfulness include asking certain questions in pursuit of a deeper meaning, questions like, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, “What else is occurring right now in this moment that I may be distracted from due to my mind’s negative bias?”, and “How can my experience of this challenge or moment serve to connect me to others instead of leaving me feeling isolated and alone?” Our perspective is everything. The way we see the world is the way we experience it. It really is that simple.

25) Reframing a situation aids in shifting perspective.

26) Shifting perspective helps us move from the limits of our own personal history and experiences.

27) Shifting perspective helps us move away from the default egocentricity we feed when we stay stuck in our own self-interests and self-awareness.

28) Shifting perspective helps us move from the I and the me to the us and the we.

29) Shifting perspective helps us find the freedom to choose a different interpretation and understanding.

30) Shifting perspective may lead us to growth and transformation.

31) Shifting perspective may facilitate turning the negative into positive.

32) Shifting perspective contributes to practicing meaningfulness.

33) We must never forget the kindness bestowed upon us by another.

34) We must immediately forget the wrongdoing or hurt bestowed upon us by another.

35) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering the blessings we are surrounded by.

36) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how fragile and temporal our blessings may be.

37) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how, in this moment, suffering could be considerably heightened, and appreciating that it is not.

38) The loss of gratitude is a key factor in the destruction of the affiliations and partnerships we have.

39) The practice of compassion involves the consideration that all beings operate in the midst of hardship.

40) The practice of compassion involves prayer and action for the end of all suffering, for ourselves and for others.

41) The practice of fearing less involves repointing the mind from the potential of the negative to manifest to the potential of the positive to manifest.

42) Communication is the foundation for the healthiest and most positive of affiliations and relationships.

43) Your story is worth telling.

44) Your story is worth observing.

45) Observing the narrative of your life without personalization will bring clarity.

46) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts elicited from observing your narrative will bring clarity.

47) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts that arise within you in any and all circumstances, contexts and environments will bring clarity.

48) You are the power of observation.

49) You are not what you observe.

50) There is just this, and it is perfect as it is

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The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast

I am extremely happy to announce the launch of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast! Episodes will include lectures, interviews, occasional rants, and whatever else I feel like sharing with the world that deal with everything from spirituality to the most mundane aspects of this experience of life. Sit back, relax, and enjoy what has already been recorded, and what is yet to come. To access the Podcast page, click on the image below!

 

Intersection

I’m lying on my bed in the late afternoon, the sun blazing outside as a Montreal heat wave slowly comes to its end in the crescendo of impending thunderstorms, and I find myself reflecting on everything that my “now” is comprised of. Summer in Montreal is what keeps people living here, and so it goes without saying that there is contentment and gratitude for heat, foliage, sun and seeing my fellow Montrealers (and the annual influx of tourists) out and about. Winter sees the masses huddled in protective winter gear, so it brings much happiness to see everyone basking in the comfort and beauty of summer’s offerings.

Weeks ago, I officiated a wedding for two people I love more than words can say, and I find myself still riding the wave of that beautiful experience. There is pure, untarnished joy related to the experience, which bubbles up now at the slightest thought of the wedding.

I received notice a half hour ago that a relative of mine who has been in my life since my childhood passed on earlier in the day, and so there is grief/poignance/nostalgia/love/gratitude bubbling up as well.

This second half of 2019 will see much travel, with Yoga & Meditation Vacations and City Breaks in Paros, Greece and Rome, Italy, as well as a work trip to Kamloops, British Columbia and some other personal jaunts to other lands, and for all of this, there is excitement and hope bubbling up.

I just spoke to my father, spoke to my mother yesterday, saw my two brothers and their families last weekend, and saw one of my uncles earlier in the week, and there is so much gratitude for still being surrounded by them 45 years into this life.

I played with my dog earlier today and lost all sense of humanness as I brushed her coat and acted like a big goofball with her, and there is such abandon and liberation that arises because of he connection we have.

Upcoming projects will involve passing on the insight and teachings I hold dearest, and there is much responsibility and honour associated to my role in the transmission of the information, as well as deep gratitude to all who have contributed to my role in the world today.

In any given moment, it all exists. The love, gratitude, grief, fear, sense of nostalgia, yearning, inquisitiveness, all of it…it all exists simultaneously for us all. We learn to observe it all, accept it all, be with it all and breathe through it all. We learn that through this power of observation we glean the wisdom that can only be taught through the nature of transience and impermanence. It’s all changing. And so we welcome it all, be with it, allow the humanity of the instant arise and integrate into our world view, and keep going.

This “now” is where it all intersects to form what is. It will change. It already has. So have we.

Take a moment to recognize your “now”, in all its fury and beauty and scary and lovely. Observe it. Appreciate it all. And watch it change.

Peace to us all.
Bxx

Reboot

Today is the first day. A new cycle has begun. Know this. What has been has been. What is done is done. This is the beginning of what is to come, and so today is the first day of new horizons, new paths, new words, a new narrative. Make it be. Every day that we reawaken in these bodies that house the energy that is you, that is me, and that is we, is another opportunity to be reborn, to restart, to wipe the slate clean and begin again with newness, wonder and unwavering hope. Every day that we are able to use these bodies for the benefit of ourselves and others is a miracle, a miracle of being and a miracle of choice, because to choose mindful action instead of mindless repetition is, unfortunately, not our default setting. It is a choice that we make in every mindful moment, especially in the ones when we decide that every “now” is an opportunity to reboot the wiring, restart the cycle, refocus the intention and commitment.

Today is the first day. Know this, and make it be.

Start Your Next Chapter Now Weekend Workshop January 12-13, 2019

Earlier this year, I jumped beyond my usual solo teaching format to collaborate with one of my dearest friends, Christelle Franca, for the Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop. As I mentioned then, I can count on one hand the people I have collaborated with over the past decade, mostly because my approach to healing and wellness is so specific an expression that I am typically hesitant to mix it with someone else’s. Regardless, in August of 2018, Christelle and I presented our workshop for the first time in Montreal, and it was massively gratifying to see it received so beautifully by those who attended. Once it was done, we swore we would keep offering the workshop periodically throughout key moments in the year, and to kick off the new year, we are happy to announce the dates for the next Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop, January 12-13, 2019!

I have known Christelle for almost 15 years, and in that time I have seen her many incarnations as sound artist, DJ, healer, Masters student, and so much more. 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 is 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. It is a real honour for me to partner with my soul-sister to once again present this weekend workshop of transformation, movement, contemplation, expression, creation and actualization.

Start Your Next Chapter is our co-creation, intended to facilitate whatever changes those who attend may be aching to incorporate in a sustainable and realistic way, but feel too paralyzed to initiate. It has proven to be an opportunity to be exposed to tools that can alleviate the inevitable suffering each one of us is exposed to, and it gives those who attend the modules the means to express, examine and re-imagine their narrative, their story. Bringing psychotherapeutic tools together with movement, meditation, energy work, writing, discussion and deep contemplation, this weekend is the most brilliantly beautiful opportunity to get the ball of sustainable change rolling with certainty and clarity. Christelle has referred to us both as “les gardiens du passage” (the guardians of transition, of change), and we will do that once again in tandem over the weekend in January.

This event will take place at Equilibrium Yoga (4812 blvd St-Laurent, suite #101) over the Jan 12-13 weekend, 9h-16h30 both days with a one-hour break for lunch. Space will be limited to 15 people so that we can properly give appropriate time and attention to everyone. The workshop will be presented in both English and French, so comprehension of both languages is required from participants. Registration is now open, all payment types accepted. See you there!

Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop

January 12-13, $260+taxes

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The Difference A Decade Makes

Facebook reminded me today of what I have been thinking about over the last few days. It’s been a decade. 10 years ago I held up my end of the deal that I made with whatever I believed God to be when I asked for a sign that I should leave the security and stability of my then-career. It’s been a decade. Mind-boggling. A decade of firsts. A decade of working harder than I ever thought possible. A decade of experiencing life at a level of beauty and inspiration that I had never known was possible. A decade of pursuing my intention of helping others heal. A decade of traveling around the world with people to offer them transformational experiences that show THEM how life can be experienced at that level of beauty and inspiration. A decade immersed, without trying to sound trite or cliché, in love and emanating that love outwardly in no specific direction. A decade of stepping onto my true path, the one my life had been preparing me for all the while leading up to October 15, 2008. A decade of support. From you all. From my guy. From my family and my extended family. A decade of wisdom and learning and trial by error.

Thank you all. For paying attention. For allowing me to be part of your narratives, in whatever way that has taken place. Thank you for giving me the space, time and opportunity to do what I am alive in this body to do. Ten years, and yet I feel like it’s just the beginning.

Here’s to the next ten. And to all the tens that follow. 🙏🏼❤️

The Difference A Year Makes

One year ago, to the day, I posted the Top 10 listed above on Facebook. In some ways, I cannot believe that it has been a year since I wrote this, and yet in other ways I absolutely can because of all the conscious changes I have made. A few of the things listed here were written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but were really bugging me, and it was because of that that I stopped thinking or writing about them and actually let them be the catalysts for positive change.

1) I still keep a keen eye on the price of allergy pills when I’m overseas, but I don’t need them nearly as much as I used to (I’ll explain why at the bottom of this post).

2) I got rid of cable tv and have not regretted it once since I did it.

3) The words “selfie” and “lit” still rub me the wrong way, but the word “excretions” have now taken their place in eliciting visceral, negative responses from me.

4) I no longer feel daily aches and pains, but I did one year ago to the day, and it scared the hell out of me. (I’ll explain why I no longer have them at the bottom of this post).

5) I stand by this one and will until the day this body dies. Grammar matters. (I think I just came up with a future book title).

6) I’ve softened in the last year and am not as judgemental or critical as I was. I find myself feeling much more compassion these days than I used to, but trust me, the judgement is still there, and I actually find it entertaining when it rears its head.

7) I have stopped eating refined sugars and most foods that contain them. (I’ll elaborate at the bottom of this post).

8) I’m fine with emojis now. Language is changing. I get it. (The middle finger and the vomiting emojis have become dear friends to me).

9) I’m paying less attention to my blood pressure. (More on this after #10).

10) My face has changed. Here’s why, and this also ties into #1, 4, 7 & 9.

I have spent years studying spirituality and energy, honing my spiritual intelligence and focusing on what lies beyond the obvious and apparent. In doing so, I seriously neglected this body I live in. Yes, I practiced yoga and meditated, but that was it, and that was all I believed was necessary.

Cut to July 2017. I was looking at myself in the mirror and not liking what was reflected back at me. I felt puffy. I felt like my body was inflamed, which was a word I was reticent to use because it had become trendy in articles posted online, but nonetheless, I felt inflamed. My body was aging. I was experiencing weird aches and pains every day, and each day was a new one that I had never experienced before, which somewhat scared me because I felt like my body was aging in a “this is out of my control” kind of way. I remember telling myself that if I didn’t do anything to help myself feel better, it was only going to continue to go in one direction, and it wasn’t the one I wanted for myself.

I had also become used to getting sick every couple of months. Strep throat here, sinus infection there, slight cold around the changing of the seasons, etc… I had created all kinds of stories around my facility to fall ill. “I’m in contact with so many people every week”, or “it starts with allergies that then triggers the infection”, or “the antibiotics didn’t really kill the infection, which is why it’s happening again”. Allll kinds of stories.

So I decided to face one of my aversions and signed up for a membership to the gym that is, without exaggeration, forty footsteps from the front door of my home. I decided I would start doing some cardio exercises two to three times a week. And I did. I started to feel proud of myself that I was doing it, because I stopped going to the gym in 1999 when I couldn’t deal with the posturing I saw there from others, and I felt like the gym environment was completely artificial and unpleasant. It was because I stopped working out that I started looking for a yoga teacher to see if the asana practice could replace the gym for my physical exercise (so I guess I should be grateful to all those gym posers I saw in the late 90’s). I also started feeling better. So I kept going.

I went to Paros in September 2017 and stopped the cardio while I was away, then came back home and picked right up where I left off. I then decided to meet with a personal trainer at the gym to see if she could give me insight into some exercises I could pair with the cardio, but arranged to delay the meeting until December, as my schedule was packed until then.

Come December, I met with Julie, a kinesthesiologist and personal trainer at the gym I was going to. We sat, talked, and I was honest with her that I really just wanted some cardio and a couple of light exercises. She asked me how long I wanted to be at the gym for when I came to exercise, and I told her an hour at the most. She put together a program for me, we went through it once together, and then I spent the next month doing it on my own three times a week. That is how I ended 2017 and began 2018. I then made another appointment with her at the end of the first month and she designed another program for me to follow for February. And we kept at it. Every month, a new program. And I quickly fell in love with exercising.

I wasn’t expecting to become that gym guy I found so annoying in 1999, but I did. I fell in love with the exercises, as well as with the time I had at the gym that was almost meditative in its intensity. I have never sweat more in my life, and I have never worked harder, on a physical level, at anything like I have done, and am doing, with my workouts. And I love it.

I have been so hesitant to publicly talk about this, because I really don’t want to be one more person sharing his exercise regimen on social media with a photo of some weights accompanied by a #gymday or #justdoit hashtag. It doesn’t sit well with me, and I didn’t want to launch more of that into the world. However, I have been told by people that I trust that I should talk about it, that I should share this part of my story, because the effects have been dramatic and that they find it inspiring.

When I started working out and feeling better, I stopped eating all foods with refined sugars because I knew that they lowered my immune system. Doing that along with the working out has resulted in my immune system being stronger than ever before in my lifetime. Without wanting to jinx it, I have had two barely-there, light-sniffles colds in the last 10 months. My aches and pains are gone. Totally. I have lost twenty pounds of fat without compromising my lean muscle mass, and because I wasn’t a really overweight guy a year ago, it has changed my body and my face. I am leaner and am seeing the body that I knew was under the excess weight all that time, but which I accepted as being a thing of the past, not available to me in my forties. My posture is better because of the exercises Julie gives me to strengthen certain muscles in my back that need it, and paired with monthly visits to my osteopath Keshia, who gives me more information to bring back to Julie, my body is stronger and more functional. And oh yeah – a few months after I stopped eating refined sugars, I decided to have dessert after a meal and I found that the sugary stuff I had once loved no longer tasted as good as it used to. If it didn’t taste as good, then there was no point in eating it, and I found myself losing my appetite for sugar and shifting over to being more appreciative of the savoury foods. This was a big deal for me, because I have always had a sweet tooth. A serious one.

One thing about this whole journey that has really opened my eyes to how weight-obsessed we are as a culture and as a species is other people’s reactions to my weight loss. I’ve had people ask me if I’m sick. I’ve had people get angry with me after they ask me how I lost the weight and I tell them that I’m working my ass off (literally) on a consistent basis (I have kept the workouts going even when I’m working overseas), and have changed how much sugar I eat. I’ve had people tell me not to lose more weight. I’ve had people tell me that I look fit. I’ve had people tell me that I look healthy, less inflamed. I’ve had people tell me that they can’t believe how good I look. I’ve gotten all of it, and because not much has changed in my head (or my wardrobe) throughout the physical transformation, the reactions have really surprised me. I’ve learned that getting my body into shape has taken weight off my face and my neck, and I look older. I couldn’t give two shits about it. I feel incredible. I feel better than I ever have in my almost 45 years in this body. I am well. I am in better shape, mentally, energetically and physically, then I ever have been, and I am so, so grateful to Julie, Keshia, and Caroline, who has replaced Keshia while she takes maternity leave. With their help I have changed the quality of my life, I have improved the quality of my life. I have spent money on doing it, have been disciplined and put in the hours and energy to do it (which hasn’t been difficult, considering I love going to the gym), and have been relatively quiet about it, because, honestly, I didn’t think it was anyone’s business aside from mine and those in my inner circles. But I suppose if this somehow inspires or educates someone, and motivates them to make a positive change in a similar fashion, then it’s worth sharing.

Making a change this significant in my life motivated my to make others. I got rid of my cable tv subscription. I don’t weigh myself unless I’m at the doctor’s office for my annual checkup or at the gym getting the updated statistics on where my body is at. I don’t need the allergy pills as much, and am happy to report that I shopped at record stores when I was in Paris last week 🙂

DM me if you’d like to get in touch with Julie or Caroline (I’ll let Keisha have her full maternity leave before unleashing new clients her way). I hope the events of the last year somehow affect you in a positive way, and feel free to share your thoughts on it all with me by commenting on this post or through a private message.